The Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe learned with deep shock, a sense of loss and sadness about the untimely death of a great visionary, a local democracy icon, a civic leader par excellence, Ald Lawrence Dambudzo Mudehwe.
Ald Mudehwe, who passed on on 10 August 2022, was born in 1933 in Mutare, Ald Mudehwe did his early education at Mukandi Stapleford Primary school where he completed standard one. For standard two and three, he went to Makuvaza before moving to Saint Mathias Tsonzo for standard four. He then attended Saint Augustine for standard five and six.
Between 1953 and 1954, Ald Mudehwe trained as a teacher. He later taught at several schools in Manicaland Province before serving as headmaster at St Barnabas and Bwaze schools in 1963. Ald Mudehwe left teaching and worked at Dairibord as Personnel Manager before retiring.
Before independence, Ald Mudehwe had worked as a librarian at Sakubva Library from 1971 to 1978. He quit the job to help in the liberation war effort in Manicaland province.
After independence in 1980, Ald Mudehwe joined council as the Superintendent for Sakubva and later Sakubva and Dangamvura. In 1984 he was petitioned by the residents of Mutare to contest for the office of councilor which he did and won as ward 15 councilor. He was also elected the Mayor of the city.
Mudehwe is credited for initiating the Pungwe Water Project that was engineered by a Swedish company, Skanska. The project saw the city drawing water from the perennial Pungwe River.
In 1986, Ald Mudehwe was elected the First Vice President of UCAZ, a position he held for two years. When the government introduced the executive mayoral position in 1995, doing away with the ceremonial one, Ald Mudehwe became the first Executive Mayor of Mutare in 1996. He was re-elected Executive Mayor in the 1999 harmonized elections, a position he held until 2003.
His immense contributions to local governance issues earned him admiration from his peers. In recognition of his leadership skills, Ald Mudehwe went on to be elected as First Vice President of UCAZ in 2003 by his fellow mayors.
When UCAZ was registered as Trust in 2000, Ald Mudehwe was one of the first Trustees of the Association.
“Ald Lawrence Dambudzo Mudehwe belonged to a crop of courageous, selfless and ethical local governance politicians who represented their people fearlessly, protecting urban local authorities’ interests with distinction and honor,” said Cllr Abel Matsika, the UCAZ President.
“We remember reading about him in the newspapers during the 1990s, refusing to have a luxurious vehicle bought for him as one of the benefits associated with the Executive Mayor’s position. He also resisted the allure of flashy life in the leafy and quiet low-density suburbs, opting instead, to stay in the high-density suburb of Sakubva where his home was and where the majority of his followers lived. He reasoned that by going to live far from the residents, he would not be accessible to them. He was a rare breed of a leader. Fare-thee-well Alderman, a life well lived. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace,” said Cllr Matsika.