By Jacob Ngarivhume
I got to know Dewa from our days at the University of Zimbabwe. We were both R98, meaning we registered at the UZ in 1998.
The University of Zimbabwe then was a breeding ground for leaders, activists and fearless cadres. Those who were opposed to the regime’s oppressive policies often took up leadership roles to rally students and organize them into fighting oppression.
When we talk of student leadership at the UZ we can’t forget to mention Prof AGO Mutambara who were some of the early pioneers of the students resistance to one party state by Zanu Pf. Learnmore Jongwe was a brilliant student who was one of the pioneers of Zimbabwe’s biggest opposition political parties, the MDC.
The culture of resistance to dictatorship was well established by 1999 when we were at the University of Zimbabwe.
Dewa Mavhinga contested to be SRC president in 2000 after Takura Zhangazha served his term out. I was the MDC UZ Branch Chairperson then. I ordinarily became his campaign manager.
That brought me close to the man. I saw his ups and downs and we shared very close moments from that campaign.
Dewa contested against a very brilliant, vibrant young student called Courage Shumba. Both were studying Law and were in the same class. It was unlikely that Dewa would win that election.
We campaigned in the church at the University to boost our votes. Dewa won that election narrowly. He was as surprised as I was because at one time both of us talked about preparing our concession speech. Dewa was very humble, ready to accept defeat.
From that campaign I learnt one virtue in the life of Dewa, he was a human rights defender, ready to stand up for the weak, oppressed and down trodden. That virtue would come to define his life years after he left the University of Zimbabwe.
Dewa loved people, and was very respectful to humanity. He was sociable, building a team of many friends across the globe especially in human rights work.
As years went by, my friend became a fearless human rights fighter exposing gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
I remember one day when he was SRC president, we called for peaceful demonstrations at the University of Zimbabwe. Riot police came in cohorts with local university security and sprayed teargas injuring hundreds of students. It was on a Sunday.
That evening, one inocent young student Batsirayi Hadzizi was on his way from church and got back to campus unaware there was a demonstration where police were beating up students. They pounced on him and beat him up until he died. He was from Gutu.
When we went to burry him, university authorities were warned by the CIO and Zanu Pf leadership not to mention that he was killed by the police at the funeral. When Dewa stood up to give his speech I remember him emotionally announcing that “vabereki mwana akapondwa nemapurisa” with tears running down his face.
Such became the defiance in his character to speak truth to power.
Dewa was loved by many of us who knew him. He in the process created many enermies as well. Those responsible for destroying human rights in Zimbabwe obviously did not want him alive. They saw him as a threat.
Dewa Mavhinga fought a good fight. When I received the shocking news that he had died, I nearly went into a depression. Why would such a young icon go so soon. As I am writing this I am in tears, still refusing to accept that my good friend is gone.
I will meet him one day at that famous golden bridge, zambuko rine ndarama, I will ask him why did you go too soon my friend and brother. I will also ask him who killed you and I know this will end my suspicions about his death.
Meanwhile as we lay him to rest today, we celebrate a life well lived. Dewa was a fighter all his life and he lived up to it.
Human rights work lost a cadre and leader.
Go well my brother go well cadre, go well leader. We will miss you in this world. We will meet in heaven neropa raJesu.