By Hon. Daniel Molokele
I first met Nixon ‘Mao’ Nyikadzino sometime in 1996. At that time we were both students at the University of Zimbabwe.
Mao and I soon discovered that we had one thing in common; we were both passionate about students activism.
I had arrived earlier than him in March 1995. By the end of that year I had somehow and almost miraculously managed to get elected as the Secretary General of the entire university students body.
This political miracle happened less than 8 months after I was first oriented into students politics. So when Mao and his generation arrived at the University of Zimbabwe in 1996, I was already busy finding my feet as one of the prominent students leaders at the university. The politically minded Mao took to students politics as the duck does to water.
It was his natural place of personal comfort and satiation.In April 1996, an unexpected twist of events led to me being appointed as the Acting President of the students unionIt was during those days that I set up my own Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) whose role was to take up all the matters affecting the students union that necessitated a strategic militant approach.
And so it happened that Mao was among the militant students who immediately found prominence in that particular RCCO and another student who quickly established himself as one of the most active and influential members of the RCC was none other than the late Learnmore Judah Jongwe.
At that time, he was my classmate at the Faculty of Law. He had actually played a key role in my elections campaign team during the previous year. As a result, Jongwe had grown closer to me as one of my emerging political allies. In the few months that followed, both Mao and Jongwe played a crucial role in helping me to establish myself as the new leader of the entire students body.
In July 1996, they both helped me to organise some students demonstrations that eventually led to my suspension with Jongwe, together with Tirivanhu Chitongo, who was the Acting Vice President at that time.
We were suspended for almost 2-3 months before being reinstated to campus.Once we got back to campus, our budding political partnership was soon put under a severe test. Both Jongwe and myself set our eyes on winning the presidential elections that were set for October 1996.
It happened that while we were preparing to contest against each other, Mao was eventually forced to make a difficult choice as to which political horse to back exactly.
In the end, Mao threw all his weight fully behind Jongwe.
It was during the presidential elections campaign period that Mao rose to real prominence as one of Jongwe’s key campaign managers and strategists.
After the presidential elections that we were won by Jongwe, Mao continued to work closely with our administration.He soon established himself as the Commander of our new RCC.
This was also at the same time that he assumed a second nickname and became known as the ‘General’.Throughout the Jongwe Presidency, Mao remained a closely ally.Once our term of office came to its end, Mao decided to run for the Presidency. In the end, he succeeded me directly as the next Vice President of the students body after losing out to Gabriel “Marechera’ Shumba.
Beyond his days as a students leader on campus, Mao continued his activism and soon became a prominent civil society leader.Some of the organisations that he worked closely with included the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.
In fact he worked for Crisis at both of their offices in Harare and Johannesburg.It so happened that after many years of serving as a prominent civil society leader that in 2018, Mao assumed a totally different trajectory on the national agenda.Mao rose to yet another higher level of national prominence after he emerged as the new Secretary General of the reconstituted MDC T led by Thokozani Khupe.
For the next 2 years, Mao played his role diligently in the most difficult of both political and administrative circumstances. However, his role as the Secretary General was eventually disrupted by the implications of the so called Supreme Court ‘Corona’ judgment.
During the political confusion that arose out of the controversial judgment, Mao initially played a crucial role in the public domain.His stance was mainly to insist that the Corona judgment did not directly affect the MDC T leadership that had been elected at the Bulawayo Congress in 2018.
At one stage, he even wrote his own version of the now notorious ‘recall letters’ to the Speaker of Parliament but it was totally ignored in favour of the ones written by Douglas Mwonzora.
As the months of fierce opposition political contestation trudged on, Mao eventually took a back seat and almost disappeared totally from the public domain.It is in that context, that I met him by chance at one of the local hotels in Harare. I was so happy to meet my dearest political brother after a very long time.
What made our encounter more special was the fact that we met during the same week that we were commemorating the 18th anniversary of the death of our mutual brother, Jongwe.
So naturally, part of our conversation focused a lot on our shared legacy as former prominent student leaders together with the late Jongwe.
—Daniel Molokele is MP for Hwange