‘Africa University is in good hands’

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Key points:

  • Over 3,000 guests on Oct. 22 witnessed the inauguration of the Rev. Peter Mageto as Africa University’s fifth vice chancellor, becoming the first non-Zimbabwean to hold the position since the institution was established in 1992.
  • In his inaugural address, Mageto said people invest in the hope that the evolving project will bear fruit.  
  • Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of East Ohio, who serves on the Africa University board of directors, called on the nine United Methodist bishops who attended the inauguration to stand as she delivered a message from the bishops.

Fireworks punctuated Africa University’s 30th anniversary celebration, accompanied by thunderous applause, whistling and traditional ululating by the women.

Over 3,000 guests gathered under a massive tent on Oct. 22 and witnessed the inauguration of the Rev. Peter Mageto as Africa University’s fifth vice chancellor, becoming the first non-Zimbabwean to hold the position since the institution was established in 1992.

“In my 38 years serving in higher institutions, I have never attended an inauguration like this,” said James H. Salley, Africa University associate vice chancellor.

The Africa University choir, directed by Tendekayi Kuture, mirrored the celebratory mood with songs that honored the institution’s forefathers, from the visionary Bishop Joseph Crane Hartzell to all bishops who were instrumental in realizing the dream, as well as chancellors and vice chancellors.

The installation of Mageto, a Kenyan, placed him at the helm of Zimbabwe’s first private university, an institution revered by United Methodists around the world.

In his inaugural address, he said people invest in the hope that the evolving project will bear fruit. He also paid tribute to the four vice chancellors who had gone before him.

“As I stand here before you, the height you see is not only my own. I am standing on the shoulders of giants who cleared the path I am about to humbly follow,” he said. 

“For this institution to be the beacon of pride and hope it is, it took the work of AU emeritus vice chancellors,” he said, referring to the late Rev. John Kurewa, the late Rukudzo Murapa, Fanuel Tagwira and the late Munashe Furusa.

“Today, Africa University turns 30. The number 30 is in itself a blessed figure. Thirty was the age of our Lord Jesus Christ when he commenced his ministry here on earth. It gives us great faith to be walking resolutely towards the fourth decade,” Mageto said.

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He thanked the United Methodist General Conference for approving the establishment of the university, and the Zimbabwe Annual Conference for donating 1,542 acres of land and pledging consistent financial support for the institution.

Mageto made special mention of people who had mentored him academically and in ministry saying they had prepared him for his role at the reins of Africa University.

“Thank you for shaping me into the servant leader because leadership requires an excellent knowledge on one’s subject combined with collective action and hard work for which there is simply no substitute, for everything rises and falls with leadership,” he said. 

“I am prepared to undertake my core responsibility as vice chancellor of Africa University which is — and has to be — to ensure that the university realizes its enduring values and fundamental principles in the most powerful and lasting way possible.”

Bishop Tracy Smith Malone of East Ohio, who serves on the Africa University board of directors, congratulated Mageto on behalf of Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, president of the Council of Bishops.

“As bishops of The United Methodist Church, we are extremely excited that a United Methodist will continue the tradition of providing leadership to our august institution of higher learning,” Malone said.

“What a joy it is to call Africa University the crown jewel of Methodist education in Africa.”

Malone called on the nine United Methodist bishops who attended the inauguration to stand as she delivered the message from the bishops.

“As deputy vice chancellor, Mageto demonstrated that he is rooted in the sure foundation which is Jesus Christ, and we believe he will provide effective leadership to the institution,” she said.

Dwaun J. Warmack, president and chief executive officer of Claflin University in South Carolina, which partners with Africa University in several areas, encouraged the new vice chancellor.

“The partnerships we create are intentional, strategic and meaningful as we transform the world,” he said.

“This is an extremely rewarding position, but an extremely lonely position; everyone knows what you should be doing and how you should be doing it,” said Warmack.

“You should lead with integrity, lead with passion and lead with compassion. You must remain student-centered and student-focused,” he said.

Tagwira, Africa University’s third vice chancellor (2008-2014), spoke on behalf of the Zimbabwe government’s Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, where he is now serving.

“Indeed, God’s hand is in this place. From the beginning when Africa University started, we have seen the hand of God,” said Tagwira, who spent over 20 years at the institution.

“In the time I have known Mageto, I have found him to be a man with a different spirit. I have found him to be a scholar, a good higher education administrator, a man who cares.  I have no doubt Africa University is in good hands,” he said.

“This institution is the best example of private higher education, not just in Zimbabwe but on the continent. This is the best,” Tagwira said.

Bishop Mande Muyombo of the North Katanga Area and chair of Africa University’s board of directors, said it had been a long journey to find the right leader who would move the university to the next level.

“I am excited the church is here, society is here, our bishops are here. You have the full support of the board,” Mande said to Mageto.

Quinton Kanhukamwe welcomed Mageto to the Zimbabwe Universities Vice Chancellors Association and commended Africa University for its efforts in tuberculosis research.

“Your leadership is already visible as you aggressively continue to put in place action plans and deliver products that our nation is benefiting from,” he said.

Quoting from Proverbs 4:7, he said wisdom is key to Mageto’s new position.

“The ultimate aim of our association is to bring together our collective experience and build a higher education brand that can contribute positively to the rapid modernization and industrialization of our continent,” Kanhukamwe said.

“I believe the university’s humble beginnings and God’s blessings upon it can be the only logical explanation why it is growing in leaps and bounds.”

Kuzvinetsa Dzvimbo of the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education, the regulatory authority that approves academic programs and ensures standards are maintained, said he looks forward to Africa University introducing medicine and engineering degrees.

“Mageto has shown he is able to transform this institution into an entrepreneurial, innovative and world-class university producing graduates critical for the development of Zimbabwe and Africa,” he said.

“The new vice chancellor must ensure that Africa University must not lose its moral compass. I am glad this place has a religious ethic.” 

Mageto joined Africa University in September 2018 as deputy vice chancellor and had been acting vice chancellor since January 2021. 

He holds two degrees from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois: a Doctor of Philosophy in theological ethics and a Master of Theological Studies. He earned a postgraduate certificate in African studies at Northwestern University, Chicago, and his Bachelor of Divinity degree was awarded by St. Paul’s United Theological College in Kenya.

Mageto is married to Irene, a forensic nurse scientist, and they have a son, Teddy, an aerospace engineer, and a daughter, Chrystal, a music therapist.

Chikwanah is a communicator of the Zimbabwe East Conference.

News media contact: Julie Dwyer, news editor, [email protected] or 615-742-5469. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests

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