In memory of my friend Thomas Gombera

This morning, Thursday 17th March 2022, I had some very sad news. One of the very first people I made friends with at Pakati, back in January 1989, was Thomas Gombera, owner of the Hamamaoko store at Chigwada township, some 40 minutes walk from Pakati. I learned today he has passed away. My condolences go to all his family & friends.

I think it is good for me to remember him here on the blog, so please just accept these as my own personal memories.

I was first introduced to Thomas by the Headmaster of Pakati Secondary school at the time, Mr Samakomva. He thought Thomas was someone it was important for me to get to know in the area.

The shops at Chigwada (top) where Hamamaoko Store is,  and bottom right is Pakati Secondary school.

He was right. As the owner of the store nearest to the school in 1989, he was also one of few people in the area at the time with a vehicle, a van which he used to collect stock for his store from suppliers.

Hamamaoko Store in 1990

Hamamaoko Store in 2018

I often got lifts from him, either from Musami Cross, or Musami township on my way back to the school; or from Chigwada to wherever he would take me – Musami, Murewa, even Marondera. Sometimes I would just go with him for a day out, always interesting, fun, got to meet so many people in the stores and bars around the various smaller townships in the area. Never without a drink….

How he has lived to age he did is a mystery to me, as his lifestyle back when I worked at Pakati could not be described as healthy…how his wife Judy dealt with him I can only imagine, but every time I spent time at the store with my drinking buddies – Mr Jambwa, Mr Juru, Mr Mrasawi & several others including teachers from both Pakati schools – Judy was always there to keep an eye on him & us, and very quick to laugh at our expense😁

A Spanish lady who was teaching at St Paul’s, Musami, Thomas, & Mr Jambwa, in 1990

I do remember one Saturday he took me to Murewa, but when I arrived at the store, he came out from his home, walked into the store, took a cold beer from the fridge, bit the top off with his teeth, said ‘Ah, yesterday, too much beer!’ and promptly took a large swig out of the bottle! He then drove us with the bottle between his knees…I did get back safely later that day, but not sure how….

I know one weekend on a trip to Murewa when I wasnt with him, he witnessed the aftermath of a bad bus crash off the main road at Chivake Bridge, and he told me how bad it was, having ferried some of the injured to Murewa hospital, then having to wash the back of the van down. He was quite shaken by the experience.

One of my birthdays, Thomas & Judy & friends threw a party behind the store, and two VSO volunteers who were visiting from Tanzania came to stay with me & joined in…a very good night though I dont remember too much about it😁plenty to eat & drink & local music to enjoy late into the night.

Photo taken in 1991 just before I left Pakati, with Thomas on the right

I have many abiding memories of times with Thomas & his wife, the store, the customers, and life in general at Pakati and in the area. I never felt out of place, never felt alone, always had someone wanting to talk to me, was always made welcome by the community (& still am), and that is something I treasure to this day.

Chigwada township to the left of the picture, from Gwangwadza hill, 2014

Thomas in his fields near Chigwada township.

The last time I saw Thomas was in September 2019, the first time for many years. I went with him to his rural home and we spent time reminiscing….a wonderful day for me, and fitting I should have such happy memories. Rest in everlasting Peace, Shamwari Yangu.

 

Author:

My name is Chris Walker, and between January 1989 and September 1991 I worked, through VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), at Pakati Secondary School in Murehwa South district in Zimbabwe. I was a Maths teacher for 2 years, the Acting Head for the last 8 months there. I have also taught in Botswana & the UK, had 4 years working for VSO, and have been a Civil Servant in Bradford since 2005. I married a Zimbabwean woman & we have 2 sons.

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