ZANU-PF Politburo member and Cabinet minister, Masvingo North legislator, astute historian, educationist, culturalist and diplomat Dr Isack Stanislaus Gorerazvo Mudenge collapsed and died on October 4, 2012 in his hotel room in Masvingo while on Government business. He was 70 Cde Mudenge was born on December 17 1941, at Bawa Village, in Zimuto, Masvingo, to Alois and Jesirina Mudenge in a family of six. He attended Gaths Mine Primary School (1951-1953) in Mashava for his lower primary school. He went to Gokomere Mission Upper Primary School in 1954 and in 1964, where the intellectually gifted Stanislaus distinguished himself as an academic wizard, a feat that won him a place at the then coveted Goromonzi High School for his Advanced Level studies.
After excelling with flying colours at Goromonzi Mission, Cde Mudenge enrolled for an honours degree in history at the then University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1965. During the course of his studies, young Stanislaus got involved in student activism.
He joined other students in demonstrating against colonial injustices that included racial discrimination and the repressive laws that were pervasive in the country. The year 1966 saw Cde Mudenge being instrumental in the protest against Ian Douglas Smith’s Declaration of Independence (UDI).
The university authorities terminated Cde Mudenge studies by expelling him from the institution leading to incarceration and detention Gonakudzingwa between 1966 and 1967. Upon his release Cde Mudenge migrated England where he continued history studies at the University of York, graduating in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree.
Despite his academic achievements, a politically conscious Cde Mudenge did forget the colonial situation back home. He remained committed the fight against the oppressive regime and it was no wonder he was elected the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) Students’ Union Secretary for Information in 1969, while the United Kingdom.
The late Cde Mudenge then went to the University of London for his PhD and was awarded a doctorate in 1972. The year 1971 saw Cde vMudenge’s professional career as an educationalist blooming. He became a senior lecturer and associate professor at Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone.
Thereafter, he moved to the mountain kingdom to take up the position of senior lecturer at the National University of Lesotho, where he became both the Dean of History and Director of Strategic Planning. His strong educational standing saw him later become an associate professor in history. Being the dedicated nationalist he was, Cde Mudenge did not abandon the political struggle and in 1977 he became the ZANU Secretary for External Affairs in Lesotho.
At Independence in 1980, Cde Mudenge returned and joined the Government of Zimbabwe as one of the first founding crop of bureaucrats who took over the running of Government ministries as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Describing the role that the astute diplomat played, President Robert Mugabe said: “In his case, he had to build a whole Ministry of Foreign Affairs from scratch, given that Rhodesians never ran such an open, professional structure.”
In 1985, Cde Mudenge was appointed Zimbabwe’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations where he worked up to 1990. In 1991, Cde Mudenge saw his profile rising in the party and government, becoming the ZANU-PF Secretary for Political Affairs and in the civil service briefly holding the post of Senior Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Political Affairs.
Committed to work for the party at any level, Cde Mudenge also served as the Secretary for Education for ZANU-PF in the Munyambe North District between 1990 and 1991, the same time he was elected Member of Parliament for Masvingo North. He was elevated to Deputy Secretary for Commissariat and Culture, Masvingo Province and thereafter, became a member of the Central Committee in 1991.
Between 1992 and 1995, Cde Mudenge was appointed Minister of Higher Education after which he was moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as Minister. It was during his tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs that the Land Reform Programme reached its crescendo in Zimbabwe and he bore the direct wrath of the West.
In 2008, he was re-elected MP for Masvingo North and was appointed Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education. He was also a Central Committee member of ZANU-PF and the Secretary for External Affairs in the Politburo.
During his first tenure of office as Minister of Higher Education, Dr Mudenge was largely responsible for setting up of the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo which specialises in sciences and commerce. His fight to overcome the relics of colonial discrimination in education drove him to champion the drive to open more universities in the country.
As a committed educationist, he tirelessly worked to allow many Zimbabweans earn degrees whilst working. To that end guided the development of the Centre for Distance Education which was later transformed to become the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU). Dr Mudenge played a pivotal role in setting up the Chetsanga Commission whose mandate was to identify institutions which could be converted into universities
The Commission was also involved in identifying diploma programmes that could be upgraded to degree status. Cde Mudenge is also credited with building impetus for the establishment of the Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) as a way of finding an alternative to the Cuban Science Teacher Training programme which was winding up. In his second tenure as Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Cde Mudenge stirred a debate which resulted in the upgrading Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) to a university focusing on advanced technology, hence the promulgation of the Harare Institute of Technology Act of 2006.
In 2006, Cde Mudenge was actively involved in the establishment of Lupane State University whose ground work had been prepared by his predecessor, Dr Herbert Murerwa. Dr Mudenge was also seized with quality control to produce high quality degrees and he championed the creation of the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) in 2007. He was also steering the proposed bill that seeks to establish the Zimbabwe Examinations and Qualifications Authority to harmonise and standardize qualifications.
Cde Mudenge was a distinguished historian and author who wrote several books. One of his greatest contributions to academia, was when he wrote the famous award winning book on the Munhumutapa Empire titled, A Political History of Munhumutapa, c1400-1902. This book received many accolades from respected scholars including Professor D.N. Beach who said in the Moto magazine: “It has been years since I have enjoyed reading a scholarly work on pre-colonial Zimbabwean history, and it will be years before I cease to get value from reading it, if ever”
In his condolence message, ZANU (PF)’s First Secretary, Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, President Mugabe said Cde Mudenge will go down in the country’s history as part of the founding crop of cutting-edge bureaucrats who took over the running of Government in ministries at Independence in 1980 adding the nation had lost an accomplished historian, an educationist, diplomat and consummate politician.“
A Guide to the Heroes Acre.