THIS week I awoke to the shocking news that one of Bulawayo’s most outspoken and outstanding city fathers, Alderman Charles Mpofu, was no more. Mpofu had a knack for taking anybody and at times everybody head on and did not fear anyone.
He was a complex character who, however, had a heart for the community and even when he was not a serving councillor he did not stop sourcing for support for widows and orphans. He would slyly remark that even though he was not a councillor anymore he was still the “people’s councillor”.
The Lion of Nketa
I have no doubt that Charles Mpofu was in the mould of the legendary Sidney Malunga the outspoken, controversial and fearless former PF Zapu chief whip who constantly courted controversy. Just like Malunga, Charlie as he was popularly known, always spoke his mind and did not fear anyone.
He would vow akulamuntu engimesabayo ngaphandle kukaNkulunkulu (there is nobody I fear except God) and true to his word motormouth Mpofu always gave politicians a run for their money whether outside his party or within. At one time when he was expelled from Zapu he remarked that he would not mourn as if he had been “expelled from heaven”.
I attended numerous civil society meetings with the controversial late alderman and without exception at every meeting he would court the ire of politicians by slamming them for failing to deliver on their promises. He would berate councillors, members of Parliament and government ministers.
This writer vividly recalls that in 2007 at a Habakkuk Trust meeting for councillors and residents Charles Mpofu boldly stated that there was no person that he feared on earth and all of a sudden, to the delight of the audience, broke into the heart rending song Only Jesus. Responsiveness.
Whether he was the deputy mayor, councillor, prospective candidate for Parliament or civil society activist Alderman Mpofu made sure that he attended any and every meeting that he was invited to. He would not only come by himself, but he made sure he would always bring one or two “converts” with him. I remember meeting him one time in Nketa and he was collecting names of orphans which he said he wanted to source assistance for even though he was no longer a serving councillor .
Such was his boundless energy and desire to serve. He compensated his petite structure with a seeming unlimited energy which most political parties found rather too much because once he believed in a cause, he would go so zealously about it even though at times he would attract the wrath of friends and foes alike by overstepping protocol.
He had no time for compromise or slackness, but believed in taking immediate action to resolve injustices. Charles Mpofu was an excellent networker and you would find him connecting you to all sorts of people of all races, shapes and colours. He had an uncanny ability of convincing people both at an individual and group level to buy into the causes that he was fighting for.
Together with the late Micah Parira Mpofu, Alderman Charles caused untold havoc in the corridors of power when he was a councillor. He never changed in his tempo or indeed temper depending on the political party that he belonged to and exhibited the same passion whether he was in Zanu PF, MDC (the united one) Zapu, MDC or as an independent.
I actually think that if people had handled him better and understood his personality our politics would have benefited from the Alderman.
He was constantly frustrated by the calibré of new councillors and at one meeting said the “greatest crisis we have is that of leadership because political parties pick any one even cobblers in street corners”. His favourite line was “they have made the party (whichever party he belonged to at that time) a thing for their girlfriends and relatives like a Spaza manje mina I will never accept that” .
Charles Mpofu was never short of controversy, but in the post 2000 era I have never come across a politician so controversial, outspoken and independent minded as Charles.
He was no angel and had his flaws like all of us, but it took you to understand him in order for you to love him and embrace the warm heart of this fearless man who never took no for an answer.
As I close I vividly remember that the alderman would gatecrash any event and impose his authority and opinion regardless of who was there.
At one time Dr Shana from Word of Life ejected him from a pastors meeting after he launching verbal tirade at one of the speakers. Charlie confessed that he was not a pastor and left the meeting, but all in good humour and he still held Dr Shana in high regard afterwards.
He did not believe in appointments and would barge into my office at any time and demand to have meeting — whether I was I busy or not was besides the point.
The man was a political bulldozer an activist, a voice for the downtrodden, a respected city father, a preacher at times and good hearted comical person most of the time .
Hamba kahle dear colleague, brother, father.
Dumisani Nkomo is a political commentator and chief executive officer of the Habakkuk Trust. He writes in his personal capacity