ON February 13 2015 at around 8:30pm, one of Bulawayo’s most illustrious sons passed away.
He had been recovering from a series of debilitating strokes towards the end of December 2014.
Meshack Jongilanga Matshazi was born on January 7 1937 in Insiza District at a place called Shilo, north-east to what is now called Esigodini.
As often happens with a person of his age and social stature, they give family and friends the promise and appearance of recovery, only to suddenly slip away leaving everyone in shock. Those who had visited him during his last week of life were gladdened by the amazing progress and recovery he was showing.
At the time of his death Matshazi was working for the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) at the Bulawayo district as the regional co-ordinator.
Besides that he was responsible for the supervision of doctoral programmes university wide.
According to the terms of his contract with regards the supervision of doctoral programmes, he was supposed to be working from Harare, but had requested the national office to let him work from Bulawayo as he wanted to be close to his family and other interests .
MJ, as he was affectionately called, took this post after retiring at the end of 2009 from post of visiting professor at the University of Fort Hare, where he worked as a professor, doctoral studies and research co-ordinator.
But even though he had retired and accepted the position at ZOU, he was also part-time facilitator at the University of Johannesburg, showing his undying love for academic work and the mental stimulation it afforded him.
Nothing permeates Matshazi’s life as his hunger both to get education as well as to give it to others who needed it.
When he engaged in the process of educating, he went far beyond the call of duty.
Anyone who had the opportunity and privilege to sit at his feet, was left with no doubt that Matshazi was a passionate and dedicated educator, who found his fulfilment when the learner’s eyes lit up with a glow of understanding the concept which he sought to impart.
It terms of getting an education, his quest was equally awe inspiring.
The first school he attended was Insimbiti Mission (Seventh-Day Adventist institution of primary school studies) in rural Insiza district.
He completed Standard six at Insimbiti.
After that he decided to proceed to Lower Gwelo Teacher Training Institute where he was trained as a primary school teacher in 1958.
Then he went to Bulawayo Technical College, where he completed ‘O’ Level Certificate in 1964.
Like everyone during these years of political upheaval, he became active in the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe and eventually crossed over to Zambia.
After assessment it was felt that his best contribution to our liberation would be through access to higher education.
People like the former mayor of Bulawayo Thaba Moyo were sent together with him to study in Czechoslovakia, where he completed the University Entrance Certificate in 1965, and chose to come back and be close to the struggle in Zambia.
He enrolled the University of Zambia and completed a bachelor of arts degree in history and political science in 1969.
Achieving all this was not enough for Matshazi and so he went on to do a post-graduate certificate in education in Zambia in 1970.
That was followed by studies in an area that he definitely fell in love with and chose to specialise in: Adult education.
He did post-graduate diploma in adult education at the University of London in 1976 and MA degree in education from the University of Hull, again in the United Kingdom in 1978.
After almost ten years of full time teaching, researching, facilitation and consulting, he eventually earned a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in education at the University of Zimbabwe in 1986.
Matshazi’s professional experience as an educator alone is too broad to include in detail in this article.
He taught at all levels of a learner’s educational developmental milestones from primary school, secondary school, professional training and university education during his illustrious career as an educator par excellence.
However, because of his love for people and what transforms communities, he came to apply all that he knew at the level of community adult education for development across many fields such as labour, health, agriculture, sociopolitical levels, province, district, wards and village developmental committees.
His work experience covered, the West Indies, the UK, US, Canada, Scandinavian countries, European countries, countries in the East, West, Central and Southern Africa, organs of the United Nations and the countries of the Commonwealth.
Matshazi authored 21 books, research reports which were peer-reviewed and have been referenced by other writings because of the respect given to his work.
He wrote 28 chapters in books in the areas of his expertise.
He authored 26 non-refereed reports and articles.
He was requested to review 26 books that were written by various authors across the breath and length of the African continent.
He was requested to work as a consultant on more than 20 occasions and given six outstanding awards for meritorious work. He held meritorious membership in 25 organisations, both local and international.
Without sounding in anyway boastful and pompous, Matshazi’s life as an educator and thinker par excellence stands unequalled in Zimbabwe.
There are very few educators who can be ranked higher than this man in our country.
He was the kind of person that other professionals would seek to equal and young people seek to emulate.
Matshazi, like the late pastor Matshazi his father, exuded a high level of social intelligence.
He knew minute historical social and family detail that he had heard in conversations with his late father and mother, he knew family trees and their intricate relationships, he valued people and worked hard to build people professionally and maintain family cohesiveness.
He was the glue that held the family together.
In terms of the community in general, Matshazi did not want to meet one and leave them without inspiring them to do better, to do more.
In cases where it was within his power to do something about an individual’s plight he made sure that he did something about it.
He was the second son of the late pastor J M Matshazi, who was one of the pioneering ministers of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia Matshazi, a professional in her own right, two sons Paternity Sam and Thulani Mtholi and three daughters Nozipho, Nonhlanhla and Nompilo.
These children gave him seven grandchildren.
All those who knew him will miss his quick wit, his grand intellectual prowess, his candour and of course his signature deep baritone voice, when he spoke, taught or shared from the deep treasures of his stores of knowledge across various fields.
This Ndebele idiom partly states the loss suffered by the world community in his death: Isitsha esidle asidleli! (The righteous ones do not live long among us).