Prof Muwati dies mysteriously, buried hastily by ‘strangers’ at church shrine
ACCOMPLISHED Zimbabwean academic and former Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Professor Itai Muwati has died mysteriously while attending prayer sessions at an apostolic shrine in the outskirts of Harare.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) apparently suspects foul play as his body was buried on the same day without notifying his relatives or the police.
An accomplished full Professor with vast teaching, research and administrative experience, Professor Muwati was 45 years old.
Professor Muwati joined the University of Zimbabwe in 2001 as a teaching assistant, rising throug the ranks to end up as Dean of a Faculty and member of various college committees.
Buried hastily by ‘strangers’ with no family present
Police say he died on Monday and his church members buried him “a few hours later”, on the same day.
On Friday, police exhumed his body as investigations into his death began. However, the same church members are said to have evaded both police and the deceased’s family. Relatives who were present at the exhumation say his clothes had blood stains, contrary to claim by a church member that Muwati succumbed to a headache.
While severals leads into Professor Muwati’s mysterious death hit dead ends, an unidentified brother to the deceased told The Herald newspaper that his late brother’s church colleagues acted suspiciously when they conducted the burial without alerting the family.
“His church members know me and other siblings of the deceased. It is strange that they proceeded to bury him a few hours after his death, without a burial order and without even alerting us as his family,” said the grieving man.
‘Professor Muwati had withdrawn from friends and colleagues’
Effort to get details of Professor Muwati’s death repeatedly drew blanks, with some of his former colleagues separately indicating that he had withdrawn himself from friends and colleagues.
According to a colleague he also reportedly shut down his social media accounts and maintained little contact with even those who were close to him.
The deceased had also separated from his wife, Eurita Tahwa, who also suspects foul play. Tahwa, who witnessed the exhumation by police, claimed she saw some blood stains on her ex-husband’s clothes.
“What I have seen during the exhumation showed that he was beaten or something very bad happened to him,” she said, adding that police must leave no stone unturned to ensure that justice is done.
According to Tahwa, an unnamed member of Professor Muwati’s apostolic sect divulged that he died after a suffering a severe headache.
He stood his ground on matters of principle
Records retrieved by Scholarly Africa show that Professor Muwati was in the employ of the UZ as recently as late 2020, before he literally “went underground”, according to a former colleague.
The UZ employee spoke to Scholarly Africa on condition her that her identity is not divulged as she had no clearance from both the Muwati family and the investigating authorities.
It was not immediately clear where he was now working or if at all he was. A former of Professor Muwati’s at at the University of Zimbabwe, Professor Innocent Chirisa, expressed shock at the death.
Professor Chirisa, who is the Dean of the Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the UZ, said Professor Muwati was a brother and leader who stood his ground on issues he held dear.
Apart from previously working together at the UZ, Professors Chirisa and Muwati were in the same A Level class at Harare High in the late 1990s.
“After we both had PhD (degrees) and were University Professors, we were to work side by side as Deans of Faculties, sometimes processing results, or in the Senate or Academic Committee meetings,” Professor Chirisa wrote on social media.
He recalled that after Professor Muwati’s tenure as Dean expired, he flatly declined to consider another term.
“I never heard from or saw him again, only to hear four days ago that he had passed on so tragically.”
Professor Muwati, an accomplished pan-African academic
A pan-African academic, Professor Muwati contributed to national issues through public debates as well as articles and interviews in the national press.
As Arts Dean, Professor Itai Muwati campaigned vigorously for the University of Zimbabwe to be granted a Campus Radio licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe as the UZ sought a Community Radio licence.
As head of the African Languages Literatures Department at the University of Zimbabwe, Professor Muwati led a collaborative teaching and research exercise between the University of Cape Town and the UZ.
After finishing his A Level studies at Harare High, Muwati read Bachelor of Arts Honours degree at the UZ. He followed that with a Master of Arts degrees from the same university, and a Doctor of Literature and Philosophy from the University of South Africa.
Professor Muwati joined the University of Zimbabwe as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in 2001. In 2007, he was appointed as a permanent lecturer. He became Senior lecturer in 2010.
Prior to the new appointment as Dean of the Faculty of Arts in 2016, he served six years as Chairman of the Department of African Languages and Literature. He also served a member of various University of Zimbabwe committees including serving on the Research Board in 2014.
Professor Muwati was also at some time a member of various Editorial Boards of journals based in the US and South Africa.
While affiliated to the UZ, Professor Muwati presented a number of academic papers within and outside Zimbabwe, with his areas of research interest being African cultural studies, Shona/African literature, comparative studies, African literary theory, gender studies, the Afrocentric views on HIV/AIDS, among other issues.
Meanwhile, police spokesperson Paul Nyathi urged members of the public to inform police when mysterious deaths occur, adding that burials must be done according to due process.
Indications are that once police investigations are complete, Professor Muwati’s body will be taken for burial at his rural home in Mhondoro, Mashonaland West Province.
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