A woman married to the struggle
Cde Sunny Ntombiyelanga Takawira
THE former Senator for Midlands and widow of the late veteran nationalist and Zanu founding Vice President, Cde Sunny Ntombiyelanga Takawira, died at her Mt Pleasant home in Harare on January 13, 2010, following complications arising from an operation of the womb. She was 82, and she was the fifth heroine buried at the national shrine.
Zimbabwe will forever remember her as a generous, humble, kind and caring mother who sacrificed a lot for the liberation of the country.
She also suffered physically and mentally at the hands of the brutal and torturous oppressive racist regime because of her role in the liberation struggle and being married to the veteran, Cde Leopold Takawira.
Cde Sunny Ntombiyelanga Takawira (nee Dube) was born on July 2, 1927, in Dube village under Chief Madhuna, Insiza District, Filabusi, Matabeleland South province.
She was the second child and oldest girl in a family of seven children, three girls and four boys.
Her parents were John Dlodlo Dube and Sonile Mlilo. As the colonial regime began to forcibly relocate Africans to create land for the white settlers, her father and his family were moved by the Rhodesian government to Nkayi.
Thus Sunny and her family grew up in Nkayi which was a wild game infested area with poor farming soils and always prone to droughts. Amai Takawira’s only surviving brother, Bekithemba Dube said they were religious from a very early age and used to preach a lot in the United Church of Christ.
Educated at Hope Fountain Mission, Amai Takawira trained as a nurse at Mnene Mission Hospital in Mberengwa and on graduation first worked at Gokwe Hospital.
Later, in 1955, she joined Harare Central Hospital. She was among the pioneer nurses in the Casualty and Outpatient departments at Harare Hospital.
Amai Takawira was reputed for her kindness and gentleness in the nursing profession.
Young Sunny married the late first vice president of Zanu, Cde Leopold Takawira, on September 2, 1955, in Gokwe and this marked the beginning of her involvement in nationalist politics.
She became mother to her stepchildren, Theresa, Agnes and Patrick whom her husband sired with Anna Singo.
Amai Takawira embraced her husband’s children with great love and devotion.
Theresa later said that it was Amai Takawira who defined the mother-daughter relationship in her life. Her nurturing virtues were extended to Joseph, Anna and Helen, children to the late Leopold Takawira and Lucy Nyamande.
In 1958, Amai Takawira was blessed with a baby boy, Samuel Hamandishe, who was followed by the late Leo Tafirenyika (1960) and lastly Gertrude Ratidzo in 1963.
Sadly, Patrick died in 1959.
Amai Takawira hosted early nationalists when they held secret meetings at her home at Number 3851 (Y8), Jabavu Drive in Highfield, Harare.
The worst came for Amai Takawira following the banning of Zanu in 1964 and the incarceration of its leadership including Cde Leopold Takawira.
She endured the challenges of fending for her family as a single parent and the constant harassment by the white oppressive regime.
After the arrest of Cde Leopold Takawira in 1964, she smuggled letters and information into and out of prison at Wha Wha, Gonakudzingwa and Sikombela Detention Centres as well as Salisbury Central Prison. Because of his uncompromising principles and dynamism, Cde Leopold Takawira was an obstacle to the plans of the racist settler regime.
Thus throughout his stay in detention, the regime kept its eyes on him and eventually planned to disrupt his political career by terminating his life.
While in detention in the Sikombela Forests, Comrade Leopold Takawira was privately taken to Connemara Prison where he was brutally tortured by the racist police murder squad.
From there, he was taken to Salisbury Prison. In spite of all these brutalities, Cde Leopold Takawira did not draw back but instead persisted in actively advising and strengthening the stand of his colleagues to oppose the UDI, colonialism, settlerism and national ‘capitulationism’.
As a result of the torture, Cde Leopold Takawira was unwell for the next five years and all this time Cde Sunny was the one giving him moral and material support as she visited him in prison from time to time. Because of the injuries sustained from the brutal torture and ill-treatment by the Rhodesian police, Zimbabwe was robbed of one of its most precious sons on June 15, 1970.
Cde Sunny only learnt about the death of her husband from Cde Leopold Takawira’s colleagues in the struggles such as Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who was his very close associate.
She learnt from Cde Mugabe that one day her husband had been found lying down on the prison floor.
Prison guards had been called around 7am to come and take him to hospital but they refused.
They only came at 11am and took him to the prison clinic where for cruel reasons, they detained him until 5pm when they finally took him to a hospital where he then died.
The death of her husband did not take away the resolve in Cde Sunny to work for the liberation of Zimbabwe.
During her stint as a nursing sister at a clinic in Highfield near Mbizi Police Station, she contributed much to the liberation struggle through treating both civilians and those who were injured in the armed struggle.
She was also involved in the demonstrations organised by nationalists’ wives whose spouses were languishing in detention.
They often demonstrated against discrimination of the colonial regime with women such as Ruth Chinamano which resulted in them being detained at Harare Central Police Station, only to be released after paying fines.
Amai Takawira also suffered heavily at the hands of the colonial government when she was betrayed by some sellouts for her involvement in the liberation struggle.
She was beaten, tortured and her home searched against her will. Her home was also attacked in 1979 resulting in her two children, Gertrude and Leopold Jnr being injured.
Her house in Highfield was a constant target of surveillance by the Rhodesian police and was stoned many times. Despite all this, she never gave up her support for the liberation struggle.
Her two sons Sam (Cde Skidrow) and Tafi (Cde Santana) joined the liberation struggle, a testimony of how the family through her guidance remained committed to the liberation struggle even after the death of her husband.
Veteran nationalist and Zanu-PF Politburo member, Cde Victoria Chitepo described the late Mrs Takawira as a “reserved but strong-willed” person.
“Although she was generally a quiet person she helped a lot in mobilising assistance in the form of medicines, food and smuggling information for detainees especially during the time when a number of nationalist leaders were detained in prisons and that needed people with a lot of courage,” Cde Chitepo said.
She also said that Amai Takawira was instrumental in the establishment of women’s clubs in Highfield and continued to support these associations, adding that in early 1960s, she also played a pivotal role in the establishment of nursery schools for segregated African children. Despite the danger of being caught by colonial authorities, she supplied medicines and attended to many sick political prisoners and among them was Cde Didymus Mutasa.
She continued to provide, not only for the family but also for political figures and other family members.
While working in the Zanu-PF headquarters at 88 Manica Road, she survived a bomb blast sustaining minor cuts and bruises.
In 1980, Cde Sunny Takawira together with Cdes Tsitsi Munyati, a teacher by profession, and Bridget Mugabe, welcomed liberation fighters from Mozambique at the Salvation Army Church in Mbare.
In the same year, Cde Takawira retired from nursing after she had been appointed Senator for Midlands.
Together with Cdes Bridget Mugabe and Tsitsi Munyati, they established a training centre at Melfort Farm along the Harare-Mutare road near Ruwa.
At this training centre, former liberation fighter were trained in dress making, sewing and crafting skills.
These trainees obtained skills, food and education in general. Cde Sunny Takawira was involved in mobilising resources for the centre.
After the ceasefire in 1980, along with her two sons, came many freedom fighters to stay with her at the family house in Highfield.
She continued well into independent Zimbabwe providing shelter to many war veterans.
She believed in leading by example. For instance, in the early 1980s, together with Cde Munyati and many other women, Cde Takawira participated in sponsored walks and charity events.
In 1980, she walked from Melfort to Harare Post Office to raise funds for the wounded war veterans at Melfort.
Amai Takawira drew her strength from her faith in the Almighty. This was evident in her strong fellowship in the Catholic Church both in Highfield and in Mt Pleasant.
She provided guidance and support to younger women from all walks of life and actively participated in church activities often walking long distances to fellowships.
In December 2009, Amai Takawira was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, which upon being operated on was found to be benign. The operation however developed complications and she struggled to recover from it. On Wednesday January 13, 2010 after being discharged from the Baines Avenues Clinic, she died peacefully at her home in Mt Pleasant.
In paying his condolences, His Excellency, President R.G. described the late Amai Takawira as a humble woman who helped many revolutionaries during the liberation struggle.
“There were two important houses during the time we were organising our meetings. The first was owned by (Cde Enos) Nkala and the other belonged to Chirumanzu (Cde Leopold Takawira). This is when I started knowing Amai Takawira as we used to hold our meetings at her place. We also got food from the two houses… She was a true mother to all her children”, he said.
President Mugabe said Amai Takawira suffered during the struggle, especially after her husband opted for a career in politics.
“We were always being incarcerated and always on the move traveling to many countries. She would be left behind looking after the family.” Given her contributions to the struggle for the independence of Zimbabwe, the Zanu-PF Politburo unanimously declared her a national heroine.
At the time of her death, Amai Takawira was survived by son, Dr Samuel Takawira, daughter, Gertrude and eight grandchildren.
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