Cde Ushewokunze was a rare breed of leader
A lawyer, economist, civil servant, politician and a very dynamic Government Minister, Cde Christopher Ushewokunze was killed in a car crash on January 17,1994 near Chegutu. He was buried at the national shrine on January 22. Born Christopher Machingura Mugwagwa Ushewokunze in Shurugwi on April 27, 1944 he attended Waddilove Mission and Goromonzi High School for his primary and secondary education respectively. In 1965 he enrolled as a law student at the then University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and immediately became active in nationalist politics.
As leader of a committee of students in 1965 and 1966, Cde Ushewokunze organised anti-government protests particularly against attempts by Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith to declare UDI based on white minority rule.
His activities did not endear him with the Smith regime which soon after UDI expelled Cde Ushewokunze from the university and detained him at Gonakudzingwa where he joined Cde Joshua Nkomo and other nationalist leaders.
On release 12 months later in 1967 and under police escort to the airport, Cde Ushewokunze was seen off to Britain. With a British Council scholarship, he was admitted at Edinburgh University of Scotland and continued with his law studies. After graduation from Edinburgh, he enrolled for a Masters degree at London University in 1970 becoming a barrister at Middle Temple on completion of his studies in 1973.
In 1974, Cde Ushewekunze joined the University of Zambia as a lecturer of law. From 1976 to 1980 he was a senior lecturer of law at the United Nations Institute of Namibia where he immensely contributed to the development of human resources for a future Namibia. For four months in 1979 Cde Ushewokunze acted as the legal consultant to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)’s Zimbabwe Project.
But Chris’ leadership qualities, initially manifested by his being appointed school captain at Goromonzi and later as a student leader at the university coupled with his expertise in corporate law were to become a national asset when he was appointed Secretary for Mines at independence in 1980.
What he once said, “teaching how to apply law to achieve economic independence and control of industries”, was soon to be translated as Cde Ushewokunze confronted the mining magnates crowning his achievements with the creation of the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ).
The new parastatal became the sole co-ordinator and marketing agent of all minerals mined in Zimbabwe. Cde Ushewokunze’s sincere nationalist commitment to Zimbabwe would again, but more strongly, be reflected in his indigenisation thrust as Cabinet Minister in 1992-94.
In 1989 he left the Ministry of Mines to head the newly constituted Zimbabwe Development Corporation. The corporation had been formed and designed to indigenise key aspects of the economy.
Perhaps the greatest thing that ever happened to this country was the appointment of Cde Ushewokunze as Minister of Trade and Commerce in 1992.
With the morale of the ordinary people low and industrialists’ confidence in doubt as a result of the austerity measures adopted as part of the economic reform programme, it was Cde Ushewekunze’s credibility, honesty and openness that assured all Zimbabweans that the world was not coming to an end.
When he talked about the poor performance of parastatals and their burden on the fiscus arising from bad management his audience would listen and agree. Indeed, he had the capability, the energy and above all the conviction to do what he strongly felt was right for the country.
Graveside eulogies and numerous tributes that appeared in the daily papers succinctly described Cde Ushewokunze as a rare breed of leader: “a new type of minister”, upright and dedicated to duty.
Cde Ushewokunze’s popularity permeated the entire spectrum of the Zimbabwean society from industry and commerce to sports associations.
His burial as the 21st hero at the national shrine was a fitting tribute to this great son of Zimbabwe whose talents were just unravelling.
Cde Ushewokunze was survived by his wife and five children. — A Guide to the Heroes Acre.