PROFESSOR John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) lecturer and fierce critic of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, has died.
He was 64.
Report by Everson Mushava
Makumbe, who recently went into active politics as a senior member of the MDC-T and was earmarked to contest for the Buhera West constituency, collapsed at his home in Chadcombe, Harare, yesterday morning and died on admission at Arcadia Medical Centre.
Close family members said Makumbe could have succumbed to a heart attack.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora described Makumbe’s death as a huge blow to the party which two weeks ago lost another icon, Professor Gordon Chavunduka, who was chairperson of the party’s guardian council.
“I can confirm he is no more, but I am in Nyanga now. You can
call (Constitutional Affairs minister Eric) Matinenga for more information regarding his death,” Mwonzora said.
NewsDay witnessed Makumbe’s body being taken from the health institution to a private funeral parlour in the city around midday, with family members, the late Makumbe’s workmate Professor Lovemore Madhuku and top MDC-T officials, including Matinenga, present.
Matinenga, who spoke on behalf of the family, said Makumbe had suffered a similar coronary attack last week and was briefly admitted at a local hospital.
“He had a history of heart problems,” Matinenga said. “He was admitted last week and I saw him on Thursday when he was discharged. I also saw him yesterday (Saturday), he was in good spirits. I am shocked.”
The witty political scientist openly declared he had joined the MDC-T at the party’s 12th anniversary celebrations at Gwanzura Stadium in Harare last year. Announcing his intention to contest for the Buhera West constituency, under which his home village of Marenga falls, to succeed the incumbent MP, Matinenga, at the commemorations, Makumbe said then: “I want to tell you all that I have now removed my academic hat and I am now openly supporting MDC.
“There is no need for primary elections. The people in Buhera say they want a white man to represent them and I have made myself available,” he said, in apparent reference to his albinism.
Matinenga, who has indicated that he would quit politics at the end of his term, has since then been canvassing support for Makumbe where he was set to battle it out against Police Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka (Zanu PF).
“Just two weeks ago, I was with him (Makumbe) in Buhera where he met people from several wards. We had been working together for a long time. Even when I contested the Buhera West constituency, he was aware of my plans and I was aware of his plans too. It is sad. This is the first time we had tried to set a precedent of a clear succession plan where the outgoing works with the incoming.”
Madhuku said he was shocked by Makumbe’s death and was still trying to come to terms with it while Head of the Political Science Department at the UZ Charity Manyeruke said Makumbe influenced several policies in his capacity as a professor and his skills would be missed.
“As a department and the whole University of Zimbabwe community, we feel we have been robbed of an academic guru who was very instrumental in various areas of administration and research. We will never be able to replace him,” Manyeruke said.
Soon after news of his death filtered through Harare, there was an outpouring of tributes to him, including from Zanu PF officials. Mourners are gathered at Number 18 Ashburton Road, Chadcombe in Harare, with burial arrangements to be announced in due course.
Makumbe is survived by his wife Virginia and three children, Rumbidzai, Simba and Tawanda.