DR ELISHA MUTASA (1925-1970)

1969 Vice-President, NPU

Elisha Mutasa was born in 1925 in the Eastern Districts of Rhodesia. He was the son of Chief Mutasa1. He attended Healdtown School in the Cape Province of South e_mutasaAfrica and gained his junior Certificate in 1940. He trained as a teacher at the same school and then returned to Rhodesia as a member of the staff at Waddilove (where one of his pupils was Nathan Shamuyarira). From there he went to Watsomba Mission School where he served, first as an assistant master and subsequently as Headmaster. His work was so successful that the United Methodist Church awarded him a scholarship in 1949 to study medicine in the USA.

It was here that his lack of a full secondary education revealed itself. For three years in succession he failed his first year examinations, a record which began to convince him that the authorities were prejudiced against him. However, the Church reached the conclusion that American teaching methods were unsuited to one who had been reared in a British environment and they sent him to a Canadian university. Here he did better, with the result that he gained a place at Edinburgh University. He qualified as a doctor in 1959.

During his long absence overseas he had managed to create in the minds of some Africans in Rhodesia (particularly members of the United Methodist Church) the belief that he was the ‘saviour’ who would return to lead them to ‘salvation’.2 His actual return was something of a fiasco because changes in his travel plans led to many Africans turning up at Salisbury (Harare) Airport on a fruitless quest. In any case, his following proved to be very meagre and such plans as he may have had to build a nation-wide following quickly died away.

In 1960 he went to work at the Methodist Mission Hospital, Hartzell, Old Umtali (Mutare). When the NPU3“ was formed in 1969, he campaigned for the position of President but was defeated by Dr Gordon Chavunduka. He accepted the consolation position of Vice-President but played only a small role in the year left to him before his death from a heart attack in 1970.

Elisha Mutasa was a man of great ambition but he lacked the ability to build up a following outside the relatively limited confines of his church. He married Miss Olive Lyken, from British Guiana, in London on 7 February 1959. The couple were subsequently divorced and Dr Mutasa married Miss Adrienne Davey in England in 1963. There were four children from the marriage, Rinda, Tsara, Chandisaita and Tumai.

1 His forebear signed the famous treaty with the British South Africa Company on 12 September 1890.
2 It is interesting to compare this phenomenon with the case of Dr Hastings Banda who returned to Nyasaland (at much the same time) as the man who would ‘save’ his people from the Federation.
3 See entry on Dr Gordon Chavunduka.