John Makumbe Zimbabwe university teacher, political scientist and activist

Professor John Makumbe died on 24 January aged 63. Professor Makumbe was a member of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies of the University of Zimbabwe. The University of Birmingham awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2004 on the strength of his brave and principled commitment to truth and integrity in Zimbabwe and in Africa more broadly.

He was a fearless campaigner for social justice against the increasingly aggressive posture of the Mugabe regime. From his position at the University of Zimbabwe he consistently upheld the case for transparent government. He managed to do this whilst also maintaining a position from which he has been able to influence the government’s practice. Among his wide civic commitments, he was founder-chairman of Transparency International’s Zimbabwe branch, a member of TI’s board for southern and eastern Africa, founder member and chairman of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, and founder chairman of the Zimbabwe Albino Association.

John was associated with the International Development Department of the University of Birmingham, with which he undertook research during the 1990s and 2000s.


Professor John Mudiwa Washe Makumbe was born on 06 May, 1949 in Buhera district, Manicaland province. He died on Sunday, 27 January, 2013 at the Arcadia Medical Centre in Harare. He was 65.

This year, Prof. Makumbe was set to contest in the coming parliamentary elections on an MDC ticket in Buhera West, setting a precedent for the first in the history of the country’s politics, of a clear succession plan where the outgoing MP, Advocate Eric Matinenga would assist the professor in his campaigns.

Prof. Makumbe was a senior official in the MDC and worked in various capacities in an advisory role. He is most remembered in the party structures for his role in participating in the Ideological Lecture Series programmes that are held weekly in Harare and across the country.

The well-attended high quality lecture series programmes have drawn an extensive network of speakers who are renowned scholars, political analysts and politicians. Because of the high calibre of speakers like Prof. Makumbe, the MDC public discussions have managed to draw capacity crowds on a weekly basis.

In Buhera West, which is his home area, Prof. Makumbe is most remembered by the villagers for his sterling work in assisting the MP for the area, Advocate Matinenga in carrying out several developmental projects. He also assisted other MPs especially in Buhera district and Manicaland province in developmental projects.

Prof. Makumbe was a renowned academic, researcher and politician who was always bold, courageous, had an unflinching personality and had several brushes with the State security agents for questioning their human rights abuses and corruption.

Because of his fight for a just society, Prof. Makumbe was a founder board member of a number of respected professional and civic society organisations including, the Zimbabwe Albino Association, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, from 2001 and 2002, Transparency International Zimbabwe, 1995 to 2004, Mass Public Opinion, Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and the Rehabilitation of the Offender, Trans World Radio Zimbabwe, Independent Media Trust and African Development Educators Network.

Prof. Makumbe’s role in the provision of tertiary education at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) cannot be under estimated as most MDC leaders were taught by him. Prof. Makumbe has been lecturing at the UZ since 1988 when he joined the institute as the chairperson of International Studies Project.

After completing his high school, Prof. Makumbe enrolled at Mutare Teachers Training School (now Mutare Teachers college) in 1972 where he trained as a teacher. He later enrolled at the University of Botswana/Swaziland where he obtained a B.A in Administration. Between 1979 and 1980, he was the Assistant Dean of Students at the same university.

Upon his return to Zimbabwe, Prof. Makumbe joined the government as a training officer at Rowa Training Centre in Mutare until 1983. He furthered his studies and obtained Honours in Administration at the UZ, Honours in LLD at the University of Birmingham in the UK and a Ph.D in Administration from University of Tasmania in Austrialia.

During his academic career, Prof. Makumbe published a number of academic books, journal articles and reports. He was also a newspaper columnist for several local and international publications.

He is survived by his wife, Virginia, and three children, Rumbidzai, Simba and Tawanda.

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