Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter—
Bulawayo High Court judge and liberation war veteran Justice Andrew Mutema was yesterday declared a national hero and will be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre on Saturday.
He was 56.
Justice Mutema, whose Chimurenga name was Kingsley Dube Watema, collapsed last Thursday at his home and died the following day at Mater Dei Hospital. He becomes the first judge to be accorded national hero status.
Zanu-pf secretary for Administration Cde Ignatius Chombo yesterday conveyed President Mugabe’s condolence message to the judge’s family.
“President Mugabe has sent me to convey his condolence message,” said Cde Chombo.
“He (President) expressed his profound shock and sadness on the passing of Justice Mutema.”
Cde Chombo said wide consultations among Politburo members and the analysis of Justice Mutema’s liberation war credentials resulted in him being declared a national hero.
“He has been a consistent and loyal cadre while others went wayward,” said Cde Chombo. “After consultations it was unanimously agreed to have him conferred with the national hero status. So the President has sent me to convey this message to you.”
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku thanked President Mugabe for recognising their colleague by conferring him with national hero status.
“I am grateful for the respect bestowed upon our colleague by the President. It has never happened before. He is the first judge to be awarded this (national hero) status,” said Chief Justice Chidyausiku.
“We are happy. This status is for us as judges. The judiciary is grateful that we have been recognised as national heroes.”
The Chief Justice, who was accompanied by several judges of the superior courts said the judiciary lost a man of high calibre.
“We are together in mourning because your loss is also our loss,” he said.
Justice Mutema, he said, was a dedicated man who discharged his duties as a judge exceptionally well.
“His hard work and tremendous leadership propelled him to the pinnacle of the judiciary.”
“I did not hesitate to recommend his appointment to the High Court bench because of his commitment and hard work. He completed his work on time and he was a brilliant judge.”
Justice Garainesu Mawadze who worked with Justice Mutema at the Administrative Court described him as a humble man.
“I did not know that he has an illustrious history. He never talked about it,” he said.
“He was down to earth but a hard worker. I am completely devastated by his sudden departure. It is a great loss not only to the family but also to the judiciary. We will miss him.”
One of Justice Mutema’s sons, Tatenda, described his father as a source of inspiration and pillar of strength in the family.
“He was a loving and caring father who did his best for us. The void he left will never be filled.”
Today, Justice Mutema’s body will be taken to his farm in Chivhu and return to Harare in the evening to One Commando Barracks where it will lie in state before burial at the Heroes Acre on Saturday.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga, Zimbabwe National Army Commander Lieutenant General Philip Valerio Sibanda, Prisons and Correctional Services Commissioner-General Major General Paradzayi Zimondi (Retired), Air Vice Marshal Jacob Nzvede, Major General Engelbert Rugeje attended the memorial service of the late Justice Mutema.
Justice Mutema was born on February 27, 1959 and joined the liberation war in November 1977. He attained military training in Mozambique in 1978 and after a three-month deployment, was recalled from the front.
Justice Mutema was deployed to Romania where he was taught physics and anti-aircraft radar. He was demobilised in 1982 after returning from Romania where he then pursued a career in the judiciary.
Justice Mutema joined the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in 1986 as an assistant magistrate. He was appointed a magistrate in 1987 and a regional magistrate in September 1997. In November 2004, Justice Mutema was appointed to the post of senior president of the Administrative Court. He was later moved to the Labour Court in December 2007 where he was appointed to the post of Senior president of the Labour Court.
In May 2010 he was appointed judge of the High Court in Harare. He was then moved to Bulawayo and in February 2013, he was appointed to the position of senior judge in charge of the High Court, Bulawayo. In March, Justice Mutema was appointed to represent Zimbabwe as a principal judge in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
He is survived by his wife and four children. Mourners are gathered at Number 28 Churchill Avenue, Marlborough in Harare.