Address by His Excellency, Cde R. G. Mugabe, on the occasion of the burial of Dr Charles Munhamu Botsio Utete, at the National Heroes’ Acre, Harare, 19 July 2016.
The Bereaved Utete Family,
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Amai,
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko and Amai,
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and Amai,
President of the Senate, Amai Edna Madzongwe,
Speaker of the House of Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda,
Secretary for Administration, Dr Ignatius Chombo,
Politburo and Central Committee Members,
Senior Government Officials,
War Veterans, War Collaborators, Detainees and Restrictees,
Party and Student Activists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Comrades and Friends
Allow me to express my heartfelt condolences to the Utete family, in particular to Mrs Utete and the children, on the tragic death of Dr Charles Munhamu Botsio Utete.
The message of Dr Utete’s sudden demise reached me when I was in Rwanda, attending the African Union Summit.
I just could not reconcile myself to it because it was extremely devastating. Dr Utete looked well, and I had never heard of any ailments afflicting him. At no point was it ever suggested that he was unwell. In fact the last time we had met was at the funeral of Mai (Victoria) Chitepo yes, and earlier on.
Dr Charles Utete’s public service career equates with the founding and development of our civil service soon after independence. In fact, scholars like him made invaluable inputs into the governing vision which guided us then and indeed continue to guide us. Alongside many committed scholars, Dr Utete made incisive inputs into our policy documents, in the process transforming a majority rule Government. In other words, transforming the government that was there, colonial, the colonial system into our majority rule Government.
Every inch a scholar, a deep practical thinker, Dr Utete’s intellectual outputs, in many ways, impacted the mind of our Government, impacted even my own mind.
After the March 1980 elections, one of the biggest challenges we faced was running a Government without an iota of experience. So daunting was that prospect that we even went as far as appealing to Lord Soames (I did so) to stay on at the helm while we gathered the requisite experience. I said to Lord Soames, I know two things – teaching and fighting the war of liberation.
You have been in the government of the United Kingdom for long, indeed you even represented your government at the EEC (European Economic Commission) please stay on for a while. ‘You mean it?’ I said yes. You really mean it? I said yes. No. Do you? I said yes. So immediately he went to inform Lord Carrington.
The belief was that we were so revolutionary – so anti the British that he could not understand how we had transformed, soon after the elections. But there he was then he came back and told me Lord Carrington said yes, stay on but only for three months. I said, “Oh great, that’s enough”.
The situation was even more acute in the civil service where Africans had been systematically excluded from reaching higher echelons. The settler Government had been founded on principles of racial segregation which was exclusively white.
We set about identifying our citizens who had been educated abroad and had either repatriated themselves on the eve of independence or were willing to come back to serve their people under a new order. The order now of our party, Zanu-PF. Dr Utete was among them, having voluntarily come back in 1979. We knew his views, his contributions, above all, we knew his readiness to serve the people.
I therefore did not hesitate to invite him to serve as the first black permanent secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I can only imagine what went through his mind at this appointment. True, he had read and mastered principles of public administration and economics, but he had never been in charge of a ministry, let alone of the whole of the civil service, which is what this new appointment entailed.
In his characteristic way, quiet and unassuming way, he accepted the burdensome appointment, burning the midnight oil in reshaping the whole of our bureaucracy, in line with our new policy to make it reflect the racial composition of the society it served. We had to Africanise it but without denting its capacity to deliver efficient and expanded services beyond its elitist white remit under Rhodesia.
It was completely a white service, a white public service. There wasn’t a single African called a permanent secretary in the service. None at all, none called director. No civil servants under the settler rule but employees only of government they were called and now we had to transform all that into a public service and where were we to get men? We had to look for those who had acquired education within and without the country and give them positions. All of them were degreed persons and they had to come and serve their nation as civil servants.
But he was at the top of them.
As he tackled this heavy challenge, often alone, he also had to ensure that Cabinet had a system which must work smoothly, meeting weekly deadlines, for routine Tuesday Cabinet meetings that we inherited, the Tuesday ritual meetings. It took a disciplined cadre, an orderly mind and tireless officer for all that to happen contemporaneously. Today, in that tiny casket lies the chief architect of our civil service as we have it, completely revolutionary, completely African.
Beyond reshaping and coordinating the running of the bureaucracy, Dr Utete was at the centre of our policy formulation. We were a society fractured by the liberation war. The new Government had to hit the ground running. Dr Utete was at the centre of formulating policy blueprints, on the strength of which the new Government responded to all these unmet needs, always more and more needs coming. Never stopping, ever always soaring expectations and together, together we discussed them, together we tried to find a way.
We had to reintegrate war displaced; rehabilitate all those traumatised by the war, reconcile a society split by war. We also had to attend to a massive educational backlog, restore infrastructure broken by the war, and expand social services to the broad masses.
There were areas in education where we did not have teachers and so with others in the civil service we had to find ways of making teachers. Let those man and women who had gone through their ‘O’ Levels become teachers and as they become teachers we will teach them how to teach and it worked. They will be training along the way and that over time gave us trained teachers, and in no time our colleges were producing teachers.
It needed a man of multiple abilities, a man able to develop and engender a team spirit within departments of Government. In short, he was a leader of the whole bureaucracy. We found that leader in the man we gather to rest and deservedly wreathe today.
Indeed, the first decade of our independence saw numerous development policies which laid a firm foundation for our society as we know it today. Together with others, and working with also the party we had to do vast work of rehabilitation, people were being displaced, whole villages, whole chieftaincies had to come back to their homes and we had to find ways of doing it and we also had to give some basis for doing so, policy bases. We owe it largely to him.
We are truly grateful to the Utete family for having equipped their son for the emerging challenges of our nation. Yes, as I said he had read economics at university, a discipline that enabled him to play a crucial role in the evolving economic ethos that had to govern us in our policies. How shall we do it? How shall we carry on, from people who had been deprived of opportunities, so many children had not had schooling, what system shall we apply?
Indeed, it demonstrated how much of a “universal man” he was. Yes, indeed a versatile mind very few would ever reach. Very few indeed would have sacrificed and never complaining, never ever complaining but ever, ever wanting to work, ever speaking with mind, ever researching and wanting discussions with others. That was the nature of the man we are burying today.
Arguably the second most taxing part of his career came with the land reform programme. Except this was also his passion, and indeed he had done some writing on it, indeed a pillar of his belief and blueprint for an independent Zimbabwe. It needed much more than technocratic skills and commitment to play the role he was called upon to discharge.
It needed deep belief and courage and, of course, a real belief in the revolutionary policies of our land reform. No. He was every way in step with our system in the party.
Everywhere he stands with the policies that came from our Politburo.
Today as we gather to grant Charles his final rest. I am happy that his words and vision on land, before our independence, have been fulfilled. The land has come, the Tribal Trust Lands have gone. Of course, we are not yet done. The land is in our hands. We are not yet done. A true land reform programme must give way to agrarian reforms and programmes. We should never hunger. Never import food. Never, ever!
This is what we are working on so the land we have recovered gives us food security as a nation and prosperity as individuals.
Even after leaving Government in 2003, Dr Utete remained a true servant of the people.
He remained a key player in the overall conceptualisation and implementation of Government policies.
We have been calling on him, calling him from his retirement to lead the Presidential Review on Land Reform. The product of that exercise continues to guide us to this day, as it will into the future. The impact of his work on our society will be lasting.
So that is the man. On the question of unity, he left us a lot.
In 1987 we, Cde Nkomo and I, signed the Unity Accord and the Unity Accord bids us to be one, . . . to build that love and harmony which our dear departed Vice President used to almost sing.
Love begins with me, with you and with all of us.
Charles was a man of love. Man of real source of harmony with others. I never heard of a single quarrel that might have taken place between him and others . . . And (Evan) Mawarire. I don’t even know him. Mawarire and those who believe in that way of living in our country, well, are not part of us. They are not part of us in thinking. They are not part of us, as we try to live together.
If they don’t like to live with us, let them go to those who are sponsoring them. To the countries of those who are sponsoring them.
You can’t urge people to adopt violence. Violent demonstrations as a way of solving grievances. No! We will say no! Forever no! Find another environment if you are a pastor. I don’t know if he is a man of religion. A man of religion we would hope, would preach biblical peace.
First Corinthians, what does it say? Love one another. Not destroy one another, fight one another. So, beware these men of cloth, clock, not all of them are true preachers of the Bible. I don’t know whether they are serving God. Well, we spell God, G.O.D, they spell God in reverse.
As we bid Dr Charles Utete farewell, I want to challenge us all to draw inspiration and example of togetherness, simplicity, humility and love from this humble, self-effacing man, a scholar whose two feet rested firmly on the concrete ground in terms of virtue and corectness. This indefatigable worker who did not know the word “enough” or “rest”. Indeed, the man who died last Friday and lives in us and through his works forever.
Let those be our guide today.
To Dr Utete here I say, sleep well. Sleep well the people’s servant. Sleep well under the soil that has come through your efforts. Today the nation you served wreathes you with endless praises, as it salutes and honours you with this highest recognition of national hero. Go well. Go well Son of the Soil.
I thank you.