ON Monday morning, as the nation prepared to commemorate Heroes’ Day, news spread that the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Masvingo Cde Shuvai Ben Mahofa had passed on a few hours earlier.
She had complained that she was feeling cold at her home early Monday morning and collapsed. She was rushed to Makurira Memorial Clinic where she was pronounced dead on arrival at around 3:30AM.
Cde Mahofa was a prominent figure in her home area of Gutu, who distinguished herself, especially when it came to mobilising membership for Zanu-PF.
Her allegiance to the revolutionary party was unquestionable, unaffected by social or economic hardships. She was a steadfast and resolute party cadre, who rose from being a liberation war collaborator (chimbwido) to the position of deputy minister and, at the time of her death, a minister and Politburo member.
She was also Gutu South MP for 23 years.
She later became a senator before being appointed Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in 2015, replacing Mr Kudakwashe Bhasikiti-Chuma who had been fired for being part of the expelled former Vice President Dr Joice Mujuru cabal.
Some said at the time of her appointment that she was unfit for the job but three months down the line, she silenced them with a flawless performance.
She, with the able assistance of yet another Masvingo political guru, Senator Josiah Hungwe, fought to unite the province. She was instrumental in the organisation of three successful party events.
First was President Mugabe’s birthday bash which saw about 50 000 people thronging the Great Zimbabwe Monument in February 2016 before the party’s national people’s conference held at Masvingo Showgrounds in December.
In July this year Masvingo, under her leadership, held a Presidential Youth Interface Rally at Mucheke B arena.
Cde Mahofa helped organise these events even as she complained of ill health.
“I have not failed to carry out my duties as directed by my boss, President Robert Mugabe, despite my ill health. My God and ancestors are pulling me through,” she would say.
Those who knew her from Gutu, her rural home would reminisce the way she conducted herself in politics. Chikoforo (cultivator), as she was affectionately known because of her work ethic, would resolve any problem even those that would have been stumbling block to men, much to the praise of the provincial heads.
She had the authority and bravery akin to that of a man thus many thought she was a war veteran.
The Iron Lady of Masvingo was strong and resolute in a number of issues to do with development. I vividly remember last year she stood firm in support of farmers who had been given offer letters to occupy sugarcane farms in the Lowveld despite the resistance from Tongaat Hulett.
She was also instrumental in making sure that companies and mines in the province contribute to the Masvingo Community Share Ownership Trust (CSOT).
This saw Murowa Diamonds and Bikita Minerals availing funds to the CSOT with sugarcane giant Tongaat Hulett contributing about $300 000 to all seven districts in the province.
She even threatened to cause the revocation of operating licences of the companies which did not comply with the government directive to contribute towards CSOT.
Cde Mahofa argued that firms operating in the province could not continue plundering its resources without retaining any value to the communities in which they are working.
That earned her a lot of admirers.
Corrupt civil servants had no place in Masvingo. Recently, she allegedly sent some officials from Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement packing on allegations of nepotism and corruption.
Minister Mahofa worked very well with everyone including the non-government organisations (NGOs) as she would officiate at their meetings without any problem.
She was readily available to the media and would return calls when a reporter called and she missed it. Interestingly, she would tell you the truth.
“My son, I do not want to give media falsehoods just to please our people. I do not want people to say Minister Mahofa lied.
“If there is nothing for you, I better not say anything,” said Minister Mahofa in one of the interviews I had with her recently.
Local private papers also enjoyed cordial relations with her despite the fact that she sometimes raised concern over their reportage which she described as in bad taste.
“I know what the private media writes about me, most of the news is false.
“I know news is their business but they should verify their facts. We want media that promotes development in our country, not attacking personalities,” she said at one of the Zanu-PF fora.
Great Zimbabwe Magazine director Mrs Angeline Mikiri said the business community in Masvingo is poorer without the wise stewardship of the late Minister Mahofa.
She said as women in business they would forever cherish her good works.
“We had a good leader in Masvingo who motivated us as women in business. We will sadly miss the good advice she always proffered for the growth of our businesses and the vigilance she instilled in us in the face of adversity,” said Mrs Mikiri.
Whoever will be Minister Mahofa’s successor will need to work extremely hard to fill Chikoforo’s big shoes.
Hamba Kuhle Chikoforo. Go well the Iron Lady of Masvingo, Zorora murugare, Masvingo will always cherish the good work you did. — @walterbmswazie3