By Zvamaida Murwira
Late national heroine Cde Jane Lungile Ngwenya left a rich legacy to guide gender parity discourse for the empowerment of women as part of her unparalleled contribution to the country, President Mnangagwa said yesterday at her funeral at the National Heroes Acre.
Cde Ngwenya died at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo last week.
“Our late national heroine, Cde Jane Ngwenya, leaves behind a rich and inspiring legacy that will continue to guide the gender parity discourse and associated policies for the empowerment of women and girls in particular.
“She gained a wealth of knowledge from various international and continental conferences on women, peace, politics and development. I thus exhort women and women organisations to continue promoting the ideals of Pan-Africanism and Ubuntu/Hunhu, which the late Cde Jane Ngwenya fought for,” he said.
Cde Ngwenya had a fearless disposition and would often wear full military attire including a “webbing jacket,” where she would challenge women to be prepared to put on such attire when the situation required, said President Mnangagwa.
“She was a woman who claimed her space in the political arena of her time. I urge women across all sectors to occupy space along their male counterparts based on capacity, ability and meritocracy. I am confident and have no doubt that women are more than capable to perform as well as men or even much better,” said President Mnangagwa.
He described Cde Ngwenya as a principled, fluid, trustworthy cadre who was disciplined with no unbridled political ambitions.
“Regardless of her rich background and indisputable revolutionary standing, she never claimed a right to political positions. She never exhibited unbridled political ambition. As we serve in various positions within the party and Government, let us learn lessons from this unique character trait from our national heroine.”
Cde Ngwenya was part of a rare breed of women who defied the gender stereotypes of her time and deconstructed the narrow perception of African women during the days of the white settler regime.
Her apt, consciousness, magnetic personality and persuasive skills inspired many young people to leave the country and join the liberation struggle through her radio programmes broadcast by the Zambian Broadcasting Services in the mid-1970s aimed at carrying out mass mobilisation, said the President.
“Riding on the broadened and democratised national television, radio and other media spaces, I challenge proprietors and members of the media fraternity to use their platforms to propel the national agenda and national interests.
“Equally, I exhort us all, riding on the new ICT platforms, to use our new voice and expressive freedoms, given to us under the Second Republic, to also advance our national interests, identity and character,” said the President.
President Mnangagwa said Cde Ngwenya died at a time when she was due to be conferred with the Grand Commander of Zimbabwe Order of Merit Award during a recent investiture ceremony held alongside the Heroes Day commemorations held on Monday.
Born on June 15, 1935 in Buhera district, Cde Ngwenya lost her father when she was three. She completed her Standard 1 in 1944 at Gwebu Primary School and attended Madende Primary School for Standard 2. She was unable to proceed as there were no schools nearby while fees at boarding schools such as Daramombe and Makumbe were out of her family’s reach.
Cde Ngwenya later moved to Que Que, now spelt Kwekwe, in 1946, where she went to school under the care of a relative.
In 1947, she moved to Selukwe, now Shurugwi, where she did her Standard 6 at Charles Wraith African School, built specifically for Africans, the time at which her political consciousness was ignited.
In 1948, she witnessed the Benjamin Burombo-instigated strike in Selukwe, which resulted in services being grounded and it was that time when she met her husband and was married in 1953.
Her political activism, which at times saw her arrested and imprisoned, impacted on her marriage and family as it was perceived as against the expected cultural norms in the African setting.
In 1960 she was the only woman who made it into the National Democratic Party leadership’s executive of 65 members and later became one of the founding members of Zapu. In 1977, she was one of those present when Cde Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo was killed by a parcel bomb in Zambia, an explosion which injured her.
In 1980, Cde Ngwenya was elected a Member of Parliament for Bulawayo and was appointed Deputy Minister of Labour, Manpower Planning and Social Welfare in 1982, during which period she oversaw the rehabilitation of returnees from the liberation struggle before she eventually retired from active politics to provide guidance and counsel on several national development issues.