He was never a mainstream thinker because he thought outside the box all the time, appearing as if he was a rebel in the Zapu leadership setup. In many ways he was controversial because he was an independent thinker, never acting and reacting collective in most cases.
Ubuntu will inform that in the event of death, it is time we appreciate the good things that Callistus Ndlovu did for the people of Zimbabwe, me included.
This obituary will be personal and not political so that I am not in collusion with facts about Prof Ndlovu’s political developments after independence.
I was introduced to him by Colonel Tshinga Dube. I had known these political giants from the days of the struggle for independence in Zambia, to be precise, at Zimbabwe House in Lusaka in the 1970s. Callistus represented Zapu in USA and was their spokesperson at the United Nations. Colonel Dube was and still is the brother who collected me at the airport on the 17th of June 1982. He bought a ticket at the Harare Airport for me to proceed to Bulawayo immediately. I had come from East Germany to Zimbabwe for my mother, Mrs Sihwa’s funeral.
But this time around it was in September 1984 and had just completed my engineering degree in metallurgy: “Ndlovu, meet Nomazulu umtaka masalu uMrs Sihwa, she was a student in East Germany and has finished her degree in engineering metallurgy,” said Colonel Dube.
Prof Ndlovu was Minister of Mines then, he immediately took great interest in my future; Zimbabwe needed many engineers then. It was in his office that I told him about my wish to do a master’s degree in metallurgical engineering in West Berlin; I had been offered a place already. He insisted that I go to Zisco Steel and meet Dr Kuhn because he was looking for engineers in different departments at Zisco.
An interview was conducted in the German language because Dr Kuhn was from Austria and during the interview Minister Ndlovu telephoned him to find out if I had met Dr Kuhn’s expectations! He laughed jovially.
German academic material like myself, fresh from college could never fail an interview! I can’t be modest about my ability to work as a production engineer. I went back to Harare and still insisted that I needed to do my master’s degree. I had a letter of admission from the Technical University of Berlin.
“Well it’s up to you; how else can I assist you then?” asked Minister Callistus Ndlovu.
It was indeed surprising how my mother’s influence played a role among most Zapu leaders back then despite the fact that she had passed on two years earlier in 1982. My mother was well respected among the Zapu leaders. The fact that I was the Mrs Louisa Sihwa’s daughter opened doors to so many privileges and I was aware of this. Without mincing my words I told Minister Ndlovu that I wanted a student visa for West Berlin in order pursue my graduate studies. He listened. The next thing that he did was to contact the German Embassy on my behalf and I was granted a visa within a week. I had all the necessary paperwork, qualifications and documents to get the visa in time to pursue my graduate studies in West Berlin.
Prof Ndlovu gave me ilifa/nhaka for a lifetime. In this case he facilitated education for a girl-child. I can sincerely say that in all honesty that it is his intervention that gave me the academic accolades I proudly hold today. I cannot be modest. I hold two master’s degrees, a teaching certificate, PGCE and am dangling a Dr Engineer certificate on top; thanks to Prof Callistus Ndlovu, eNdlovu. It is in this vein that I will not mourn his passing on but celebrate that. I am convinced that he assisted several other young men and women who needed his assistance like was in my case back then.
Prof Ndlovu realised the need to educate girl-children and women before we even started talking about girl-child empowerment, a post modern terminology. His passing on gives me the opportunity once more to convey my gratitude to him for all that he did for me to advance my academic career, the one and only opportunity I maximally used.
Again, I am pleased that I was able to thank him in person while he was still alive. His legacy to me is as evident in my life today as it was yesteryear.
With this academic knowledge that I acquired with his assistance, how much will I be able to assist other people in the same way that Prof Callistus Ndlovu did for other young people? That is the big question.
Do I fit in those shoes? It is not about giving a man fish to eat in one day but it is about teaching him how to fish in order to sustain himself for a lifetime. Is that not giving someone ilifa/nhaka of a lifetime?
He was indeed a man full of empathy towards others and this was not noticeable at first until one interacted with him directly. I hasten to say that there was this “father-daughter relationship,” I called him baba all the time because he assumed the role of father and mentor in some instances, he felt I needed that auxiliam.
Despite all his fallibilities because he was human, Callistus was a great man, an academic par excellence, a mentor to many including me. He leaves a legacyfor many that we shall cherish. The sterling contribution that he made during the liberation struggle and after independence, nobody can take that away from him, even in death. May your soul rest in peace. Thank you for all that you did for me Mfoka Ndlovu.