An African Orature Poem in Tribute to Sam Moyo

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I met Professor Sam Moyo at a seminar in the 1980s after he joined the University of Zimbabwe where I was then teaching, and was immediately struck by his quiet brilliance.However, it was not until I became the Chairperson of the SARIPS’ Board of Directors (1998-2001) that I got to know him closely. An incredibly good listener and a man of measured words, Sam’s eyes would sparkle over exciting ideas; while he would break into a “knowing,” broad smile when he agreed with what you said. Sam had an unbelievable capacity for coping with long hours of work and could go through volumes of paperwork in preparation for a meeting and yet manage to absorb every pertinent detail. He was organized, methodical and professionally correct to a fault. He loved research and enjoyed a good debate. He generally throve in intellectual environments. More importantly, he believed in the application of theory and knowledge in keeping with the tradition of Gramsci’s “organic intellectual.” Without a doubt, Sam was an ‘intellectual and not an imposter’ (ref. “Intellectuals or Imposters?” My Mother’s Poem and Other Songs). During the entire period I served as Chair of SARIPS’ Board of Directors, working closely with Sam who was SARIPS’ Director, he and I never once exchanged an angry word even when in disagreement, or having a heated argument.

POEM

An owl sits on the hedge at the entrance to the Moyo compound hooting and screeching
flooding the neatly cut row of green shrubs he is perched on with a steady stream of tears
Moyo is dead! Hoot! Hoot! Moyo is dead! Hoot! Hoot! Moyo is dead! Hoot! Hoot! Hoot! Hoot!
Chasing this omen of gloom away, we add more wood to the bonfire that is already blazing.
It lights the entire Moyo compound, creating daylight that swallows the darkness of the night
The community is gathered to celebrate the life of its beloved son of the soil, Sam Moyo.

Mbira players are here appeasing the ancestors, urging them to clear the road
for Sam who has left us and who walks well along the path to ancestral land.
The bones that the car accident In India shattered before he set out for the Hereafter
are healed and Sam Moyo walks well now; better than he ever walked before he left.
The marimbas are playing a sprightly tune in rhythm with the beat of his walk.
Listen to the drums: the ngoma from Mashonaland and the igungu from Matebeland.

The horn is blowing louder and louder, calling upon good spirits to welcome Sam home
The eclipsed kalimba joins the call, its player striking the notes so hard the thumb is sore
The earth is shaking with the sound of the instruments, teasing dancers to take the floor.
We will dance all the dances of the land of Zimbabwe till the feet surrender to day light:
Jichi, Amabhiza, Muchongoyo, Mbakumba, Shangara, Jerusarema…then graduate to rumba,
celebrating Sam Moyo: Moyo, the heart and soul that never die because Moyo equals life!

Samson Moyo, father of five daughters, second born among seven siblings, you live on!
Samson Moyo, second born of Amai Mavis Moyo and Baba Eliot Moyo, you live on!
Moyo, the heart and soul that never die because Moyo equals life, you live on!
When you entered this world at Highfield, Harare, on September 23rd, 1954, you arrived.
The whole city, then colonial white settlers’ citadel of power, came to a complete standstill
But nature broke into happy song and wild dance, welcoming you to your ancestral land
which awaited a generation that would walk the path of Ambuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi
Patriots sworn to reclaim their inheritance, violently seized through the bible and the gun.

Spurred by your parents, cheered on by your siblings – team of seven brothers and a sister,
you sprinted through primary school, then doubled your speed to clear high school education
as your classmates cheered you on, nicknaming you “Chimsoro” because your head was
a mammoth human reservoir overflowing with brain power that ate books like muriwo.
Refusing to be contained by settler “Rhodesia,” you transgressed Africa’s colonial borders
landing in Bo, Njala, Sierra Leone, where Njala University made a geographer of you.

Undeterred by distance and the vastness of ocean waters, you then crossed the Atlantic
to seek graduate education from the University of Western Ontario, braving Canadian winters
to become a master in advanced geographical knowledge before crossing the ocean once again
to eat more books at the University of Northumbria, UK and become a doctor of philosophy,
doctoring Rural Development and Environmental Management, fields of study that would open
a life path leading to the unmined field of agrarian studies in which you owned the last word..

Unstoppable, you traversed the expansive waters yet again, returning to West Africa to teach
at the universities of Calabar and Port Harcourt, the latter being the brainchild of Lord Lugard.
And then your homecoming to independent Zimbabwe to become a founding research fellow
At the Institute of Development Studies, University of Zimbabwe, partly under colonial claws.
Breaking barriers, you rose to head the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
where you soon created networks of policy research teams to wrestle with the agrarian ogre.

Trailblazing, you became Director, South Africa Regional Institute for Policy Studies
SARIPS of SAPES, founded by Ibbo Mandaza, and it bloomed like a tropical flower garden
producing masters and mistresses of degrees in Policy Studies while carving research corridors
across the SADDC region, shaping policy research and training managers to steer the state ship,
all the while molding knowledge through publications on critical issues facing Mother Africa
homegrown products generated through seminars, workshops, symposia and conferences.

What a mighty flowing river of intellectual waters SARIPS became for Zimbabwe and Africa!
How poised SARIPS was to dig up and recover our precious indigenous sites of knowledge!
What a field mine for scholarly inquiry: what an inexhaustible site for excavation of new ideas!
What a vast laboratory for experimentation and possible reconstruction of an alternative world!
To wit, what a rendezvous for Pan African intellectuals and world scholars seeking dialogue!
Sam Moyo, at SARIPS you carved a liberated zone that progressive scholars could call “home.”

For ever a visionary and inventive founder of sites of knowledge, following SARIPS
you cleared a new site: the African Institute for Agrarian Studies in Eastland, Harare
AIAS, which you executive-directed with managerial acumen to coordinate research engaging
Agrarian challenges on the African continent while reaching out across the seas to network
with partners, your academic zest fanned by a spirit of Pan Africanism and internationalism
as you reached out to collaborate with scholars in Latin America, Asia and the Global South

Undaunted by your critics you peeled off their labels one by one through debate and dialogue
firmly standing your ground on land redistribution in Zimbabwe and the global south
where neo-liberalism and its culture of grabbling had created deserts of chronic dispossession.
Driven by unstoppable energy you left behind a legacy of prolific publication, churning out
books as easily as you hit the keys of your computer as you developed ideas into theories
advocating that equitable distribution of land is an inherent democratic and human right.

As our dancing and celebration fade away giving way to daylight, I say ten plus two times:

Siyabonga, Sam Moyo, my brother!
Famba zvakanaka, Sam Moyo, my friend!
Kwaheri, Sam Moyo, charming buddy!
Go well, Sam Moyo, architect of institutes of research!
Rest well, Sam Moyo, tireless advocate for the dispossessed!
Sleep well, Sam Moyo, midnight oil burner!
Walk well, Sam Moyo, trailblazer and pathfinder!
Travel well, Sam Moyo, carver of corridors of learning!
Journey well, Sam Moyo, Pan Africanist transnational border crosser!
Arrive well, Sam Moyo, trailblazer and pathfinder!
Arrive well, Sam Moyo, son of the soil!
Ashe! Afya! Moyo.

* Mῖcere Gῖthae Mũgo is Emeritus Professor for Teaching Excellence, Department of African American Studies, Syracuse University.
Article Source: Pambazuka
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