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Zimbabwe Public Service Minister Mukonoweshuro Dies in South African Hospital

Former University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Gordon Chavunduka said Zimbabwe has lost a serious and hardworking individual who was dedicated to his work as an academic and a committed government minister

Zimbabwean Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai died Friday in a South African hospital where he was being treated for cancer. He was 58.

Family spokesman Siyaniso Mukonoweshuro, his brother, said the minister and senior MDC official died at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg of heart complications.

He said the minister had been bed-ridden at the hospital since last month after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The minister's remains were being repatriated, he said.

Science and Technology Minister Heneri Dzinotyiwei said he was saddened by the death of Mukonoweshuro. He said the MDC and the country had lost an intellectual resource.

Formerly dean of social studies at the University of Zimbabwe, Mukonoweshuro joined the MDC at its formation in 1999, serving as its secretary for international relations.

He was elected in 2008 to represent the constituency of Gutu South, Masvingo province, in the House of Assembly, and was appointed minister of public service in February 2009 following the formation of the national unity government in which the Tsvangirai MDC and another MDC wing have uneasily shared power with ZANU-PF.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai sent a message of condolence to the Mukonoweshuro family and the nation upon the minister's death.

Mr. Tsvangirai called Mukonoweshuro a national hero and described him as a dedicated public servant who worked tirelessly to increase the compensation of state workers.

"I commiserate with the Mukonoweshuro family," Mr. Tsvangirai said. "They must derive comfort in that it is not only the family, but the country at large and the government of Zimbabwe that have lost a valiant son of the soil and a national hero."

The Welshman Ncube formation of the MDC also issued a message of condolence, saying Mukonoweshuro died in the midst of working to help civil servants.

Party spokesman Nhlanhla Dube told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that the late minister contributed immensely to the struggle for the full democratization of Zimbabwe.

Former University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Gordon Chavunduka, commenting on the death of his close friend, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Violet Gonda that Zimbabwe has lost a serious and hardworking individual who was dedicated to his work as an academic and a committed government minister.

Professor Mukonoweshuro is survived by his wife and son.

Mourners were gathered at 11 Woodgate Road in Mount Pleasant.