Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu whose hereditary title was Chief Maduna was one of Zimbabwe's longest-serving traditional chiefs. Mafu had served as chief since 1974. He died at the age of 86 in February 2021.
Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu’s grandfather, Maduna Mafu, headed the Godhlwayo regiment, which had settled in today’s Insiza District after Mzilikazi’s journey from modern-day South Africa. Maduna Mafu and his brother launched the first attacks on Europeans in 1896. After initial military successes, they were defeated and Mafu's brother was killed. Maduna Mafu received official recognition as a ‘chief’ under BSAC rule. Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu’s father Jim Mafu Maduna, was a successful entrepreneur who became, in 1948, Insiza district’s first bus owner. He too was against colonial rule and allied himself to Benjamin Burombo’s African National Voice Association.
Chief Maduna was married to Mrs Lizzie Maduna Mafu (nee Mpala).
He had 11 children and 28 grandchildren.
He studied at Moeng College in Botswana. Chief Maduna worked as a clerical assistant and received medical training.
Contribution to Second Chimurenga
Maduna participated in Zimbabwe's liberation struggle having been detained for a number of years for his involvement in the nationalist movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
As a result of his political activism, he was arrested and brought before a magistrate at Filabusi and was charged under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act (LOMA). He did not have a lawyer but chose to defend himself in court. Chief Maduna denied all the charges that were laid against him. At the end of the trial, he was acquitted because of the manner in which he had defended himself.
After the NDP was banned in December 1961 and Zapu was immediately formed, Chief Maduna continued with his political activities. He continued until ZAPU was banned in September 1962. In October 1962 he then crossed the border to Zambia and lived in Kitwe where he continued with his political activities until 1964 when he returned to Zimbabwe.
During the Pearce Commission of 1972 an attempt by both the British and Ian Smith to legitimise Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence, Chief Maduna led his people in Insiza District to reject the Commission.
He was arrested again in 1976 for his political activism. Chief Maduna was detained at Gwanda Prison before he was transferred to Colleen Bawn Prison.
In his stint at Colleen Bawn Prison, Chief Maduna was kept in solitary confinement for a long time. From there he was taken to West Nicholson before being moved to WhaWha Prison in Midlands. His people were blocked from visiting him at the prisons.
It was at WhaWha where he met detainees from all over the country. He was in Camp Four where was detained with people like Elliot Maphenduka, Welshman Mabhena, Makhathini Guduza, Walter Mbambo and Thengani Guduza.
Chief Maduna remained in detention until the ceasefire period and when he was released he was given a hero's welcome by his people with 13 cattle donated by his subjects for the celebrations. Of the 13, 10 were slaughtered for the celebration party.
In 1981 he was elected a Zapu councillor and became the first chairman of the Insiza Rural District Council. Chief Maduna was also elected the party's vice-chairman for Matabeleland South Provincial Authority.
In 1984 at PF-Zapu Congress he was elected into the Central Committee and was to remain a member of the Central Committee until the signing of the Unity Accord between Zanu-PF and PF-Zapu on 22 December 1987.
After the unity of the two liberation movements, Chief Maduna served the party in various capacities including being a member of the National Assembly.
Chief Mafu was one of the chiefs who criticised President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government over a deterioration in human rights. In 2019 it was reported that Chief Mafu and Chief Felix Nhlanhla Ndiweni of Ntabazinduna in Matabeleland North were living in fear for their lives and claimed to have been threatened by state security agents after speaking out publicly against Mnangagwa.
The two engaged the services of human rights lawyer David Coltart as they sought to bring their plight under the spotlight and have it examined by the courts.
Their legal team wrote to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) chair Elasto Mugwadi about the alleged threats to their lives. Maduna said the threats began after he wrote to Mnangagwa asking him to set up a commission to investigate the Gukurahundi killings.
After receiving no response, Maduna asked UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, to set up an 18-person independent commission of inquiry into the killings. He proposed that Ndiweni, Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini and SA's former public protector, Thuli Madonsela, be among those on the commission.
Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu's alleged confidant Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) president Mqondisi Moyo told a publication that Chief Maduna died a bitter man after the leaders of the November 14, 2017, military coup allegedly snubbed the Chief’s suggestion to appoint Simon Khaya Moyo as the second vice president.
Moyo claimed soon after Operation Restore Legacy, which ousted Robert Mugabe from office, Constantino Chiwenga visited the Chief Maduna to seek his advice on the ideal person to be vice president representing Matabeleland region.
The MRP leader said Chiwenga and his crew appreciated Chief Maduna's suggestion and assured him that Simon Khaya Moyo was going to be the next vice president. Moyo further claimed when SK Moyo heard the news that the chief had recommended his name, he bought the late chief a car as a thank you.
Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu was arrested and tortured over his alleged links to arms caches allegedly discovered on ZAPU and ZIPRA properties. In 2021 his family said he had died a bitter man after the government failed to apologise and compensate for his unlawful arrest and torture during the Gukurahundi era.
He died at 1AM on 13 February 2021. He was 86 years old. At the time of his death, Chief Maduna was recovering from a stroke he suffered on 18 August 2019. His death was confirmed by Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni who released the information via his Twitter account.
Vezi Maduna Mafu was buried on 17 February 2021 at his rural home in Avoca, Filabusi in Insiza District, after Government accorded him a State-assisted burial. Matabeleland South Province had recommended that he be declared a national hero as there was a consensus in the province that his works were befitting such status. The Politburo ignored a plea by ZANU PF officials in Matabeleland South province to accord the late Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu with the national hero status for his contribution to the struggle for black majority rule.
Speaking on the decision not to declare Chief Maduna a national hero, his sister Theresa Thaka Mafu told a publication that:
"It is a mockery that Chief Maduna was given a State-assisted funeral given his contribution compared to some of the people laid at the national shrine who have dubious records."
- Jocelyn Alexander, Chief Maduna: A remarkable man from a remarkable family, The Chronicle, Published: February 16, 2021, Retrieved: February 19, 2021
- Paramount Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu dies, Bulawayo24, Published: February 13, 2021, Retrieved: February 13, 2021
- Nqobile Tshili,State assisted burial for Chief Maduna, The Chronicle, Published: February 17, 2021, Retrieved: February 17, 2021
- Njabulo Ncube, Outspoken Zim chiefs 'fear for their lives': Madonsela, Zwelithini asked to investigate, Times Live, Published: February 10, 2019, Retrieved: February 19, 2021
- Late Chief Maduna Wanted SK Moyo Appointed VP, NewZimbabwe.com, Published: February 14, 2021, Retrieved: February 19, 2021
- Nizbert Moyo, Chief Maduna died a bitter man: Family, NewsDay, Published: February 19, 2021, Retrieved: February 19, 2021