Mr Thompson Tsambani: A Tribute to a Beloved Teacher, a Community and National Leader
By Felix F Silundika
Teachers around the world are considered light givers to society. They render their services with dedication in the making of a nation, investing in the younger generation and moulding them into becoming responsible human beings and productive citizens. Teachers are mentors, supporters and even friends. They leave a lasting impact in every child’s life. The question is how many teachers in schools, colleges and universities today still teach with dedication and sincerity today? Obviously the answer to this question will vary depending on who answers it.
This is a tribute to a teacher who taught his students with a passion, loved them like his own children and wanted nothing but the best for his community and country. The late Thompson Tsambani’s teaching career started at Gonde Primary School in the then Bulilimamangwe District, southwestern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe in 1964. This was after he had completed a teacher training program at Thekwane Mission near Plumtree from 1962 to 1963. Within a short period of his teaching career, Mr Tsambani was elevated to the position of headmaster a position which he held for almost 3 decades. He served in this capacity in at least 4 primary schools in the district including Gonde, Diba, Kungubo and Khame, in a span of over 30 years.
Mr Thompson Tsambani had the power to touch the hearts of his students in a way that no other teacher did. He incorporated a variety of activities in the classroom where all learners felt appropriately challenged and eager to learn. In general, Mr Tsambani’s approach to teaching was from the perspective that it was a vocation than just a means to earn a living. This is what set him apart. The vast majority of his former students remember him as a kind, gentle and very influential teacher and leader. He was always eager to provide support to those students who needed it.
Thompson Tsambani was born on 4 June 1939 in Tjedu Village in the Matjinge sector of the then Bulilimamangwe District of the old Rhodesia. He attended Matjinge, Gonde and Khame primary schools (the same schools where he would become the headmaster of). He went on to earn what was then the Standard 6 Certificate before advancing to teacher training at Thekwane Mission. The country at the time was going through a period of political turbulence where nationalist movements were beginning to agitate for independence from British colonial rule. A natural leader, Mr Tsambani became involved in national politics and held various positions including Chairman of his branch and district under the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU). Involvement in political activities at the time could easily result in long spells of incarceration or harassment by the Rhodesian government’s security agents, or both. Mr Tsambani suffered both. One of the many incidents of harassments he faced was a stint in jail accused of aiding and abetting the guerrilla activities of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZiPRA) fighters who operated in the area. Undeterred, Mr Tsambani’s political activism continued, even after the attainment of independence in 1980. He was elected councillor of his ward. Among his most conspicuous achievements as councilor, Mr Tsambani is credited with the establishment of Tjemahale Secondary School as well as Temateme Clinic, both in his beloved Bulilima District in Matabeleland South Province of Zimbabwe.
After his retirement he continued his service to his community by playing an advisory role in the establishment of the TG Silundika Cultural Community Centre at Gala Village, Bulilima District. He advocated for the inclusion of the San people (also known as Bushmen) in the centre’s programs. Not only did he believe that their inclusion would be in the centre’s strategic interest, but also that it was a moral obligation.
Mr Thompson Tsambani tragically succumbed to an illness on 4 June 2020 leaving behind his loving wife Thumani Mavis Mpofu, eight children and a colourful legacy of service to his community and country.
The TG Silundika Cultural Community Centre joins the thousands across Zimbabwe in paying homage to this illustrious teacher, an exemplary leader, a loving father and a great servant of the people of Bulilima District. In his honour, the centre pledges to incorporate his vision of inclusive growth in its planning process and implement his ideas without hesitation.