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Inside/Out with Advocate Gabriel Shumba, survivor and explorer
Kubatana.net
April 08, 2013

Describe yourself in five words?
Loyal, Passionate, Persistent, Principled and Compassionate.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Count Your Blessings. The fact that I am alive today, in spite of the many near death experiences I have endured including torture, is testimony to the importance of that advice. As is said, whenever you complain that you have no shoes, stop and think of the unfortunate one who has no legs.

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever done?
Holding a one hour conversation with an American whose accent I could not understand. I answered questions that were not asked, and invented my own questions most of the time. On the whole, it was an exercise in rambling and mumbling.

What is your most treasured possession?
My family, but especially my first-born daughter, Remedzai Neridah. Of materials things, I treasure most my books by Dambudzo Marechera. From House of Hunger, the Black Sunlight to many of Flora Veit-Wild’s compilations of his poetry.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
When I was suspended for two years from the University of Zimbabwe. I lived regret, and drank rejection on a daily basis.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
Repeatedly playing music by Sungura veteran Leornard Dembo the whole night when I am relaxing, without being bored.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
My posture. I tend to lean forward when walking, and slump when sitting. This is deceptive in that when walking, people think I am too aggressive, and when sitting, they believe I am a sitting duck!

What is your greatest extravagance?
When I spent all my first University payout on novels, the flea market and drink, but never on academic books.

What have you got in your fridge?
I have yoghurt for 9 month Nyaradzai Clarissah, and more yoghurt for her sister, Wadzanai Brannah. What’s left is the beef I love to have with my meals every day of the year! My wife, well … she takes whatever is left.

What is your greatest fear?
Being abducted and being thrown in the boot of a car. I guess this owes a lot to the torture I suffered before I fled Zimbabwe. I also have a very serious fear of going bonkers, and laying not only the soul bare in public!

What have you got in your pockets right now?
My wallet and passport. In South Africa it is imperative to move around with ID documents. Otherwise the notorious Lindela Repatriation Centre will be the next stop.

What is your favourite journey?
The one I made to the United States to address the US Congress in 2004. I had not travelled much before, and the US was mind-blowing. The journey was extremely exciting because as you can expect, I was a huge bundle of nerves, yet there was so much to discover and share. I confess had it not been for my family back in Africa, I might have applied for asylum in the US.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Burmese politician and human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Morgan Tsvangirai, Beatrice Mtetwa, Jestina Mkoko, Alec Muchadehama, the late Dambudzo Marechera, the late Leonard Dembo, the late Tonderai Ndira, my late Mother and my late Father.

When and where were you happiest?
In 1994 when I arrived at the University of Zimbabwe. We called the payout we got as government grants ‘mari yenjere’ meaning monetary compensation for our intelligence. The UZ was ‘the academic blast furnace’. The future was beckoning. We glimpsed wide meadowy vistas of success around the corner. That success was not only for us, but for the country too. We were carefree and happy. It was all to end in a rude awakening.

What’s your biggest vice?
It is confidential, but add smoking. Strangely, almost all people that I meet say that smoking does not suit me. Ask them what they mean.

What were you like at school?
I surprised myself many times passing exams because most of the time, until ungodly hours, I was engrossed in novels by James Hadley Chase, Allistair Maclean, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Chenjerai Hove, Charles Mungoshi, Chinua Achebe, etc. I was also too self-opinionated. Very rebellious and undisciplined. Of all the places, I managed to get myself expelled from Chaplin High School towards my A level exams.

What are you doing next?
I will play it by the ear. I grab every situation and opportunity as it arises.

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