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Bishop Yemba named chancellor for Africa University

Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo (left) congratulates Bishop David K. Yemba as the newly elected chancellor and chairman of the board of directors of United
Methodist-related Africa University. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.

By Andra Stevens*
Dec. 19, 2008 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

United Methodist Bishop David Kekumba Yemba, a founding member of Africa University’s department of theology, is the school's new chancellor and chairman of its board of directors.

Yemba was named Dec. 6 to help lead the United Methodist-related school in Zimbabwe, effective immediately. He will remain bishop of the church's Central Congo Area.

Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo, the outgoing chancellor and board chairman, described Yemba's election as an "important and strategic decision" that comes at a defining moment in the university’s history.

"In these difficult times for Zimbabwe and for institutions that are operating there, we have in Bishop Yemba someone who understands and believes in Africa University," said Ntambo, bishop of the North Katanga Area of the Democratic Republic of Congo. "He is returning to lead an institution that he was intimately involved with from the beginning and his passion for its development and future is evident."

In addition, Yemba was elected a vice president of the All Africa Conference of Churches during its Dec. 7-12 general assembly in Maputo, Mozambique. He and four other regional vice presidents will assist Archbishop Valentine Mokiwa, the conference’s new president and the fifth Primate of the Anglican Church of Tanzania.

The bishop’s association with Africa University began in 1991 as the founding dean of the faculty of theology. He was the institution’s first international staff member and served the faculty for more than 13 years. Yemba resigned from the university following his election as a United Methodist bishop in 2005.

"My primary objective in this new role is to continue to work for excellence in all facets of university life, taking into consideration the economic environment," Yemba said. "Africa University is on track. It has been in good hands with the church, the board and the staff, and this is giving me confidence as I look at where the university stands right now and what it needs to move forward in its ministry."

Leadership transition

Yemba’s election as chancellor is part of a leadership transition that began in December 2007 with the departure of the university’s second vice chancellor, Rukudzo Murapa, and Ntambo’s announcement of his desire to place the university’s top job into new hands. A 12-person search committee worked with Washington D.C.-based Academic Search Inc. to screen and recommend candidates for both posts.

While the search for a new vice chancellor continues, the board was unanimous in its choice of Yemba as chancellor.

"As interim vice chancellor, I am grateful to the board members for their wisdom in choosing Bishop Yemba," said Fanuel Tagwira. "His election as the new chancellor is a proud moment for Africa University. … He will certainly add value to the university as it moves into its next phase."

“My primary objective in this new role is to continue to work for excellence in all facets of university life, taking into consideration the economic environment.”
–Bishop David Kekumba Yemba

Yemba begins his new job at a time when Africa University is operating under intense pressure due to socio-economic turmoil in Zimbabwe. In response to these challenges, the school is taking extraordinary steps to ensure its fiscal health and sustainability.

At its Dec. 3-6 meeting, the board approved new measures aimed at retaining faculty and other staff and maintaining the quality of its service delivery.

"I have never been more hopeful for Africa University, even in the midst of this terribly deficient economic situation," said the Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, which oversees the university.

"We have been blessed with a new chancellor who already understands the challenges of the Zimbabwean context and the utter necessity of the university going from strength to strength, even in this time of adversity," Del Pino said.

As the chief administrator of the United Methodist Church in Central Congo, an area that encompasses six annual conferences, Yemba brings significant experience to his new role.

A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemba began his professional life and ministry in 1970 as chaplain of the United Methodist secondary school at Katubwe in Kasai Province.

He joined academia in 1972 and served in numerous capacities at higher education institutions in the Congo, attaining a professorship with the Protestant University of the Congo in 1990. Yemba later became head of that university—a role he served in until appointed dean of the faculty of theology at Africa University in 1991.

Yemba and his wife, Henriette, have five children and four grandchildren.

*Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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