A man well versed in the history of Zimbabwe, Masotsha was a writer. He penned the book titled Confessions of a Wizard, based on his experiences in South Africa where he trained as a teacher. We got closer together when he, alongside Reverend Charles Manyoba of the Methodist Church, Reverend D V Ndlovu of the Brethren In Christ Church (BICC) and myself were appointed by the then Executive Mayor of Bulawayo Abel Siwela to advise council on the erection of proposed statues within the city precincts. The man was literally a fountain of knowledge and, despite his advanced age, he was in full control of his mental faculties and his memory was sharp as ever.
Not so long ago when his daughter Minister Sekai Holland was awarded a Peace Prize by an Australian institution, a few of us, including Advocate Lot Senda and Mr Norman Mabhena, were invited to a finger lunch where her daughters Sukoluhle and Busisiwe were also present. A delegation from Australia had come in the company of Minister Holland.
Prior to that, Mr Kingsley Dinga Dube, yet another editor of the Bantu Mirror and a few other people, self included, were constituted into a conciliatory team by Masotsha himself to seek amity following Minister Holland’s speech which caused some furore in certain quarters.
To trace the life and times of Masotsha is to go down memory lane that takes one to Zimbabwe’s political history, consolidation of colonialism, mission and state education for blacks and the history of black urban settlement, particularly in Bulawayo.
Masotsha witnessed the nascent stages of African nationalism, its internal intrigues and interface with the crude and repressive racism reminiscent of white Rhodesia. He himself participated in black politics and, as editor of Bantu Mirror, he kept abreast of political events and also the development of the African Press where men such as Mr Jasper Savanhu, Cde Nathan Shamuyarira, Mr Kingsley Dinga Dube, among others, played a prominent role.
On 4 November 2006 Masotsha collapsed at his home in Woodville. When we went to interview him four days later on 8 November of the same year, he told us about his rich and well lived life. I was accompanied by Mr Effort Nkomo and were both carrying out the interview on behalf of the Joshua Nkomo National Foundation.
Masotsha was born in 1914 outside Mnene Mission in the Belingwe (Mberengwa) District, his father being Mhike, a name that later came to be used as if it was short for Michael. Mhike, according to the Shona orthography at the time, was without an “H”. Masotsha’s mother was Mayipe Ndlovu.
Masotsha enrolled for Sub Standard A at Mnene Primary School which was 10 miles away from his home, but faced problems with school fees. He was forced to abandon school and sought employment at a very tender age. He went to work for Meredith at Gwatemba where he was paid 5 shillings a month. He also worked for whites who ran a tennis club in Belingwe (Mberengwa).
Before his father passed on he had implored his wife to ensure the children went to school to get a Western education. The father was not keen to be seen by his son Masotsha dying. Indeed, Masotsha was sent away and while half way from his destination, word arrived that his father Mhike had passed on. From that time Masotsha’s mother abandoned beer brewing and drinking. She used to attend amalima/nhimbe, but soon abandoned all that. She used to brew the type of sweet beer called imbheka.
Masotsha was back to school in Masase with his brother. At the time Masase faced a serious malaria outbreak. In 1931, he enrolled into Standard 1. He did Standard 2 in 1932 and Standard 3 the following year. When he was doing Standard 4 in 1934, Silibaziso Dube (later married to Sam Ndebele) advised Masotsha he was wasting his time; he was too bright to be doing Standard 4. In any case, he was mature by that time and used to come out top in his classes. As a result Masotsha was fast tracked, doing two academic standards in the same year.
It was common in those days to combine academic work and industrial training. Those doing Standard 4 also did teacher training, first year. When they were in Standard 5 they did second year teacher training. When they completed Standard 6, they simultaneously completed the three-year teacher training course. However, this was not the case with Swedish Mission schools. The industrial subjects being done were building, carpentry and trades.
It was the Swedish Mission, in particular Bergman who was instrumental in the opening of several schools falling under the aegis of the Swedish Mission. The Swedes had schools such as Mnene, Masase, Chegato and Manama. Manama had initially belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church, but the Dutch Mission based at Morgenster in Fort Victoria (Masvingo) found it to be too far and transferred ownership to the Swedish Mission.
The Swedish Mission had been established in KwaZulu-Natal where they had a printing press that produced Zulu books that were used in their Zimbabwean schools. That contact led to Masotsha going to South Africa, specifically to Umpumulo Institution at Maphumulo. There he remained till the end of 1939 when he came back to Southern Rhodesia.
Meanwhile, Maroma Bapelile Nkomo from Glassblock went to Mnene Mission for her education. Maroma financed her education by working at Mnene Hospital during school holidays. It was here that the two met and would later marry in 1942.
Upon return from South Africa, Masotsha taught at Masase. He was not to stay there for long. Following their marriage in 1942, the couple went to the Wesleyan Methodist Waddilove Mission where Masotsha had secured a teaching post.
The couple was blessed with the following six children: Sekai Masikana, Tinaye Saziwe, Sukoluhle Sitembile Sukai, Busisiwe Magdalina Mushaba, Bekithemba Bergman and Dwight Masotsha. Masotsha had been a prolific writer; he wrote several letters to the editors of various newspapers such as The Herald, Chronicle and The Bantu Mirror. His command of the Queen’s language would not go unnoticed by the newspaper staff.
In 1946 he landed a job as editor of the Bantu Mirror. However he could not immediately get a replacement, so his move was delayed to 1947. The couple relocated to Salisbury. A new career had opened, a career that would pave the political path for him.
(To be continued)