Kenny Mufuka remembers Doug Hill

By Ken Mufuka (phd)

There are some people who are irreplaceable. Such was the life of Douglas Hill I lovingly referred to as Dougie Hill) founder of Belmont Press.

I came to know Mr. Hill when he was chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Museums Southern Regional Board which employed me for a short stint, 1982-1984. For a man who had lived through the last years of the Ian Smith government, he was unbelievably free from racial feelings. The taste of that is when we were talking to him as a group, or as individuals, we could say whatever we wanted and sometimes he would say, such things like: “Your people are doing foolish things.” We knew it was honest criticism and that he was correct. We did some very stupid things, as a government and as a people during the Robert Mugabe period.

He always gave wise advice. As a controversial writer, I was young and foolish and he advised me not to reply to negative comments about my writing in the Sunday Mail. It brings about a spiral effect. I was full of fight then, and I ignored his advice, to my great cost.

I had promised to “write up” Stanley Mdenge in my Sunday Mail column. He was then Permanent Secretary at Foreign Affairs and his uncle, Simon Muzenda was deputy prime minister. So, I wrote him up, exposing his foolishness. Though I had discussed the matter with Sunday Mail editor Willie Musarurwa who was my friend, we had not anticipated the fall out that ensued.

Muzenda sent some men in dark glasses to the Sunday Mail and asked Musarurwa to identity himself. They took his books away and threw him out of his office. Herbert Ushewokunze, then Home Affairs Minsiter, was asked to throw me out or terminate me or do something harsh. It so happened that the minister’s mother came from my tribe and he took enough time to inquire about the matter from my sister Clara, then Director of Nursing.

To cut a long story short, I left the country in July 1984, in a hurry, without much explanation and returned to the US.

But Hill was to save my skin many more times after that. I had left my investments under the charge of a political brother. As the year went on, I could see my investments disappearing into thin air. No matter how many appeals I made for transparency, nothing was forthcoming.

Mr. Hill’s timely takeover of that portfolio saved my life savings. Without his intervention, I would today be living in a homeless shelter, with all my life savings squandered by some nationalist brothers and no recourse to either law or reason.

I did pay him and his wife by a small kind deed which he appreciated beyond measure. His daughter was graduating with a medical degree from Charlottesville, West Virginia, about six hundred miles away from South Carolina. I traveled overnight to the ceremony, and with the presence of mind very common among Americans, I arranged for a photo shoot of the ceremony and compiled an album. Nobody in his family has thought of the historical significance of the graduation. When I presented the family with the album, I could see he was moved, and I felt very good about the kind deed.

As I said, he was a friend and a wise man, who served both Africans and whites with the same calmness and sagacity which we love about those who claim an English heritage.

Peace to the last great white father.

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