By Tererai Karimakwenda
15 January 2013
The late Professor Gordon Chavunduka, who died last Friday after a long illness, was buried on his farm in Rusape Tuesday, at a funeral attended by some of Zimbabwe’s top political and cultural figures.
MDC-T President Morgan Tsvangirai said they had lost a, “candid and frank advisor in the party” and the nation had lost “a true liberator, who stood by the ideals of a free Zimbabwe from the colonial era right into the pro-democracy era”.
Professor Chavunduka had battled with cancer of the throat for about two years, reportedly surprising doctors by fighting it much longer than expected. But he finally succumbed to the disease at the Avenues Clinic last week, aged 82.
Chavunduka was best known as a practitioner of traditional medicine, serving for many years as President of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association (ZINATHA). He published several books on traditional medicine.
But he had also entered the political realm prior to that, when he served as a delegate on Abel Muzorewa’s United African National Council (ANC), during the Lancaster House Conference in 1979.
Robert Mugabe appointed Chavunduka vice chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe in 1992, a position he held for four years.
The Professor later joined the MDC-T and held several senior positions in the party, including Secretary for National Healing and Chairperson of the party’s Guardian Council.
This was apparently a problem for ZANU PF officials, who reportedly snubbed a memorial church service for Chavunduka at the Anglican Cathedral in Harare on Monday. According to the independent Newsday newspaper, ZANU PF officials “were conspicuous by their absence”.
The paper quotes party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo as saying: “Some of us were not here so we could not attend. We also understand he was now a fully-fledged member of the MDC-T. It is very difficult if faced with such a situation.”
Professor John Makumbe, who worked with Chavunduka at the UZ, described him as a humble man who was very professional. They often shared tea together with students and lower graduates in the cafeteria.
Makumbe said it was very unfortunate that ZANU PF would snub the memorial service, especially when there is a unity government that includes all political parties. He said this shows how immature and unforgiving ZANU PF can be.
Senior MDC-T leaders who attended the Harare service on Monday included the MDC-T Vice President Thokozani Khupe, Secretary General Tendai Biti, Organising Secretary Nelson Chamisa and party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora.
Addressing mourners at the memorial, party President Morgan Tsvangirai described Professor Chavunduka as “a true giant of our times”.
He said: “When the social, cultural, intellectual and political history of Zimbabwe is written, Professor Gordon Chavunduka’s name will certainly feature among the titles of great sons and daughters who have made an indelible mark on the nation’s pathway”.