Simon Vengai Muzenda was born on 22 October 1922 and died on 20 September 2003, son of a farmer who grew up in Gutu, who later became a politician, the deputy prime minister of independent Zimbabwe and subsequently the first vice president of Zimbabwe in 1987. Muzenda was popularly known as Dr Mzee in the political spheres though he was dubbed as the least educated member of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front's (ZANU PF) executive interim during his tenure in office. He was also referred to as the Soul of the Nation because he was always on a relentless mission to educate the nation about the history of the country through the poem, Nehanda Nyakasikana. He was a carpenter by profession and was married to Maud Muzenda, who was a qualified nurse and they had seven children. He was known for his unflagging and unreserved allegiance to Robert Mugabe. He was always ridiculed for his clumsy and lack of political savvy as well as his halting English, more or less like Joseph Chinotimba. He was implicated in the death of Patrick Kombayi in the late 1990s.
Muzenda was educated at Nyamandi Primary School in Gutu, Masvingo in the care of his grandmother. After completing primary education, he went to Marianhill in South Africa for a teacher training course. It was then that his tutor advised him to focus on carpentry after he had shown his expertise in that sphere. He thus studied carpentry and he obtained a Diploma in Carpentry.
In 1950, he returned back and was fortunate enough to be employed at a furniture factory in Bulawayo. Whilst in Bulawayo, he met Benjamin Burombo who was one of the main proponents of workers trade unions during that time. He thus began to participate in trade unionism.
In 1955, he relocated to Umvuma (present day Mvuma), where he established his own capentry business. By then he was married to Maud.
Muzenda though he was actively involved in trade unionism, he was not yet actively involved in nationalist movements. When ZANU PF was formed in 1963, he joined the party and was appointed as the administrative secretary of the party. In 1964, he was arrested after he had been appointed as the deputy organising secretary of the party. He was detained, only to be released in 1971 and he went into exile first in Zambia and then Mozambique. He has been credited for helping Mugabe to restructure the party after he had tried to help Joshua Nkomo restructure his own Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) though he failed.
During the period of turmoil within ZANU PF during the Second Chimurenga, Muzenda is said to have played a pivotal role in trying to reconcile members of the party after numerous rifts had sprouted. It was reported that he visited almost every camp in Mozambique in a bid to quell friction amongst ZANU PF's cadres. It is along this view in which it has been argued that Mugabe's ascent to power came about as a result of Muzenda's endless efforts.
Career in the Post-Independence Era
In 1980, Muzenda was appointed by Mugabe as his deputy Prime Minister. It has been argued that, Mugabe was on a mission to reward Muzenda for his allegiance. He was then appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs up to 1987 when he subsequently became the first vice president of Zimbabwe, a position which he held until the time of his death.
When his health began to deteriorate, Muzenda was offered a package which was reported to be a generous one to resign but he was adamant. He continued to carry on his duty as the vice president of the country though he went into oblivion for almost two years.
Muzenda who was revered to as a no nonsense man during the liberation struggle began to draw criticism in the post independence era. In the late 1990s, there was the assassination of Patrick Kombayi who was a successful businessman and an ex-ZANU PF member. Kombayi's death was linked to his opposition of Muzenda for a parliamentary seat. This tragic event tainted Muzenda's image to such an extent that his own tribe, the Karanga people began to question his leadership and personality.
The fact that Muzenda gave unreserved support to Mugabe even when he was advocating for what people termed as disastrous policies, also soiled Muzenda's image.
After the Third Chimurenga which occurred in 2000, Muzenda was entangled in a bitter conflict with the Commercial Farmers Union after he took over the Chindito Farm. The farm however remained in his custody and the farmers union lost the battle.
- , Simon Muzenda, "Zim Legends":,retrieved:7 July 2014"
- Andrew Meldrum,Simon Muzenda Zimbabwean nationalist hero tainted by corruption, "The Guardian", published:23 Sep 2003,retrieved:7 July 2014"
- , Simon Muzenda, "SADOCC", published:22 Sep 2003,retrieved:7 July 2014"