Muzorewa: A Life Unremembered

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[Global: Africa]

The death several weeks ago of a once prominent cleric and politician Bishop Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa, was barely noticed here in Zimbabwe and in the region.

His death severs a link to the old days of Ian Smith's Rhodesia. His star flashed and faded just as quickly.

Muzorewa was once a key player in the shortlived Zimbabwe-Rhodesia interim government which preceded Zimbabwe's independence. When he agreed to serve as "prime minister" he was widely derided in Africa.

When he died, there were no tributes or messages from politicians in the current unity government. Muzorewa, who was used by the Ian Smith regime to blunt the inexorable path to majority rule in the late 1970s died on April 8 in the capital, Harare, aged 85.

He was laid to rest at a United Methodist Church mission cemetery in Old Mutare, just over 150 miles east of Harare--a day before Independence celebrations on April 18. He was "prime minister" of an unrecognized white-dominated government before he lost dismally in the 1980 elections. He had been battling cancer.

There was no word, or recognition, from Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe who once called Muzorewa a "puppet" and a "little Bishop." Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also did not acknowledge Muzorewa's death. The Herald, Zimbabwe's national daily, buried a story on his death on the inside pages while the national broadcaster gave a short and brief report.

Apart from these tributes from his fellow churchmen, Muzorewa’s death went unnoticed. After a cease-fire and the Lancaster House talks of 1979, adversaries agreed to hold elections in 1980. Muzorewa's United African National Congress (UANC) won just three of the 80 parliamentary seats against a landslide victory by Mugabe.

Muzorewa’s political career as a minority legislator lasted only four years, but he continued as a declared opponent of Mugabe for many years, courting arrest on charges of conspiring against the government. He was consecrated as Bishop of Rhodesia in the United Methodist Church in 1968. Bishop Muzorewa retired formally from politics in 2001.

After retiring from politics, he set up the Bishop Muzorewa Evangelism Foundation to help those studying theology.
His wife, Maggie, died in 2009. The couple had five children and five grandchildren.

In the clerical circles, they say he was a great orator. Because of his compromised political past, his passing has been treated much in the same manner that South Africans treated that of PW Botha.

Tsiko is The Black Star News's Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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