Zimbabwe’s First Black Architect Only Lived To 46, But Contributed Greatly To Our Country…

Zimbabwe’s first black architect, Vernon Mwamuka stands out as one of the foremost and most prominent architects Zimbabwe ever produced.

To his credit he has a vast number of architectural works in his portfolio, that to this day have left a unique aesthetic impact to the Harare CBD skyline, Bulawayo as well as and a number of leafy suburbs around the country.

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His works include the design of Construction House, Old Mutual Centre, Southampton Life Centre (now ZB Life Towers), Kopje Plaza, the Four Ways Mall in Johannesburg and more recently Joina City. Other significant projects that he has contributed to include Africa University (Mutare), the National University of Science and Technology (Bulawayo), Harare Domestic Airport and Bulawayo International Airport.

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Born Vernon Benele Mwamuka on January 12, 1955, at Bonda Mission he attended his primary education at Vengere Primary School in Rusape. He did his secondary education at St Augustine’s Mission, Penhalonga coming out with flying colours at A’ levels – 3’A’s and a ‘B’ in maths, physics, biology and chemistry, going on to enroll briefly at the University of Zimbabwe in 1975 but left by September of that year, after getting a scholarship to study architecture at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He completed his studies in 1978 and proceeded to do a post graduate diploma in architecture in London.

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On completing his diploma, Mwamuka left for the United States where he worked for DBTM, an architectural firm, for two years before the lure of an independent Zimbabwe would summon him. Returning home, he joined the Ministry of Construction and later joined an architectural firm, Harvey Buffet, rising to become a senior partner, the firm changed its name to Harvey Buffet Mwamuka Mercuri in his honour.

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The early 1990s saw him broke away with one of his senior partners – Eugene Mercuri (an Italian born notional), forming Mwamuka Mercuri and Associate Architects using the family Datsun Pulsar to get around.

On seeing that black architects trained outside of Zimbabwe found it difficult to get local employ because local firms were white dominated he pushed for more blacks to get into the profession. He went as far as paying fees for students to study architecture overseas so as to drive this agenda.

Having a passionate for his country that was inexplicable, he was very generous in everything he did. Being owed millions of dollars, he was driven by an unmatched work ethic that to this day his family marvels at.

Friends in the engineering and business fraternity speak of Mwamuka being humble, a true and principled professional and a gifted and man of exceptional talent. They say he was a charismatic personality who paid extreme detail to his work and who apart from pressure of work managed to touch the hearts and lives of others who needed assistance.

(with information from 100 Greatest Zimbabweans)