Malinga symbolised hope, triumph in adversity
Nqobile Tshili, [email protected]
NATIONAL hero Cde Joshua Malinga who died in Bulawayo last Friday has left behind a legacy of hope and triumph over adversity as he challenged societal stereotypes of looking down upon people with disabilities and made them believe in themselves, the Jairos Jiri Association said yesterday.
An outspoken special interest groups’ champion, Cde Malinga succumbed to prostate cancer at 79 and is expected to be buried at the National Heroes Acre on Saturday.
At the time of his death, he was a Special Advisor to President Mnangagwa on disability issues, a role the President said he served with distinction.
Different speakers have commended the Government for conferring a deserving National Hero status to Cde Malinga who defied the odds from his days of confinement at the Jairos Jiri Centre in Bulawayo where he stayed for a long time and rose through the ranks to become the head of the organization.
In a statement yesterday, the Jairos Jiri Association’s national office said Cde Malinga was a towering figure in fighting for the recognition of the rights of those living with disabilities.
“We have learnt with shock and a deep sense of sorrow about the passing on to the glory of disability advisor to the President, the late Joshua Teke Malinga on September 8, 2023,” it said.
“His death is not only a blow to the Malinga family and His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Dr. E.D. Mnangagwa, but to all of us who knew and worked with him over the years, first as a student at our Bulawayo Vocational Skills Training Centre then in the later years as a book-keeper and rose through the ranks to the position of secretary general or CEO of the Jairos Jiri Association,” reads the statement.
“For the sake of his eulogy, the salient points of his illustrious life of triumph of hope over adversity can be summarised as follows: While society back then looked down upon people with disabilities (PWDs), it was strong characters like Joshua Malinga who changed the status quo.”
The Jairos Jiri Association said the late Cde Malinga’s story resembles the struggles of most people with disabilities, who first struggle for acceptance within their homes and the situation becomes even harder in the general world.
The association, however, said when given the opportunity to prove themselves, PWDs have proved beyond doubt their capabilities and Cde Malinga’s life is a testimony.
“He started to read and write at the age of 12 after being enrolled at Jairos Jiri Center in Bulawayo. His first trade was being a cobbler.
“He was to further make history by being the first disabled person at the Bulawayo Polytechnic,” said the association.
“In his own words this is what is on record: ‘While in Filabusi, my parents did not think that I could go to school or work. So, they just kept me until I was 12. In fact, nobody wanted to train or educate me. They all thought I was a liability, but that all changed when I got to the Jairos Jiri Center. While at Jairos Jiri, I took a keen interest in education,” reads the statement.
The association praised Cde Malinga for believing in himself and proving that he had the brains to compete with anyone at any given forum.
“I never wanted my disability to hold me back. The Jairos Jiri Centre and the Bulawayo City Council then sponsored my secondary education at Mpopoma High School. I was at Mpopoma from 1962 to 1965”, wrote Cde Malinga in his testimonial recorded by the association.
Cde Malinga became a victim of the Rhodesian racist discriminatory system as he struggled to get employed with white counterparts who held similar qualifications with him and were being absorbed by the industry.
This prompted the late National Hero Jairos Jiri, the founder of the Jairos Jiri Association, to give Cde Malinga a shot in the arm that changed his life as it allowed him to travel the world and in doing so enabled him to have first-hand experience on the treatment of PWDs.
The association expressed gratitude to Cde Malinga that despite moving to politics and Government, he remained grounded to the cause of the vulnerable.
“We all remain deeply indebted to him for his outstanding contributions towards the welfare and development of our organisation in general in those early years of triumph, tribulations, progress, and recognition,” it said.
“It is truly remarkable that even after he had left the Association to serve both in the private sector and Government, he remained truly loyal and committed to supporting the work of the association as he made regular visits to our various institutions.
“His untimely demise is a great loss to the nation, which has been robbed of not only a very committed leader, but a towering figure who contributed enormously to the advancement of the disability movement in our country and under the auspices of many world-renowned disability agencies, some of which he was part of their historical foundations.”
The Jairos Jiri Association said Cde Malinga will always be remembered for his great humility, honesty, openness, and above all his extraordinary fortitude to stand firm for what he believed to be right and paramount for the advancement of the disability and developmental agenda.
“In him, we have lost a distinguished leader of impeccable integrity imbued with enviable humility, dignity, and great love,” reads the statement.
“No words will ever be enough to thank him for what he has done for those less fortunate children in our entire nation and the world at large.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the entire nation at this difficult time of mourning. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace.”
Dr Vongayi Vosho Moyo, founding chief executive officer of Heal Our World for the Born-Disabled of Africa, mourned Cde Malinga, whom he described as a pioneer in fighting for the rights of the less-privileged.
He expressed gratitude to President Mnangagwa and the ruling party Zanu-PF for declaring Cde Malinga, a National Hero.
“We are mourning our fellow Cde JT Malinga and we are saying he was a principled man who wanted to see the conditions of those with disabilities being addressed. He was also keen to see people with disabilities creating employment,” he said.“It’s a great honour that President Mnangagwa has declared him a National Hero and that he will be buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
His death is a great loss to us and we don’t forget the good work that Dr Malinga did,” said Dr Moyo. —@nqotshili