Remembering assassinated Dr Parirenyatwa

The Chronicle

Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
AS one approaches Heany Junction level crossing in Ntabazinduna along the Bulawayo-Harare Highway from Bulawayo, there is a signpost inscribed with bold words: PARIRENYATWA TICHAFA SAMUEL.


The signpost serves as a reminder of the death of one of the country’s icons of the liberation struggle, Dr Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa.

A medical doctor, social worker, politician and revolutionary patriot, Dr Parirenyatwa left an indelible mark in the country’s medical field after becoming the first black medical doctor in the then Southern Rhodesia.

Ms Simoli Dlodlo

Dr Pari, as he was affectionately known, failed to realise his full potential as a doctor and politician following his assassination by Rhodesian security agents in 1962, about 15km from Shangani, while on his way to Bulawayo, on a ZAPU mission.

The state agents tried to conceal his brutal assassination by fabricating a car accident. At the time of his death, Dr Parirenyatwa had risen to the level of deputy president of Zapu and was a dedicated medical practitioner.

The hundreds of people that lined the road as his body was being taken from Bulawayo to Salisbury (now Harare) and the thousands that lined the streets in Salisbury and kept vigil at his home in the capital was testament of the great man he was.

A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited Ntabazinduna, near the site of Dr Parirenyatwa’s death and spoke to selected local people who recalled events on the fateful day.

Mr Timothy Masuku (84) of Nhlambabaloyi village in Umguza District in Matabeleland North, evoked sad memories of the day.

“At the time this incident happened I was only 24 years old. I vividly recall waking up from a deep sleep just before dawn at the sound of a huge bang and I was so curious and at the same time worried because I was keen to know what had happened,” he said.

“In the morning just after 6AM, I followed a group of people who were going to Heany Junction where the sound had emanated from. When we arrived at the scene, there was a wreckage of Dr Parirenyatwa’s car on the railway line after it was hit by a train.”
Mr Masuku said when they arrived at the scene, the body had already been removed.

“Everyone at the scene was shocked and we were extremely worried about what had happened, particularly us in Zapu because we had lost a cadre and great leader,” he said.

“Although the death of our doctor came as a shock, we suspected foul play because we were fighting a colonial regime that hated nationalists.”

Nhlambabaloyi village head Mr Fulton Nyathi said plans are underway to set up a monument near the site where Dr Parirenyatwa was killed.

Mr Fulton Nyathi

“I was approached by the late Dr Parirenyatwa’s son, David who indicated that he was planning of securing a piece of land at Nhlambabaloyi turn-off where a monument can be erected as some form of tribute to his father and as community leaders we are in agreement with that idea,” he said.

“Dr Parirenyatwa was killed by Rhodesian security forces and they disguised their heinous act as an accident, after placing his car along a railway line at Heany Junction.”

Mr Nyathi said Dr Parirenyatwa was a great nationalist who deserves to be honoured for his contribution in the liberation struggle.

“Dr Parirenyatwa might have gone, but his legacy lives on and we have to cherish his works, which is why it is important to preserve this kind of history for generations to come.

To us, as a local community, that signpost along the Bulawayo-Harare Road serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by our national hero,” he said.

Ms Simoli Dlodlo (73) of Nhlambabaloyi said: “The news of Dr Parirenyatwa shocked us as a local community. I was still a young girl and we were not allowed to go to the scene on that particular day.

However, what I still remember is hearing the sound of a train blowing its horn and the next thing there was a deafening sound of a crash of some sort.”

“It happened just before dawn and the elders rushed to the scene to witness the incident, but since we were young, they didn’t allow us to go there.”

For years, the narrative has been that Dr Parirenyatwa was assassinated on August 14, 1962 in a physical attack by Rhodesian agents who tried to disguise their heinous act as an accident, after placing his car along a railway line at present day Heany Junction.

Curiously, The Chronicle of August 15, 1962 reported the incident without mentioning Dr Parirenyatwa by name despite his prominence as both the first black doctor in Rhodesia and Zapu vice president at the height of the nationalist movement.

The spot where the late Dr Samuel Parirenyatwa was assassinated by the Rhodesian soldiers at Heany Junction in Ntabazinduna

Read the report: “An African was killed, and another critically injured, when the car they were travelling in crashed into a train last night at a level crossing about 18 miles from Bulawayo on the Salisbury Road.

“The car was carried by the train for more than 500yd. The dead African, believed to be the driver, was flung from the car about 200 yd from the crossing.

“His companion, trapped in the wreckage, was rushed to Mpilo Hospital, where his condition was described as critical.”

The late veteran journalist Cde Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, who interviewed the late former President Cde Robert Mugabe who was Zapu publicity secretary at the time of Dr Parirenyatwa’s assassination, revealed that the nationalist was actually killed by a remote-controlled explosive just after Shangani.

In his narration, Cde Ndlovu said Dr Parirenyatwa, who was being driven by Ngozi Danger Zengeni Sibanda, was travelling from Salisbury to Bulawayo enroute to Nkayi to recruit fighters to join the liberation struggle.

In Nkayi, he was to meet two key people, the late Cde Welshman Mabhena and Cde Isaac Mswelaboya Sibanda, who now lives in Botswana.

Dr Parirenyatwa was initially buried at the family’s farm in Chitowa, Murehwa, but following Independence, the veteran nationalist was accorded national hero status in 1984. His remains were reburied at the national shrine on 8 August 2004.

Dr Parirenyatwa was born on July 17, 1927 in Makoni near Rusape to David Deme Parirenyatwa and Sophia Parirenyatwa. His father was a cook in the household of a Rhodesian Governor.

He had subsequently advanced himself through night school to become a lay preacher and a teacher of repute. In 1930, the family moved from Rusape to settle in Murehwa.

Dr Parirenyatwa’s maternal and paternal grandparents were linked to early black resistance against colonialism.

David Deme Parirenyatwa’s grandfather was Chief Chingaira, a hero of the First Chimurenga, who died at the hands of colonialists.

Dr Parirenyatwa’s mother Sophia Rugare Parirenyatwa hailed from the Tangwena tribe, who, during the reign of the late Chief Rekayi Tangwena, confronted the imperialists head-on, to repel the seizure of their land and resisted white settler designs in the Gaerezi Ranch.

Dr Parirenyatwa’s resentment of foreign white oppression was in his blood. He attended Murehwa Primary School and later proceeded to Howard Institute before enrolling at Adams College in Natal, South Africa. He proceeded to Fort Hare University where he graduated with a BSc degree in Biology.

Dr Parirenyatwa cut his teeth in politics while he was at Fort Hare, where he became one of the chief organisers of the African National Congress Youth League in the Thyeumie Branch of the political movement.

Besides being a popular student during his college days, Dr Parirenyatwa exhibited dynamic leadership qualities. After Fort Hare, he secured a place at Witwatersrand Medical School in South Africa and was among the few black medical students that enrolled at the Medical School.

In 1957, he qualified as a medical doctor and made history by becoming the first black medical practitioner in Southern Rhodesia.

Combining work and politics, Dr Parirenyatwa became actively involved in campaigns to defy the abhorrent apartheid laws. It was during these campaigns that he proved to be a militant and fearless fighter against injustice to the extent that he nearly got deported from South Africa.

When he returned to the then Southern Rhodesia, Dr Parirenyatwa worked at the Salisbury North Hospital (initially renamed Andrew Fleming and later Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals (after him).

As the first black doctor in the country, he worked among hostile racists that were always trying to find fault with his work, but he soldiered on and performed his duties diligently and professionally, and eventually became the envy of his white counterparts.

They ended up befriending and respecting him. His success soon made him a household name and this raised the profile of black people in Southern Rhodesia.

Dr Pari had broken the myth that practising Western medicine was the preserve of white people.

However, the prospects of high social status brought by his professional attainment did not make him lose sight of what he saw as his societal obligation, that is, fighting for social justice, equality and black majority rule.

He was later transferred to Antelope Hospital in Kezi, Matabeleland South, where he once again met a hostile white community that could not hide its hatred at the appointment of an African medical officer to serve at the hospital.

In the meantime, the winds of African nationalism were sweeping across Africa and Dr Parirenyatwa resigned from the Federal Government Service in 1961 to dedicate more of his time to the nationalist cause.

He then established surgeries in Highfield and at Amato along Kingsway (now Julius Nyerere Way) in Salisbury.
Private practice gave him room to attend to political activities and this resulted in him being elected ZAPU’s deputy president at the party’s launch in December 1961.

When ZAPU was formed after the banning of the National Democratic Party, it was decided that the new party would need a sophisticated approach to fight the settler Government.

Thus, Dr Parirenyatwa devoted most of his time working for the party and crafting strategies that were effective in confronting the settler minority.

He travelled around the country addressing rallies and opening new branches and through his work as a doctor and politician he inspired many young people to participate in the nationalist struggle and to train as medical doctors.

Dr Pari was viewed by many as a militant who was anxious to move away from politics of accommodation to that of military confrontation with the white establishment for black majority rule to be achieved. He saw the armed struggle as not only necessary, but inevitable.

During a launch meeting of the Rhodesian National Affairs Association, which he attended as deputy president of ZAPU on April 14, 1962, he predicted that while he was advocating confronting the white settlers, the planned takeover of the country was going to be through a constitutional process, not spearheaded through the colonial parliament. Thus, Andrew Fleming Hospital became Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

During the country’s silver jubilee celebrations in 2005, Dr Parirenyatwa was among other distinguished people that were posthumously conferred with the Order of Great Zimbabwe (Gold) together with Father Zimbabwe, Vice President Dr Joshua Nkomo and the Soul of the Nation, Vice President Dr Simon Muzenda

Article Source: The Chronicle

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