BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
FOLLOWING a spate of arrests and detention of members of non-governmental organisations and trade unionists in Zimbabwe, families have been left in anguish by the experience which has been publicly condemned by the both the local and international communities.
One such family is that of Africa Union goodwill ambassador on Ending Child Marriages, Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda.
Her 26-year-old daughter, Farirai, was among the seven human rights defenders who spent more than two weeks in remand prison after they were arrested last month and charged with plotting to subvert a constitutional government.
She was granted bail last Friday alongside four others.
From May 21, when Farirai was snatched right in front of her mother at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, there has been an outpouring of solidarity
messages and prayer petitions for the young girl and the other six.
Gumbonzvanda took to Facebook, pouring out her heart and pain.
She lit candles, joined nightly vigils, posting heart-wrenching posts declaring her love for her daughter.
“My heart is bleeding. Farirai, my girl, be strong. Pray and breathe,” she posted.
When Gumbonzvanda went to visit her daughter at Chikurubi Remand Prison, she came face-to-face with the grim situation and later posted: “Spent the afternoon
with our Farirai at Chikurubi today. I died inside, seeing her in the green prison garb.”
Her agony was prolonged by the constant remanding in custody and newspaper headlines.
“I cannot read some of the news headlines. She is NOT coming home TODAY. Remanded in custody to June 6. Am gutted, and so deeply sad. Hurting and am trying to
find answers. I am hurting for my daughter. It’s painful, very very painful. I simply miss Farirai. I felt those birth pangs again today,” she posted.
Gumbonzvanda sang lullabies for Farirai, hoping she was safe in prison.
“Farirai, my baby, do not toss and turn. Sleep peacefully as hundreds of angels raise their voices in prayers for your freedom and for justice. Be still, and
know that there is a God. That God knew you before you were even born, and our God knows you are truly innocent. Sleep my flower, and rise tomorrow, bloom and
smile to all who visit you. I know one day soon you will be home.”
In the midst of all the chaos, the University of Massachusetts Boston conferred Gumbonzvanda with the honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, in recognition of her
work over the years in advocating and advancing the rights of women and girls around the world.
“I was smiling with one eye, and crying with the other, while carrying a heavy heart. I dedicated the recognition to my daughter Farirai Gumbonzvanda, as I
continue the fight for her freedom together with that of the #TheZimbabwe7,” she said.
“I managed the overwhelming day, fought the tears and cherished the standing ovation because I was surrounded by family and friends.”
Gumbonzvanda had also to content with her daughter’s global friends who were concerned about her welfare.
“Her global family and friends have been asking me one single question: ‘Is Farirai OKAY? Let her know we are thinking and praying for her!’ How do I answer to
her sisters and brothers she went to primary school with in Kenya; the close and very close high school friends from Geneva International School and all the
youngsters from her university, her networks in the national, and regional young women and girls’ networks?”
However, when bail was finally granted on Friday, Gumbonzvanda was elated, but still worried since the case is still pending before the courts.
“Yes, I am happy though I still carry a heavy heart. Farirai is home. It feels good,” she said.
Her pain and sorrow, which she chronicled for 18 whole days mirror what the six families of the other co-accused are going through.
While the case plays out in the court room, families fight their own battles.