“Uchandifunga, uchanditsvaga, uchandishaya” (you will remember me, look for me and fail to find me) is the unforgettable motivational phrase often said in captivating, unignorable humour and a very deep Ndebele accent by our former Maths teacher at Highfield Secondary School (now Highfield High 1), the multi-skilled Highlanders’ president Ndumiso Gumede, who died last Wednesday in Bulawayo.
He taught me in Form 1 and 2 in 1970-71 together with many other surviving and departed sports and corporate luminaries, who on reunions would repeat the phrase originally used to encourage us to work hard and pass Maths, a major requirement for many jobs even to this day.
Gumede was a great influencer, even to other learners he did not teach directly during his time at the school between 1969 and 1975.
As a football coach and referee, the renowned football administrator nurtured many yesteryear greats, who later turned out for top teams in the then Rhodesia National Football League like Oliver Kateya (Dynamos) Shakeman Shacky Tauro, Peter Augustino (Caps United) and medical doctor Rodrick Muganhiri (Black Aces) all late, who I was privileged to report about on national radio commentaries as I teamed up with the late Jonathan Mutsinze, Jackson Sithole and later Lisbern Nasasara on the then African Service of the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) from 1974.
“He was such a good teacher, coach, actor and musician so full of energy even until the time he passed on as evidenced by the way he gave his opinion on the SRC/Zifa and Fifa stalemate,” said Laban Kandi, another Highfield Secondary School alumni and former Dynamos goalkeeper.
In the corporate world, Gumede taught and influenced many renowned leaders who were at “PaSecondary”, as the school was affectionately known since it was then the only one that admitted pupils with higher pass grades from over a dozen primary schools in Highfield high density suburb.
In our ‘Class of 1973’ O-Level WhatsApp chat group informally led by Michael Mataure, a former Chimanimani legislator, we have chartered accountant Freeman Kembo, owner of a huge thriving clothing factory in Harare, who regularly donated some of the branded tracksuits and press jackets to our former teacher.
There is also economist and former diplomat Mutsvene John Marangwanda, whose Longden Steel company erected the steelworks of the Mbuya Nehanda statues in the Harare central business district, not forgetting former banker and businessman Ignatius Pamire, a former Dynamos chairman, and renewable energy engineer Charles Murove.
Pretoria-based Dr Simbarashe Sibanda, a renowned agricultural scholar and international researcher and probably one of Gumede’s top Maths students at the time, said: “This is a horrible year.
He is the best Maths teacher I ever had.”
Gumede believed in simplifying his subject through everyday illustrations and storytelling to the extent of using Shona, which he was still learning after arriving at the school in 1969 from Gwelo Teachers’ Training College, which is now the Midlands State University.
“In teaching Maths, he made a dull dry boring topic an enjoyable and exciting one.
He used to joke every day before our Maths lesson. At times he would teach us to sing popular Ndebele songs,” recalls Jacob Chisese, who later became, Zimpapers Harare Branch general manager, chief executive officer of Modus Publications, publishers of the Financial Gazette, and chief operations officer of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, publishers of the Daily News.
“He was witty, entertaining and above all a knowledgeable teacher.”
Other former students like broadcaster Felix N’anjo, writer and social commentator cum-public relations executive Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana, former St Giles medico-social worker Beauty Mushipe all remembered their multi-talented teacher Gumede for his teaching skills and humour.
Others that were our seniors, but benefitted from many extracurricular activities, which Gumede spearheaded, include veteran journalist Davison Maruziva and David Mwenga, former Air Zimbabwe public relations manager.
“Not much interaction during school days, but later when Jets Football Club was in the Premier Soccer League and during my time as a television reporter, he was an affable man with an infectious booming laugh.
He loved isiNdebele his mother language, but in conversations he would switch between English, Shona and Ndebele seamlessly, without leaving you behind if you did not speak his language,” said Mwenga.
Maruziva said he recalled Gumede as a popular fun-loving and colourful sports master.
“He loved and lived his work every bit. He would be donning his sports gear at school and around Machipisa Shopping Centre, much to the amusement of students and other onlookers. He was always full of life and surprises.
He was very close to our fellow student Sylvia Gumede from Mufakose, the daughter of his late brother and broadcaster Agritty Gumede.”
To the Highfield residents of that time, he was a ‘Pasecondary’ teacher residing at the prestigious Highfield housing complex on the township’s outskirts, who also loved tight safari suits and moved around in his toy-sized Solex motor cycle, which he took to Bulawayo by train when he was transferred to Mzilikazi Secondary School in 1976.
One day when our Shona teacher, the late historian and author Aeneas Chigwedere, who later became headmaster of Goromonzi and Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, had bereavement in his family, Gumede turned up in our class and as we were taking out our Maths books, he shouted in his usual unmistakable Ndebele accent: “No, no, no, I am going to take you for Shona since Mr Chigwetere (sic) is away. Tichaita ngano.
“Kare kare matombo achiri manyoro, chibhage(sic) chichiri kufamba, banhu vachiri kudla bamwe (sic), kwakanga kuripo tsuro na gudho (sic).”
We burst into uncontrollable laughter until a very serious looking Gumede suddenly said: “Back to our topic on right angled triangles”, kicking it off with a recital of the Pythagoras theorem as he stealthily moved from wall to wall.
He really enjoyed reciting theories and substituting English music lyrics with Shona and Ndebele words, much to our amusement as learners.
Besides Chigwedere, Gumede taught with another historian Maurice Tagwireyi, who later became the first black Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government under late Minister Eddison Zvobgo, geographer Ian MacCausland, who later co-founded Girls College in Bulawayo.
He also mentored our one-time Gwelo Teachers’ College Maths student teacher Dr Daniel Sithole, who went on to head Allied Timbers in Mutare.
But seriously devastated is our former science teacher Kingston Rudenya, who once headed Mufakose No.
2 Secondary School and is now completely blind and lives in the United Kingdom.
He also co-trained the Highfield Secondary football team with Gumede.
“I am so sorry to hear that my best friend teacher Ndumiso Gumede is no more. We sat next to each other in the staff room and shared lots of stories. We were still in touch by phone,” Rudenya said.
Author and publisher Barbra Makhalisa Nkala could only say: “Oh no he has gone to rest.
We acted as the Ncube and Madawu parents of Thandi (Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana) in the Isaac Mabhikwa-directed movie More Time having done part time continuity announcing duties together at the former Radio Mthwakazi studios in Bulawayo in the 1970s.”
My last communication with Gumede, who also acted in radio dramas like Harry Nleya’s Sayijeni Gatsheni and Sakhelene Zinini series, was in mid-September.
“Masuku I am in Harare and watching you on national television right now. We are here to officially accept Highlanders’ sponsorship from a well-known energy company.”
Unfortunately, I could not meet ‘Yours Truly’ in what would have been our final good byes due to our very tight schedules at the time, but I shall always fondly remember ‘Mr Gameed’ as he jokingly called himself when he walked into our classroom over five decades ago.
l John Masuku a veteran radio and television broadcast journalist cum-media trainer is a former student of Ndumiso Gumede at Highfield Secondary School in Harare.
Email him on [email protected] Twitter @john-masuku