Johanna “Mama Mafuyana” Nkomo

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By Elizabeth D.T. Taderera

Generally referred to as Mafuyana or Mama Mafuyana, meaning mother belonging to the Fuyana clan, Johanna Nkomo was born on the 18th of September 1927. The second child of Paul Silwalume Fuyana and Maria Sithunzesimbi, Johanna attended St Joseph’s Primary School and Emphandeni. She worked for the Dominican Sisters’ Convent in Bulawayo as a girl’s hostel matron. There she met Joshua Nkomo, the late Vice President and Nationalist of Zimbabwe. They got married on the 1st of October 1949. Her sister was married to Joshua Nkomo’s father.

She was the epitome of a strong woman as she looked after and raised their family in Pelandaba during the war of Independence as Joshua Nkomo was mostly away fighting the war. She had five children with Nkomo although one died in infancy. She was a fighter; when South Rhodesia special branch agents came to her house she threw a milk powder tin can at them. She was arrested for protecting her family and she was detained briefly. When she found out about a plan to kidnap her 13-year old, she fled the country in March 1977 and stayed in England for a short while before going to Germany.

Her importance as the mother of the nation and wife of one of the most influential men to ever grace the country of Zimbabwe led to her being put on a stamp.

Mama Mafuyana passed away on the 3rd of June 2003, she had been complaining of stomach pains. She died at the age of 75. She was buried on the 7th of June at the Heroes Acre next to her husband’s grave.