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Daniel Molokele
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By Daniel Fortune Molokele

THIS past week I took some time to reflect on the life my late father and his lasting influences on me. It has been three years since he passed away on September 28, 2003, at the Wankie Colliery Hospital in Hwange.

I sometimes think it was so apt for him to have his final resting place in Hwange because the coal mine practically embodened his destiny.

My dad was born in Nyamandlovu and spent his young adult years in Bulawayo. But it was in 1996 when he joined the colliery company that the path of the rest of his life was fully defined. It seems the fact that he was a highly outspoken and assertive person made him to end up on the frontlines of the battlefield in the mine workers struggles. As fate would have it, he also soon found himself in the leadership circles of the workers representation process. In 1979, he was elected the Chairperson of the Workers Committee of the entire labour force of the coal mine. It was a position he held until 1995 when he was transferred to the Bulawayo offices of the mining company.

During the 1980s, he became actively involved in the politics of the national mineworkers body, the Associated Mineworkers Union of Zimbabwe (AMUZ). The coal mine’s large number of workers ensured that it had a big voice in the national body for mine workers. So before long, he established himself as one of the most influential leaders of the AMUZ with the likes of Jeffrey Mutandare. And when the process of setting up the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade unions (ZCTU) was begun, the mine workers movement found itself at the centre of the leadership making process of the new national labour body. My dad was among the AMUZ delegates that attended the inaugural congress of the ZCTU.

Prior to the historic event, he had been nominated unopposed from his region to be candidate to represent the AMUZ interests in the ZCTU General Council. Unfortunately his political aspirations suffered a cruel blow and major setback when the politics of ethnicity robbed him of his chance to be elected into the inner circle of the ZCTU leadership. Some delegates from the Mashonaland region accused him of being a ‘dissident’ and nominated another delegate from the floor to take his place. This was because he was an active member of the opposition PF-ZAPU at the time when there was a virtual tribal rivalry with supporters of the ruling party, Zanu PF.

It was such an unforgettable bitter experience that left a sour taste in his mouth for the rest of his life. I remember how he struggle until his death bed to accept the possibility of mutual co-existence and harmony between the Ndebele and Shona peoples of Zimbabwe. A question that remains elusive and hard to answer for many Zimbabweans unto this day. In fact, there are a lot of people who still believe that the two rival ethnic groups will never evolve into one national phenomenon in a peaceful and prosperous new Zimbabwe.

And so it happened that as I reflected on my dad’s lifelong experiences as a trade unionist, I also recalled my own interactions with the Zimbabwean labour movement. It is clear that somehow as a boy, I managed to garner a lot of influence from my dad.

But as fate would have it, I was privileged enough to be admitted at the law school of the University of Zimbabwe. This then meant that I would not necessarily be able to follow my dad’s footsteps into the politics of the labour movement. But after a few months at the college, my father’s childhood influence on me became increasingly evident as I took an active interest in the drama filled world of student politics.

And as fate would have it, during my seventh month at college, I re-wrote history books by becoming the first ever student to be elected into the student leadership before I had even written my first exam at the college. I was overwhelmingly elected as the Secretary General for the UZ SRC in November 1995. I also got elected as Vice Presient in the following year before being elected as the President of the entire union body in 1998. this was after I had also been elected as the Vice President of the revived national students body, ZINASU.

My relationship with my dad’s colleagues at the national labour movement soon came into full circle on the Workers Day for 1996. It was when I was asked in my capacity as the Acting President of the University of Zimbabwe students union to address thousands of workers that had gathered at the Rufaro stadium. I will never forget that day, ever! In fact I still remember it today as if it were yesterday.

During my speech to the ZCTU organized rally, I prided myself as a son of the labour movement. I placed an emphasis on the need for both the labour and student movements to fully appreciate the biological bond that inextricably tied them together. I as a son of a mine worker could not afford to distance myself from the proletariat. In the same vein, the student movement had not choice but to align itself with the workers in their struggles. Their struggles were also somehow, our own struggles as the student movement. It was an inevitable, natural alliance. It was a potentially formidable partnership that was forged upon the biological consequences of nature.

And so this week, as I reflected on the life and times of my dad, I also took some time to appreciate the sublime contribution of the labour movement in the development of our country’s destiny. I took some time to salute the labour leaders such as Gibson Sibanda, Morgan Tsvangirai, Lucia Matibenga, Lovemore Matombo and Wellington Chibebe, among others. I fully appreciated the role they have played and continue tom play in fighting for a new Zimbabwe. That is, a Zimbabwe that will have the social and economic rights, not to mention the political and human rights of its entire workers as a big priority.

May the dreams and aspirations of all workers of Zimbabwe come to pass one day. May they take solace in the words of the song by one of our former student leaders turned trade union leader, Raymond Majongwe and realize that ‘we shall overcome someday’, no matter what!

Long live the struggling workers of Zimbabwe! Long live the ZCTU!

Daniel Molokele is a Zimbabwean Human Rights Lawyer who is based in Johannesburg. He can be contacted at

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