Freedom Nyamubaya was a rural development, gender and peace activist, farmer, dancer and writer who was born in Uzumba. After Independence, she founded MOTSRUD, an NGO that provides agro-services to rural farmers, and she has worked on attachment with the United Nations in Mozambique. A founding member of the Zimbabwe Peace and Security Trust, she has spent over five years promoting peace throughout Zimbabwe.
She was born in Uzumba in 1960 and died in Chinhoyi in 2015 aged 55. She had a son Naishe. She cut short her secondary education at the age of 15 to join the liberation movement in Mozambique in 1975. Nyamubaya was trained at Tembwe Training Camp in Tete Province, Mozambique, and was among the first women fighters deployed by the ZANLA guerilla army. She was deployed into the frontline in 1978 where she became a Female Field Operations Commander, earning a reputation as a fearless and highly competent combatant and commander. She was later elected Secretary for Education in the first ZANU Women's League conference in 1979.
After independence she founded the rural development organisation Management Outreach Training Services for Rural and Urban Development (MOTSRUD, providing agricultural development assistance to small-scale farmers especially women.
Nyamubaya published her first anthology of poetry, On the Road Again, in 1986 and was immediately acclaimed as one of the first genuine voices of liberation poetry. As Zimbabwe’s celebrated poet Musaemura Zimunya wrote: “Nyamubaya is unique for being perhaps the only living female ex-combatant gifted with the talent and the discipline to reflect on her good, bad and ugly war experiences through the art of poetry. Her poetry is layered with the many voices of the voiceless comrades, fellow sojourners in the cause of freedom, justice and other values of the struggle. “Nyamubaya’s vision of the struggle is pivoted on her commitment to the noble values and goals that guided it. Her involvement is so passionate that she cannot be an outsider looking in, but an active fighter or critic of all the ills of colonialism, neo-colonialism and African patriarchy.”
In 1995, she published Dusk of the Dawn and continued her relentless pursuit of freedom and justice in the new selection of poetry, which as Zimunya explained, “chastises hypocrites and false leaders, just as she castigates those shameless opportunists who have hijacked the revolution and taken the places of genuine travellers on the metaphoric freedom train, and she bemoans the loss of freedom’s values and decries the sidelining of genuine liberators when rewards are finally handed out”.
Her revolutionary feminism led her to explore themes that had been off-limits in the official liberation histories, as in the almost unbearably painful poem For Suzanne in which she narrates the ordeals of a woman who sacrifices her life to train and carry arms for freedom before suffering humiliation through rape, when her body becomes “a church/For high-ranking monks to relieve their stress/From hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness”.
Nyamubaya was a featured poet in literature festivals and events in Africa and abroad, including Poetry Africa on Tour, September 2010 in Harare, Zimbabwe, and the 18th International Poetry Festival of Medellín in Colombia in 2008. She was also passionate about traditional mbira music, and performed as a dancer onstage, including with internationally renowned musician Thomas Mapfumo.
- On the Road Again, Zimbabwe Publishing House, Harare, 1985
- Ndangariro, Zimpfep Zimbabwe Foundation for Education with Production, 1987
- Dusk of Dawn, College Press, Harare, 1995
- That Special Place (short story), Writing Still, Weaver Press, Harare, 2003