BULAWAYO – Gilbert Mzenzi Mabasa, principal of Bulawayo Polytechnic, has succumbed to Covid-19, colleagues have said.
The 65-year-old – popularly known as The Teacher – died on Friday night at Ekusileni Hospital in Bulawayo after battling the virus since August 6.
“He was a great leader and an inspiration to many. It is truly terrible news for all who knew him, and his loss is felt most strongly by those of us who worked with him,” said a Bulawayo Polytechnic professor, asking not to be named as he was not cleared to speak to the media.
In an Aug. 15 memo to staff and students, Mabasa said he tested positive for the virus on Aug. 6 and was hospitalized for treatment.
“I am safe in God’s providence and grateful for the incredible medical teams dedicated to serving on the front lines. Covid-19 is real and respects no one. However, God is also God and in control,” Mabasa wrote.
He asked his colleagues and students “not to ask me how I feel or any other question that would only sap the energy of my body, mind and spirit”, adding: “Those who are so prone, I suppose.” your prayers. We will be together again after winning this fight too. Thank you for respecting my need for isolation and rest. I don’t take calls or visits. You can intercede for me in groups or in your hearts, but spare me the inbox messages. I teach for life and not for discussion. I love you all.”
Mabasa – who served as the polytechnic’s principal for 17 years – was a popular figure at meetings and even on flights.
He claimed to be able to interpret names and entertained with his wit and sharp turn of phrase. He was also a part-time preacher and motivational speaker.
On one occasion, a parent took Mabasa to social media for advice after his child failed a polytechnic entrance exam “despite having good passports”.
Mabasa replied: “Good passes at one level reflect performance at that level and are not prophetic of what will happen at the next level. Tell him to go to another place. Every setback prepares us for a comeback. Every rejection we receive brings us closer to the acceptance we seek. He didn’t fail, he just postponed success. I wish him the best.”
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