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Remembering athletics hero Magwaza

Magwaza is the man who brought Stephen Muzhingi to Harare from Chivhu to start an athletics career.

But it is unfortunate that Magwaza died earlier before his student started producing the results that he longed to see.

It was a black day indeed for Zimbabwean athletics on June 22 2001 when Magwaza died at Police Support Unit Clinic in Harare after six months of illness at the age of 54. He left behind wife Emily and five children who include Lina Magwaza.

Ironically, Lina is now married to Muzhingi. But who was Esau Magwaza? He was a high-kneed athlete who had his own style of running, surging forwards and backwards like a man using a hacksaw,  designed to beat his opponents.

He once remarked: “Every athlete must have a strategy to win a race. I used to stay a few paces behind my opponents and carefully listen to their running rhythms.”

For a solid two decades in top-flight athletics, Magwaza triumphed in countless races ranging from 1 500m, 3 000m, 5 000m, 10 000m, cross country and marathons. Born in Chivhu, Magwaza had no love for athletics when he was at Chirume Primary School at his rural home. He could do anything to evade entering in any athletics competition.

In 1969-70, Magwaza competed for Alaska Mine and later on Zisco and Shabanie, before he was recruited to join the Zimbabwe Republic Police where he later held the post of team manager taking over from Jonga.
The biggest race of his life was the King Sobhuza Tournament  in Swaziland  where he ran a close second  to Jonga and  recorded  a personal  best time of 3 minutes 46,8 seconds.
Shortly after Independence, Magwaza switched to long distance running presenting himself with the chance to represent the country in major events such as the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games in Russia, Commonwealth Games, world cross country championships, 1985 Montreal Marathon and the King Sobhuza in Swaziland.
His greatest triumph was during Zimbabwe’s first Independence celebrations in 1981 in a packed Rufaro where he beat two Kenyans Christopher Kiprugut and Samuel Mogere in a 10 000m race which was sponsored by Chibuku Breweries.
In 1982 Magwaza had another giant-killing act outpacing Tanzanian Olympic medalist Filbert Bayi who had come to Zimbabwe for the ProNutro international 20miler. Bayi was a worldwide renowned athlete, but Magwaza was just equal to the task, winning the race in a new course record time of 1 hour 44 minutes 22 seconds.
In death, Magwaza still holds the 1 500m Chamber of Mines Athletics Championships record he won in 1983.
Magwaza won other races like the Hunyani Hope Fountain 30km road race in 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984. In 1983, Magwaza together with Melusi Ndhlela, Patrick Nhauro, James Mutshipisi, Tommy Lazarus and James Charuma all ran home inside the previous record of 1 hour 41 minutes 36 seconds set by Musaope Phiri in 1982.
In 1985 Magwaza clinched the third successive victory and his fifth in the Hope Fountain road race in Bulawayo.
However, this time his time of 1 hour 40 minutes was outside the time he set in the previous year of 1 hour 39, 09.

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