Obituary,Vusumuzi Dube Online News Editor
“VUSA, these days I dread Sunday mornings because my family has to read everything you write about me and the Bulawayo City Council but Sunday News remains my favourite publication because it keeps us on our toes and I never miss a single copy.”
These were the words said by the late Bulawayo City Council (BCC) Director of Engineering Services, Engineer Simela Dube — whose trademark smile was but almost contagious — as I made an enquiry about a story or two, I would have picked from my many council sources.
Every time, he would cut me short, before I even finished my enquiry, with a chuckle and a short phrase; “Ngubani osekutshele leyo Dube (Who has leaked this one Dube),” before giving me a detailed response to the enquiry.
Even at times when the local authority’s corporate communications department was giving me no joy and my deadline was upon me, a quick phone call to Eng Dube would make my job much easier.
This was the man the late engineer was, always willing to give clarity on the functioning of his department, which among other things, dealt with water, sewer and roads, by far the engine room of the local authority.
As a Municipal Reporter, for a number of years, I have created a lot of sources within the council corridors and unfortunately, at the same time, I have also created a lot of enemies, because of my stories, some of which expose officials.
Some council officials, actually cringe whenever I meet them in the streets of Bulawayo, calling me all sorts of not-so-kind names — which is expected with this noble profession.
However, for the late Eng Dube, he took every article about council in the paper, as one that seeks to correct and guide the operations of the local authority keeping them in check as provided for in the watchdog role of the media.
In all the council functions I attended, he was the only council director to go out of his way, to seek me out and we interact even if it was for a couple of minutes.
He was one of the few who would gladly answer my probing calls on Saturday afternoon and where he couldn’t respond to an enquiry, he would direct me to the rightful person albeit after giving me a few guiding information.
The news of Eng Dube’s passing got to me on Thursday morning as I relaxed at home going through the latest online headline news, being on my annual leave.
I immediately felt it was not going to be fair on myself and the late engineer, not to honour him with an obituary spelling out the relationship I had with this man of the people.
Over the years a lot of corruption allegations have been levelled against him but to show the professionalism which he personified, never at one point were all the allegations proven.
In fact, over the years, the engineering services department, under Eng Dube’s stewardship, has had the highest number of corruption allegations levelled against them, with even the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works sending a number of commissions of enquiry, but not even once was the department found in the wrong.
So above board was the manner in which Eng Dube ran his department that it single-handedly led the city to be termed the best-run local authority in the country, among the many accolades the city has received over the years.
Information was always at his fingertips, he would passionately speak of the city’s water reticulation system with ease, spelling out where they were coming from, where they were and where they were headed as a city.
Sometime, around 2010-2011, councillors devised a devious plan to ‘‘ambush’’ him during a full council meeting, by declaring a council in-committee session, which required council officials to respond to councillors’ enquiries with the public in attendance.
Eng Dube took a question on the water situation on the stride, spelling out facts that left the public gallery in awe and councillors with egg on face as the ambushing tactics failed to yield whatever outcome they aimed at achieving.
This is the man who came up with the famous, award-winning, Big Flush, at the height of the city’s water woes, this is the man who was at the centre of things working on various water and sewer projects in the city, under the Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (BWSSIP).
He is also the man who spearheaded the establishment of the first-ever call centre within a local authority, another award winning concept.
As if his achievements were not enough, Eng Dube led the development of the first Water and Waste Water Master plan in the country, and the setting up of the City of Bulawayo Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and the development of the City of Bulawayo Road Condition Survey, among his many accomplishments.
This is the man who endured all sorts of insults from residents, when the city’s water crisis was at its worst, with the local authority having been forced to effect a 144-hour water shedding schedule, instead he remained resolute and forward-looking, striving to identify a solution to the perennial water woes.
This is a man who left South Africa to come and toil for the local authority as the director of engineering services at a time when most engineers in the country were leaving the country for greener pastures.
I am sure, with his long curriculum vitae and his achievements in the city, over the years, he had received a lot of offers to leave the country but due to his love for the City of Kings he remained resolute, not even twitching, knowing that he had to complete the journey he had started.
However, as Bulawayo Mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni put it, in an interview with Sunday News, despite his steadfast dedication to the city, Eng Dube was not a happy man considering that in most instances he had to be on the defensive.
“He (Eng Dube) died a sad man, because despite giving it all to serve his city, including leaving a lucrative job in South Africa as project manager for the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), he was never appreciated by the people he was serving
“I say this authoritatively, because when I was sworn in and when I took office, some residents groups were calling in, writing letters and putting pressure that I should deal with alleged pending cases of Eng Simela Dube, which alleged cases I later found out that they had either been dealt with by the council or prosecution had been declined for lack of evidence before courts of law,” said the mayor.
To show his dedication and love for the City of Bulawayo, Eng Dube’s run with the local authority as the engineering services director, was his fourth dance after having previously been a bursary student engineer under BCC’s bursary scheme (1984-1987), he was then appointed a junior engineer in October 1988, rising through the ranks to the position of construction engineer mainly involved in road construction and storm water drainage systems.
He joined the City of Kwekwe in March 1992 where he held the position of director of works after being promoted from the position of Assistant Director in the Engineering Services Department from March 1992 to 4 April 1995.
He rejoined the City of Bulawayo as Assistant Director of Engineering Services (Roads) in 1995 to 2008 where he also acted as a Deputy Director of Engineering Services (Water) from 2005 to 2008.
In 2009-2010, he worked as Project Manager responsible for capacity building of low capacity Municipalities with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
He was appointed as Director of Engineering Services for the City of Bulawayo from 1 July 2010 to date, a position he held until his untimely death.
Eng Dube is survived by his wife, Mrs Nobuhle Dube (nee Msema) and three children (Mbongiseni Bhekokuhle, Lubalethu Elynah and Mluleki Tumelo), mourners are gathered at Number 11 McCullough Road, Matsheumhlophe, Bulawayo.
As we say fare thee well to Eng Dube we say, Lala ngoxolo Dube, phumula Mthembo, uwuhambile umango wakho Mvelase, your works speak for themselves Qhawe lamaqhawe.