Mayowe was an ideological compass
THE passing on of Ambassador John George Mayowe, whose nom de guerre was “Robert Mandebvu” on Saturday, February 19 2013 robbed the Zimbabwe nation of one of its revolutionary, loyal and illustrious sons. Ambassador Mayowe died in Johannesburg, South Africa after battling and succumbing to cancer. He was 60.
Ambassador Mayowe was born on April 16, 1952 to George Mayowe and Esinah Makombe in Ndanga District, Masvingo. He did his primary education at St Anthony Primary School in Zaka.
He proceeded to Highfield Secondary School and later Harare High School. Cde Mayowe enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts joint Honours Degree in History and Shona at the then University of Rhodesia, now University of Zimbabwe.
Cde Mayowe’s political career started through student activism during his days at the then University of Rhodesia. He was among the brave and patriotic students who were agitated by the death of Cde Herbert Chitepo, the National Chairman of Zanu who was assassinated by a car bomb planted in the driveway of his exile home in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1975, by racist Rhodesian secret agents.
Hundreds of outraged African university students organised huge protest demonstrations against this heinous and cowardly act and proceeded to Highfield, then home to many nationalists and a bastion of resistance to foreign racist colonial rule. The death of Cde Chitepo was one of the major reasons why Cde Mayowe and colleagues abandoned university education in July 1975 to join the armed national liberation struggle. Cde Mayowe together with Cdes Christopher Mutsvangwa, Sobusa Gula Ndebele, Masimba Mwazha, and the late national hero Cde Willard Panyika Hapana Zororo Duri were the first big group of university students to “abscond” and cross the border into Mozambique to join the struggle.
A few days later another group of university students made up of Cdes Justin Mupamhanga, Justice George Chiweshe and Neville Dembetembe (who was shot on his deployment to the war front in 1976) followed and joined Cde Mayowe and others at Junta Camp.
The victory of Cde Samora Machel and his Frelimo guerillas in defeating Portuguese imperial rule in neighbouring Mozambique acted as a game changer in luring thousands upon thousands of Zimbabwe youths to the call of armed confrontation to defeat the Rhodesian white minority-settler regime.
On arrival in Mozambique, the new guerilla recruits were first taken to Junta Military Cantonment outside of Villa Pary, now Chimoio, in Manica Province where they later met Cde Robert Mugabe who had sneaked past the Rhodesian intelligence network earlier in April to go and fill the leadership void created following Cde Herbert Chitepo’s assassination.
At Junta Camp, the university group with other Zanla cadres helped Cde Robert Mugabe organise the swelling ranks of eager recruits. That is also where the new recruits met the first contingent of trained military cadres who were led by the late national hero Comrade Misheck Chando a.k.a Makasha and other fighters including Vice President Joice Mujuru a.k.a Cde Teurai Ropa.
The soon overflowing military camp on the outskirts of an urban centre led to the transfer of Zimbabweans to a new camp by the banks of the Nyadzonia River in September 1975. Cde Robert Mandebvu was among the first of the new recruits to join trained cadres led by Cde Evaristo Nhamo and Cde Levi Dzamatsama (deceased) in offering political education to the new fighters.
Nyadzonia and Chimoio camps soon after witnessed the first of the many Rhodesian forces’ genocidal massacres of Zimbabwean refugees.
Cde Robert Mandebvu proceeded to do military training at Tembwe Military Camp in the Tete Province of Mozambique in 1975. On completion he was deployed to a new camp back in the Chimoio area in 1976. There he met his wife Tendai Mheta who was part of the camp medical corps.
Cde Mayowe was sent to lead the political research department and soon after became the Director of Chitepo College of Party Ideological Instruction. His loyalty and commitment to work together with his intellectual prowess attracted the attention of the late Zanla Commander, Cde Josiah Magama Tongogara who recommended him for promotion to the General Staff of Zanla.
Ambassador Mayowe was instrumental in providing cadres with intellectual direction, including the training of political commissars. Working with Cde John Chimbande, they provided leadership in efforts to generate ideological and political knowledge for use in training and liberation studies, including a written presentation of the national grievances and the Mwenje II booklet.
The Mwenje II booklet was a liberation war ideology book used as a manual to tutor the comrades in the ideals of the revolution and the struggle. Cde Herbert Chitepo wrote the Mwenje I booklet. Cde Mayowe held the position of Director until October 1977 when he was deployed as Chief Representative of Zanu to Libya. Under this portfolio, he was responsible for follow-ups on military training. In 1979, Cde Mayowe was appointed Chief Representative of Zanu to Scandinavian countries, namely Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. While there, he played a pivotal role in sourcing humanitarian assistance for the armed struggle.
At Independence, he was appointed to the Zanla Joint Military Command where he was responsible for recruiting ex-combatants from assembly points and arranging training programmes for them. In 1981, he was appointed Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust (ZMMT) and oversaw the transition of the Rhodesian Herald Company to Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (Zimpapers). He later moved to Zimbabwe Newspapers where he worked as Personal Assistant to the Managing Director.
In 1982, Cde Mayowe was appointed Ambassador to Romania and Bulgaria. He successfully negotiated with Bulgaria to second experts to fill the vacant fields in Civil and Electrical Engineering. These expatriates were required to work in city councils as replacement for white Rhodesians who resigned because they could not countenance a black government. As a result of the mutually beneficial arrangement that he championed between the two countries, Cde Mayowe was awarded the Mada Horse Man Order Second Class by the then President of Bulgaria, Cde Todor Zhivkov.
In 1986, he was appointed Ambassador to Senegal and served in that post until 1989 when he was redeployed to Mozambique and Swaziland. Cde Mayowe was the driving force behind the establishment of the Chimoio Monument to accord decent burial to the many comrades who lost their lives in Mozambique during the liberation struggle. He was also instrumental in the construction of another monument in Zambia. In 1992, Ambassador Mayowe attained a Diploma Certificate from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (London) and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Bangor in Wales.
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