Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
BULAWAYO Polytechnic principal Engineer Gilbert Mzenzi Mabasa who died on Friday night has been described as an instrumental figure in the development of tertiary education in the country as witnessed by his commitment to improving the sector.
Eng Mabasa (65) succumbed to Covid-19 at the United Bulawayo Hospitals’ Arundel Hospital where he had been admitted to. Arundel caters for Covid-19 patients.
Eng Mabasa will be buried today at Athlone Cemetery at 10am. The burial will be livestreamed on social media platforms.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira described Eng Mabasa as a dedicated leader in the development of tertiary education in the country.
“It is very sad. (Eng) Mabasa has been one of the pillars of tertiary education in polytechnics, a very jovial, very focused, very unassuming person but yet very pivotal to the direction in which we were going.
As you know we were transforming tertiary education into the Tertiary Education Council and on 7 May 2021 is when His Excellency President Mnangagwa gazetted the Manpower Planning and Development Act, the new one which actually is a revolution in the way in which polytechnics are managed.
He was part of that team that we were working with to make sure that the transitioning is taking place in a smooth and productive way. So, it’s a big loss and we really are very sad about it. It’s not an easy piece of information.”
Eng Mabasa who was affectionately known as “the teacher” in many circles, was an educationist turned motivational speaker who would not miss an opportunity to spread his teachings about life to people he met.
According to officials at the institution, Eng Mabasa died after spending three weeks in hospital.
“He died at Arundel Hospital on Friday evening between 7 and 8pm as he had contracted Covid-19. He was initially admitted to Ekusileni Hospital then he was transferred to Arundel for further treatment but passed away on Friday,” said the source.
When he tested positive to Covid-19 on 6 August, he announced that he was battling the disease in hospital.
“I have chosen to inform you all as your Team Leader so that you don’t depend on social media or other gossip lines.
Now that you know the truth that truth shall set you free from gaps in critical information. I am safe in God’s providence and thankful for the great medical teams that are committed to serving in case the forefront. Covid-19 is real and respecter of no one. However, God is also God and in control of everything,” said Eng Mabasa in a statement when he tested positive for Covid-19.
In his autobiography, he mentions that he was an engineer by training, spiritual minister by anointing, published author, columnist, poet, motivational speaker, spiritual teacher and counsellor. He gives a history of his life starting from Masase in Mberengwa District where he was born in 1956. He completed primary education at Danamombe School in 1969 and obtained his Ordinary Level at Matopo Mission in 1973.
Eng Mabasa worked as a cashier and sales clerk at Matopo Book Centre in Bulawayo from 1973 to 1975. He proceeded to England for further studies in 1975. There, he obtained an Ordinary National Diploma in Technology at Matthew Boulton Technical College in Birmingham in 1977.
He graduated with a Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at Croydon College of Design and Technology in 1979. He worked for the Bishop and Moss Precision Engineers Company as a Machine Setter and Quality Controller in Surrey, England.
Eng Mabasa was to be recruited in London in 1981 to be a lecturer in the newly independent Zimbabwe.
He voluntarily resigned from his job in England to take up the lecturing position as a way of contributing to the development of his country and assumed duty at the Harare Polytechnic in 1982. Shortly after that he was transferred to Kwekwe Polytechnic, where he was the first black lecturer.
He rose from being a mechanical engineering lecturer to Head of the Engineering Division. Eng Mabasa became the inaugural substantive vice-principal of Kwekwe Polytechnic in 1992. During that period, he held various positions of professional and social responsibility.
He was the first black chairman of the Zimbabwe Further Education Examinations Board (FEEB)’s National Craft Co-ordinating Committee, from 1983 to 1989. Eng Mabasa was chairman and moderator of the National Craft Examination Syndicate and National Examiner. He chaired the Mechanical Engineering Department’s Advisory Committee and was the institution’s representative to the Commonwealth of Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA).
As a member of the FEEB, he was instrumental in the evolution of Zimbabwe’s National Courses from the City and Guilds of London to the Zimbabwe National Courses. He pioneered the establishment of the Gokwe Vocational Training Centre as a satellite to Kwekwe Polytechnic.
Furthermore, his advocacy saw the National Craft Courses, formerly the preserve of apprentices only, offered on a part-time and direct entry basis. These were the first technical college students to go on industrial attachment as part of their training, in 1985. He was the chairman of the Kwekwe Chapter of the Budding Writers’ Association (BWAZ).
He was to become a columnist in The Midlands Observer and Indonsakusa, among other newspapers. Eng Mabasa was transferred from Kwekwe Polytechnic to Bulawayo Polytechnic in 2004 as acting principal to provide leadership until 2005 when a substantive principal was appointed. He remained vice-principal until he was appointed principal in August 2014.
At the time of his death he was a PhD candidate with the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) with research interest in Entrepreneurial Leadership in Higher Education in the context of African Leadership Development.
Among other public recognitions Mr Mabasa got the Megafest Business Awards 2015 Outstanding Leadership for year 2015 Overall Winner. He received The Kola Scholars Award for Outstanding Service to Development of Africa (Technical Education) awarded in Pretoria, South Africa in 2016.
He led Bulawayo Polytechnic to winning the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) 2nd Runner Up Award for Tertiary Institution of the year in 2015 and 2016. He was the winner of the Zimbabwe Institute of Management (ZIM) 2nd Runner Up Leader of The Year Award (Public Sector Category) for 2016. In June 2018 he was conferred Leader of The Year Winner for 2017 by the Zimbabwe Institute of Management.
At the 2018 Megafest Business Awards Eng Mabasa was conferred with the award Manager of The Year 2018 for the Southern Region. Added to that is the Megafest winner of the Principal of the year 2018 Award in the Polytechnic Category.
In 2015 he became the first ever Polytechnic Principal in Zimbabwe to give birth to the first ever Research and Innovation Conference hosted by a polytechnic. Eng Mabasa is survived by a wife, six children, three adopted and three biological. Mourners are gathered at his Kumalo residence in Bulawayo. — @NyembeziMu