The president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Dr Takavafira Zhou has sent a condolence message following the death of Provincial hero Professor Chengetai Jonasi Mudadirwa Zvobgo. We present Zhou’s message in full below.
Go Well Prof Chengetai M. Zvobgo
23 August 2020
It is with a heavy heart that I have leant of the passing on of Prof Zvobgo. I have known Prof Zvobgo since 1987 when I enrolled for my studies at the University of Zimbabwe. Together with other educational luminaries such as Prof Bhebe, Prof Beach, Prof R.S. Roberts, Prof Ranger, Prof Julia Wells, Dr Nyambara, Dr Pangeti, Dr Machingaidze, Dr Dhliwayo, Dr Mtisi, Dr Lawton, Prof Masipula Sithole, Prof Masunungure, Dr Kambudzi, he taught me in the late 1980s and early 1990s and in the process shaped my academic, historical and political vision. I also had the opportunity to work with him in the History Department from 1991 to 1995 (as a teaching assistant), and interfaced with him as a doctoral student in the history department up to 2012, and thereafter on historical issues.
To use his historical jargon, he was a ‘wordsmith’ who preferred demise for fall, pari passu for two events happening at the same time, etc. He would stress during his lectures that ‘ndinoda kukuvezai muite mabara.’
He was fair, objective and humorous, though unpredictable in his management of students during his lectures. One of his rules in the late 1980s was that if you are late by 10 minutes you should not bother to attend his lecture. This was certainly a regulation tailor-made to ensure quick movement of students from one lecture to his. On one of our lectures with him a beautiful student was late by 20 minutes and walked in the lecture theatre with her shoes making the ‘ko ko ko noise’ in her majestic stride in the lecture-room attracting attention of all students and the then Dr Zvobgo. Everyone expected the student to be sent away. But Prof Zvobgo handled it otherwise. He stopped delivering the lecture, looked at the student as she went down in the lecture theatre to occupy a front seat that was not occupied. Putting his left hand in his pocket he remarked, “hiiii, heyi, heeee, kana nesu zvinotiwanisa simbaaa.” There was deafening laughter in the lecture theatre after which he continued delivering his lecture to us.
In order to challenge the then young Turks (Teaching Assistants) in the History Department (now Dr Munyaradzi Mushonga, Dr James Muzondidya, Dr Mutyaba, Prof Nhongo Simbanegavi, Prof Sabelo Gathseni Ndlovu and Dr Zhou), Prof Zvobgo would retort “vafana I am Dr Zvobgo, there is another Dr Zvobgo at Mutare Teachers’ College (current Prof Zvobgo, VC at GZU), and you must not forget him at the top, Minister Zvobgooo, heee! Manje imwi munoda kuti maita BA Hons or BA Special Hons mouraya mombe heee! I can tell you there is only one person in my family who is not educated. My sister. She did her Masters at this University (UZ). I can tell you that the education certificates in my family munovamba doro, mukapisa mukadira. Manje touraya Zhou here imwe zvamunouraya n’ombe?” That was Prof Zvobgo, humorous but candid and constantly prodding us to broaden our academic horizon and enrich our professional credo as historians.
Thanks Prof Zvobgo for fighting a good battle and pushing many of us along the analytical historical path. Go well Prof, you did your best in managing the world’s best asset, viz, students, and channelled the pent up forces towards meaningful direction. You will remain a national academic hero and your contribution is permanent as we will continue to fight against the trenches of folly, ignorance, narrow-mindedness, prejudice, bias and propaganda anywhere and everywhere.
Lastly, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the Zvobgo family in particular, historians and Zimbabweans at large. The Zvobgo family’s loss is our loss as historians and as a nation. May his soul rest in peace.
Dr Takavafira M. Zhou