Major-Gen Maseko: Leader par excellence

The passing on 20 May 2013 of Retired Major-General Jevana Maseko — ZANU-PF Consultative Assembly member, Ambassador and former Governor and Resident Minister for Matabeleland North Province — whose nom de guerre was “Cde Enock Tshangane”, robbed the country of one of its revolutionary, loyal and illustrious sons.

Cde Jevana Ben Maseko died at Mater Dei Hospital, Bulawayo after he succumbed to renal failure, amyloidosis cancer and diabetes. He was 70.
Cde Maseko was born on January 1 1943 in the Hope Fountain area near Sigola, close to Bulawayo. The late hero was born to Chikakumbila Ben Maseko and Sitshokupi (nee Ngwenya), who were peasant farmers in the Pumula and Sigola areas. He was born in a family of eight children, four boys and four girls with Cde Jevana being the last born. Cde Maseko did his Sub A to Standard Six at Nkulumane Primary School in Mpopoma. He proceeded to Hope Fountain Mission and attained carpentry and joinery skills.

He worked for several companies including Johnson and Fletcher and Russell Company where he experienced unfair labour practices, a phenomenon that was the order of the day in settler owned companies during colonial days.

Having been denied space to get formal education by the discriminatory colonial system, Cde Jevana Maseko only managed to further his education at the advent of the country’s Independence.

He studied through correspondence and attained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Politics and Economics with Knightsbridge University in the United Kingdom, Salesmanship and Marketing with London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a Diploma in Public Administration at the University of Zimbabwe and a Certificate in General Management with the Zimbabwe Institute of Management.

The late Cde Maseko’s political career started when he joined early nationalist Youth League and Zhanda defiance campaigns against the Rhodesian regime in the early fifties. As a youth activist, he worked with the likes of the late national hero Cde Masala Sibanda and Cdes Ben Dikiza Maphosa, Bigboy Maseko, Report Mpoko, among others. As a young and courageous cadre, Maseko exhibited leadership traits and was appointed Secretary of the Youth League in Mpopoma Central in 1963; in 1964, he became Deputy Chairman of Mpopoma Central.

After the address by Winston Field (Rhodesian Prime Minister 1962-1964) at the White City Stadium in 1964, Cde Jevana and other young nationalists protested violently against the settler regime. As resistance intensified in the then Southern Rhodesia with many nationalist leaders being arrested throughout the country, Cde Maseko was arrested in 1965.

He was sentenced to three years in jail with hard labour in Khami Prison alongside 15 other “Zhanda” youths.
During his stay in prison, Cde Maseko met other leaders like Cdes Daniel Madzimbamuto and Cephas Msipa, who were also serving their jail terms. After his three-year term at Khami Prison in 1967, he was again incarcerated and restricted at the notorious Gonakudzingwa where some of the icons of our liberation struggle such as the late Vice Presidents, Joshua Nkomo and Joseph Msika were also imprisoned.

Upon his release in 1968, the late Cde Maseko worked for a short time in Bulawayo as a professional carpenter and in the same year decided to leave Rhodesia for Zambia through Botswana to join the liberation struggle. In July 1969, Cde Maseko received military training in infantry at Morogoro Camp, Tanzania for nine months. After the training, Cde Maseko was appointed a platoon commander. In the period 1971 to 1974, Cde Maseko was working as military instructor.

During the same period, he was appointed chief of staff of the camp.
After Morogoro, he went for further military training as a battalion commander in the then Soviet Union (now Russia). He later became a commandant at Morogoro before being deployed to Mozambique as Deputy Chief of Operations on the formation of the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) in 1975.

In 1976, Cde Maseko was deployed to Zambia, where together with the late Cde Masala Sibanda and Brigadier General (Rtd) Mazinyane he was elevated into the ZIPRA High Command. Cde Maseko became the Deputy Chief of Operations. Upon the passing of the Late Sotsha Ngwenya in 1976, Cde Maseko was appointed Chief of Operations of ZIPRA Forces in 1977. In June 1978, while returning from a visit to forward bases along the Zambezi River, Cde Maseko survived a land mine which blasted his vehicle and claimed the life of the late ZIPRA Commander Alfred Nikita Mangena and left Cde Maseko injured.

In 1979, Cde Maseko was appointed ZIPRA Chief of Staff taking over from Brigadier-General (Rtd) Ambrose Mutinhiri, a post he held until Independence. On the attainment of Independence in 1980, the late hero was attested into the Zimbabwe National Army. On 16 April 1981, Cde Maseko was appointed to the rank of a substantive Major-General. Due to his exemplary leadership and commitment to duty, he was appointed Chief of Staff (Administration and Quartermaster) in 1984.

He played a pivotal role in the integration of the three former warring armies: ZANLA, ZIPRA and the Rhodesian Army into the Zimbabwe National Army and the Air Force of Zimbabwe through his participation in the Joint High Command.
During his long and illustrious service, Cde Maseko was awarded the following medals:

Liberation Medal (Gold) — for his gallantry and selfless dedication to the liberation of Zimbabwe.
Independence Medal — for his contribution towards the Independence of Zimbabwe.
Ten Years’ Service Medal — For ten years continuous service that saw him immensely contribute during the integration, formation and development of the Zimbabwe National Army.
Long and Exemplary Service Medal — for fifteen years continuous and exemplary service.
Mozambique Campaign Medal — for his contribution towards the restoration of peace and stability in Mozambique.
The Grand Officer of the Zimbabwe Order of Merit.
Cde Maseko retired from the Zimbabwe National Army on 31 October 1987.

Upon his retirement, Major General Maseko was appointed Deputy Minister in the then Ministry of Political Affairs from 1988 to 1990. Cde Maseko was a member of the Central Committee of Zanu-PF Harare Province from 1989 to 1994.

From 1990 to 1992, he was appointed Governor of Matabeleland North Province. Cde Maseko was Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Algeria from 1993 to 1994 and Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 1995 to 1999. In August 1999, Cde Maseko was appointed Ambassador to Cuba and served in that post up to December 2006 when he returned home.

From Cuba, he was appointed Ambassador to Angola but could not take up the assignment due to ill health.
At his death Major General (Rtd) Maseko was survived by his two children, a son Gugulethu Maseko and daughter Nomagugu and a granddaughter.

A Guide to the Heroes Acre.