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Obituary: Mutsekwa stood test of time

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IT is never easy to fight on the Rhodesian side of the liberation war and later join the post-Independence army dominated by former enemies to make a professional military career, and then going on to become a minister – this time on the right side of history.

Even though he died in the MDC-T party led by Douglas Mwonzora, whom he worked with in the Edgar Tekere-led Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Zum), Giles Mutsekwa had managed to show his versatility, despite a somewhat controversial career.

Mutsekwa  was born on 14 September 1948 in Honde Valley to a peasant farmer in  a family of  nine children. His father was born in Nyanga to a royal  bloodline of the Katerere chieftaincy. 

His only surviving sibling based in Cape Town, South Africa, described his late brother as always courageous and protective, having a disdain for bullies and standing up to them growing as a boy in the village. 

Mutsekwa grew up and did his early primary education in Gatsi, Honde Valley.

His father went and successfully applied for an education scholarship at the United Methodist church in Old Mutare then headed by a Bishop Dodge.

Mutsekwa then went on to study at Nyatsime High School were he did his Form 1-6.

He then went on to study via correspondence with a United Kingdom university for a degree in business administration.

Mutsekwa then got employed by Nestlé Rhodesia as an administrative clerk. During his stay there as a young man without discerning minds around him, he was attracted by a Rhodesian Army recruitment advert that was offering almost double the wage he was getting at Nestlé as an administrative clerk.

Yet this was a deceitful ploy to recruit young black men into the army. A lot of propaganda and remuneration were used as a ploy to lure young black men into the Rhodesian army to fight the liberation forces, a move which was not just manipulative but also damaging to the reputation and careers of undiscerning young black men.

So Mutsekwa sadly fell for it and joined the Rhodesian army in 1968. He went through a gruesome six-month training course,  of which only him and five other recruits out of 50 qualified.

Some died during the training.

Mutsekwa was then assigned to the administration and logistics because of his educational background.

The then went for further training at Sandhurst military academy in the UK, and got promoted to the rank of captain in 1978, then major in 1983 after he had joined the new integrated military. 

Mutsekwa was one of the officers involved in the demobilisation and integration of the military involving the Rhodesians, Zanla and Zipra forces, helping to form the new army.

After working in the post-Independence military, Mutsekwa was then promoted to the rank of full colonel to lead a battalion in Nyanga that was going to be deployed in Matabeleland during the Gukurahundi campaign.

Mutsekwa refused and opted to resign instead.

The late former president Robert Mugabe and the then late former General Solomon Mujuru, who was at the time army commander, refused his resignation and insisted on him taking up the promotion.

Mutsekwa stuck to his guns and was allowed to resign with the rank of major instead of colonel.

His refusal to go and join Gukurahundi showed that he had learnt from the Rhodesian experience not to be on the wrong side of history again.

After learning from experience and rehabilitating himself, Mutsekwa opposed oppression of any kind and spent his entire adult life fighting for democracy and justice. 

As part of that, he was instrumental in the formation of Zum with Tekere in a bid to stop the Zanu PF one-party project. That helped to defeat Zanu PF’s one-party state agenda.

A strict disciplinarian, he raised his children with the belief that education, hard work, honesty, respect and principle was critical in one achieving their God-given purpose in life. He was a loyal person, who had a deep disdain for disloyal people. He never put self-interest ahead of public service as many politicians nowadays do.

A gentle giant, Mutsekwa was full of humour, with a unique ability to communicate wisdom with such simplicity, even when faced with adversity and complex issues. He was a stickler for good personal hygiene, grooming and presentability,  something his wife aptly complimented him with.

Always an advocate for unity and peace among family members, society and in politics right up to death, Mutsekwa – despite a wrong start as a young man – wanted the current Zimbabwean situation resolved by democratic means and without conflict.

After Zum, Mutsekwa joined the Democratic Party as a founder member and national chairman.

During his controversial military career, Mutsekwa distinguished himself a trained soldier with various military awards, which include General Service Medal – Bronze Cross of Zimbabwe.

He has held several posts in the army including the post of officer cadet 1978-1979 and then after Independence in 1983 he was promoted to the rank of captain and then major in 1984.

He retired from the army in 1986, and joined the private sector as a general manager for a Mutare-based haulage company owned by retired Air Force of Zimbabwe officer Don Howard, Commercial Transport  (Pvt) Ltd.

He soon left the transport industry to become a full-time politician and, as a result, endured endless arrests, detentions and harassment.

Before his retirement, Mutsekwa participated in the military campaign in Mozambique between 1982-86.

Mutsekwa served as secretary for security and intelligence of the MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai. He also served as MP for Mutare North from 2000 to 2008.

After serving as co-minister of Home Affairs in 2009, he was in 2010 re-assigned and became minister of National Housing.

Mutsekwa was a trained soldier with various military awards, including the General Service Medal – Bronze Cross of Zimbabwe.

He served in the Rhodesian army in prime minister Ian Smith’s government where he held several posts in the army, including being officer cadet (UK) 1978-1979.

At Independence, he joined the Zimbabwe army and was in 1983 promoted to the rank of captain. Mutsekwa also participated in the military campaigns of Mozambique between 1982-86.

After leaving the army, Mutsekwa entered politics and joined the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Zum) s its the Manicaland provincial chairperson. He was with Douglas Mwonzora in Zum-OWN CORRESPONDENT.

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