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Top diplomat Manyika dies

Zimbabwe’s former envoy to Yugoslavia and Namibia, Ambassador Kennedy Grant Dick Chivanda Manyika has died. He died on November 5 at the age of 99.

Ambassador Manyika was an author, reverend and teacher. Born on September 22, 1922, he graduated as a teacher from Hope Fountain in 1947 and later returned to the teacher training institute as a critic teacher, to tutor future teachers including former President Robert Mugabe and national hero, Dr Eddison Zvobgo.

After Hope Fountain, Ambassador Manyika would, assisted by his wife Rahab, go on to a three-decade award-winning teaching career (1947-1981) including winning the prestigious Secretary’s Bell twice. He was a leading member of the Rhodesian African Teachers Association, which pressed for better working conditions for African teachers and lobbied for more educational opportunities for Africans before independence.

His political activism saw him banished from teaching in urban schools for organising protests against poor working and living conditions for African workers in the mining town of Selukwe, now Shurugwi, in 1964. He built neglected and dying rural schools assigned by the Rhodesian government, including Chivizhe and Chakadini in Mashonaland East, Vungu Council School and Munyati in the Midlands, as punishment, into high performing institutions, but would be later expelled to neutralise his influence.

Ambassador Manyika was also a founding member of Zanu in 1963, assigned to canvass for support in the Gweru East area. He established over 30 party branches in Gweru East, including in Nhema, Mazibiza, Sibolise and Shurugwi. Ambassador Manyika served for over four decades in various leadership capacities in the Wesleyan Methodist Church established by the British Methodist Church in 1891.

He was among the top lay leaders that fought for and steered the local church to indigenous autonomy from the British Methodist Church in 1977. The push for indigenisation of the church mirrored the countrywide desires of Africans to run their own affairs. On August 31, 1981, he was elected lay president of the autonomous church, but he was to forgo the appointment as he was invited on the same day by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to train as a diplomat.

He would be re-elected to the same position upon his retirement from diplomatic service in 1991, and again in 1996. In 1982, he was appointed Zimbabwe’s first Ambassador to Yugoslavia, a country which had supported Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and whose leaders had played a critical role in the shaping of European and world history in the 20th century.

During his term of office in Yugoslavia, Ambassador Manyika was involved in negotiations that led to the construction of the then Sheraton Hotel (now Rainbow Towers) by Energo-Project Company, construction of the Zanu PF headquarters, road construction in Manicaland and material for the Zimbabwean and Mozambican military campaign against South Africa sponsored Renamo insurgents in Mozambique.

He also served as Zimbabwe’s first ambassador to Namibia. In 2000, Ambassador Manyika was appointed Special Envoy of the Allied Countries during the DRC conflict to coordinate communication between the governments and Presidents of the respective Allied countries with the Sadc Allied Forces headquarters in Kinshasa.

Ambassador Manyika will be buried on Saturday at Mtapa Cemetery in Gweru.

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