The Life of the Late Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu

Updated: July 20, 2021

By Tshidzanani Malaba, Obituary

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu: a Kalanga heritage and culturalist…dula leluzibo gwebaKalanga nendudzi dzose dze Zimbabwe
JULY 16 2021 marked the last journey of life for Tate Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu. I am too young and I was far less exposed to write about him except for the little window that God allowed me to interact with him somehow in a little less than 20 years. This means that I have 67 years of his life that I have no iota about. I am therefore, confined to the marginalised languages revival under the umbrella of Zimbabwe Indigenous Languages Promotion Association (Zilpa) and more specifically to Kalanga language through Kalanga Language and Cultural Development Association (KLCDA).

I started my self-identity intensive search in 1998 when more questions than answers reached the peak. I had always loved to speak Kalanga language even among non-speakers but I had not done a deep self-identity search. By year 2000, I was satisfactory done with my family history skeletal search and the lineage was clear. The biggest question was now on language identity which no one around me seemed to talk about. They all seemed comfortable with the status quo. Fortunately, historian Pathisa Nyathi began to profile the history of BaKalanga in the Sunday News and it drew my attention.

I then made efforts to look for him to link me to any people who could be promoting Kalanga. He said he was not aware of any group, but Saul Gwakuba could probably assist. I was a follower of Gwakuba on his Daily News column called “A view from the Matopos” but nothing in his writings was suggestive of him being a language activist. I reluctantly went to look for him at the Daily News offices at Dulys building in Bulawayo. The paper had now closed. Gwakuba was one of the last people who remained manning the offices with the hope of restoration. It was a little scary to walk into an office of a “banned” newspaper, it certainly required a bit of rehearsals.

Nonetheless, the less I made it through and surely, he was the only person in the office at the time. He was glad to see me and was able to give me a little lecture on our family history, legacy and the legends he had met in his life.
He however, disappointed me a little when he told me that there was no more functional Kalanga Association that he could point me to. He however, referred be to Raphael Butshe in Mpopoma for further information on who could be doing something on TjiKalanga.

I immediately set for Butshe who happened to be a neighbour by my parent’s home. I had known him for eight years. We greeted him as a respected elder of the community but I had not heard him speak a single word in Kalanga and I had even dismissed any possible link with the Butshe area of Bulilima yet he was from there.

Butshe chose an instant mentorship route. “Akuna thaka iyo inotongobhuzwa nekwetjiKalanga (there is no young man of your age who is keen on this language)” he said glowing with excitement. He then told me about Zilpa and its next meeting which was in a weeks’ time. Despite that this meeting was of delegates meeting by invitation only, he dragged me there as his guest. He introduced me as his guest who must be part of the Zilpa meetings and that he would rather be dismissed instead, as he described himself as “a monument of good intention which cannot add any value but only good for viewing.”

To my surprise Zilpa was chaired by Saul Gwakuba and he had not told me this. Each language group was supposed to send three representatives on the day, Kalanga had five excluding himself as chairman. The Kalanga delegates were Dr Butsilo Dabudabu, Raphael Butshe, Anderson Senegedze Moyo and Ethel Moyo (who had come to say goodbye due to her new appointment as District Administrator), and myself. This was a little uncomfortable for Gwakuba as the chair and for me

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