The lectureship job that never was

HARARE - Once again, Zimbabwe and Africa have been robbed of one of its own, a genuine academic and intellectual par excellence, who was very honest to his opinion and very consistent with his beliefs.

News that Professor John Makumbe had died after succumbing to heart attack, came to me as a shock.

In fact I had an appointment with him few weeks from now, following a journal article I had written which he had agreed to have a look at and add some intellectual value before I sent it for publication.

This was not the first academic encounter that I had engaged him.

In 2011, I had shown him two manuscripts I had co-authored with a colleague entitled Media Democracy and Development: Critical Reflections as well Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising, to which he said, “These are the most simplified versions I have ever read.”

He persuaded me to give him the two copies after publishing.

Unfortunately the copies sold out and I could not honour my promise. When I went to his University of Zimbabwe office around September last year, he said he had already purchased the two copies.

As a senior lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, he would at times make some routine follow-ups in lectures especially of Public Administration, Project Planning and Project Management.

It happened in October that as he was on his check-ups he attended a tutorial that I was presenting a paper on Gantt Charts, Log Frame Matrix and Network Analysis.

I still vividly remember the lecture which was one of a kind.

The learned professor was sitting in a corner, wearing an immaculate grey-brown safari suit. I didn’t recognise him at first as I was busy presenting my paper, full of enthusiasm, trying to share all the knowledge I had accumulated on the topical issue.

Towards the end of my presentation I noticed him, and regretted that had I realised he was part of my audience I would have probably become ecstatic, in my presentation, all to impress him.

Right after the lecture Professor Makumbe summoned me to his office.

I thought I had presented an awkward paper, but when I stormed in his office full of fear and uncertainty, he stood up, shook my hand and said, “Young man are you looking for a lectureship job at the university?”

Without knowing what to say I told him I was eager to join the prestigious institution one day and if possible when I finished my Masters programme.

That October day was fruitful, not because I had been promised a job at the university, but because I had been inspired and given confidence by a rare breed of African professors.

That was also the very same day that he tutored me on how journal articles were written and the procedure to get one published.

He used to joke with me that I had stolen his column entitled Tough Talk which I opine with the fastest growing daily paper, the Daily News, to which I also joked by telling “Yours Truly” as he was popular known, that it was high time professors of his calibre stopped the obsession of writing newspaper columns and concentrate on publishing journal articles and text books.

I always queried him why he had all of a sudden decided to venture into mainstream politics after he openly declared that he was intending to contest a parliamentary seat under the ticket of the MDC.

I tried several times to restrain the professor from doing so, giving him practical insights of renowned academics who had in less time been corrupted by politics to the extent of reducing themselves into political clowns.

He assured me he was only taking a sabbatical of five years, “quick-fix” things in mainstream politics and then return to his genuine home — the University of Zimbabwe. Regrettably the sabbatical he has chosen is a permanent one.

In 2006, together with a close friend at Magamba Hall in Warren Park, we had a tete-a-tete with the professor at a community meeting with the residents that had been arranged by Crisis Coalition.

He warned youths against being used like in his words, “Chihuahua dogs” by politicians who were desperate to cling to power.

At a symposium organised by the Daily News on May 3 2012, on Press Freedom Day, Professor Makumbe declared it was the duty of the media to expose tyranny, to make the lives of tyrants uncomfortable till they were unshackled from the levers of power.

I sincerely hope that his perception of media’s role will fully be embraced by my colleagues in the media fraternity.

Rest in peace “Yours Truly”, yours was a life worth a cause and the struggle continues.

Fare thee well our intellectual hero. - Alexander Rusero

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.