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Shakespeare Maya Profile - 2002-02-22

Dr. Shakespeare Maya is the candidate for the opposition National Alliance for Good Governance. He is one of four challenging incumbent President Robert Mugabe. Dr. Maya is also a leading expert on climate change policy issues.

Dr. Maya was born on February 23rd, 1954, in Chegutu, about 100 kilometers from the capital Harare. He started his primary education at Mkwasha Primary School in Chegutu. He went to a high school that at the time was outside of the mainstream academic curriculum. In early 1977, Dr. Maya went to Botswana to work as a teacher for refugees in Southern Africa. In 1978, he got a scholarship through the US Agency for International Development to pursue higher education at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Upon completion two years later, he headed to the University of Wisconsin and graduated with a Masters Degree in Energy Analysis and Policy. Four years later, Dr. Maya got his Ph.D. in Land Resources. At the end of his post-graduate program he returned to Zimbabwe.

Dr. Maya told VOA "I enjoyed my time in the States, but those days there was a major commitment to come and work in Zimbabwe to contribute. Just after my masters, I could have joined the young professionals’ program at the World Bank, where I had done some summer school time there."

Even with an academic background in Land Resources, Dr. Maya had a political dream. "I have always been in politics. When I was still in school, in fact, 1975/76, I was already district financial administrator for the United African National Congress – I was very young then. And when you’re a refugee in those days – Zimbabwe was not yet independent – so everybody was involved in politics one way or the other, so it’s not a late motivation so to speak."

Dr. Maya says his current motivation comes from the fact that Zimbabwe has gone through a lot politically and economically. Zimbabwe was a British colony from the late 1800s until the time of Ian Smith. In 1965 it declared itself independent, passing the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, or UDI. In 1980, Zimbabwe became an independent country, under black majority rule.

"But even then, we struggled between socialism and capitalism, whatever those two ism means. But we’ve never been ourselves; we never really took off. And no Zimbabwean is in industry; no Zimbabwean is in real commercial agriculture. Basically, a Zimbabwean is a poor worker, and that has to be corrected."

Whether Dr. Maya will be given the mandate to try to solve that problem as Zimbabwe’s leader remains unclear. For most Zimbabweans, just a glance at the list of candidates and one thing becomes immediately clear. There are only what they call “two really serious candidates: Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai,” the leaders of the country's two major political parties.

Dr. Maya says he often asks himself whether Zimbabwe needs a leader or a Statesman. But for his countrymen, the election is really not about leadership or statesmanship – it’s about bread and butter issues – and trying to achieve a new era of real freedom and prosperity. Shakespeare Maya and his wife Clara have three children.