Zimbabwe chess takes hit after Kuwaza’s death

Charles Kuwaza

On April 18th, Charles Tawonerera Kuwaza fell to his death from the 9th-story of the Club Chambers building on the corner of 3rd Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue. The question of Kuwaza’s tragic death has been whether it was a suicide (as initially reported) or whether he was assassinated and pushed from the 9th floor. A police investigation was completed about 10 days ago.

Bystanders recalled hearing a “sickening thud” and seeing Kuwaza lying near the curb. Apparently, there were no screams before impact. Paramedics arrived on the scene but were unable to revive him. Preliminary reports of a suicide were brought into question. Many reports suspect foul play since Kuwaza was embroiled in a corruption case and was poised to unveil potentially damaging details in his pending trial.

Kuwaza was a catalyst for Zimbabwean chess for many years and had served as the country’s Federation President. Given his position in the government, he often wielded influence that was able to bring positive attention to the game. Kuwaza was captain of the 2002 Olympiad Team when International Master Robert Gwaze scored 9/9 for a gold medal. Kuwaza was a chess pioneer and had held various leadership positions for more than 30 years.

Zimbabwe's Men’s Team (front, from left to right) IM Robert Gwaze (Bd. 1), Takaedza Chipanga (Bd. 2), Michael Luberto (Bd. 3) and Charles Chakanyuka (Bd. 4); from left to right (in the rear), Wisdom Chikwanda (Bd. 5), Rangariral Karumazondo (Bd. 6) and Charles Kuwaza, (captain). Copyright © Jerry Bibuld, 2002.

Zimbabwe’s Men’s Team (front, from left to right) IM Robert Gwaze (Bd. 1), Takaedza Chipanga (Bd. 2), Michael Luberto (Bd. 3) and Charles Chakanyuka (Bd. 4); from left to right (in the rear), Wisdom Chikwanda (Bd. 5), Rangariral Karumazondo (Bd. 6) and Charles Kuwaza, (captain). Copyright © Jerry Bibuld, 2002.

Professionally, Kuwaza recently served in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) as SPB executive chairman from September 1, 2001 to November 27, 2015. He ran into a bit of trouble after he was brought up on charges of contempt. In 2016, he was forced on leave after refusing to cooperate with an ongoing tax investigation. In March 2017, he was indicted on five counts of corruption involving ZW$2.5billion (US$1million) in tax arrears. Since March 24th of this year, he was free on bail at the time of his death.

About 11 am on April 18th, Kuwaza visited the office to collect documents for his court appearance on May 18th. His wife waited in the vehicle downstairs with the engine running, but after 40 minutes went to check on her husband. There were public cries that a man had committed suicide. Alarmed, she rushed to the location and saw her husband’s body on the street. Stricken with grief, she confirmed that the man was indeed her husband. Recent reports stated that the police had completed the investigation and that the results of the autopsy had not been made public. According to a June 12th article in Zimbabwe’s NewsDay, Kuwaza’s lawyer asserted,

The autopsy report is ready and is now part of the docket; thus, I cannot comment on it. We wait to hear the consideration of the magistrate on whether an inquest would be held,” Chisoko added. Foul play has been suspected.

Kuwaza was laid to rest on April 21st at Glen Forest Memorial Park.

Officials from Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Algeria, Malawi, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Namibia at the 2014 FIDE General Assembly in Tromso, Norway. Kuwaza standing second from the right. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz with Charles Kuwaza of Zimbabwe
at FIDE General Assembly in Tromso, Norway
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz

Dr. Daaim Shabazz is the creator and webmaster of The Chess Drum. He serves as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds an MBA in Marketing and a doctorate in International Affairs & Development. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

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