The meteoric rise of a ‘bush mechanic’

14 Jul, 2019 - 00:07 0 Views
The meteoric rise of a ‘bush mechanic’

The Sunday Mail

Debra Matabvu

At the age of 20, Taurai Sewera was already a breadwinner for a family of six.

With no Ordinary Level or formal professional qualification, the only job he knew was being a mechanic, albeit an untrained one.

However, 23 years later, the seemingly unassuming “bush mechanic” — who first practiced his trade at the infamous and highly informal Gazaland Shopping Centre in Highfield, Harare — has since been transfigured into one of the few automotive technicians who can fix gasoline, hybrid, electric, heavy-duty diesel vehicles, as well as earth-moving and farming equipment.

He now hobnobs with the best minds in the automotive industry from around the world.


Taurai’s repertoire as a mechanic has become breathtakingly impressive.

He is the only technician in Africa who is certified by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) for light-duty diesel, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and is an advanced level specialist (L1).

ASE is a professional certification group that certifies professionals and shops in the car repair and service industry in the United States of America and parts of Canada.

Not only that: Taurai is also the first and only African member of the Texas-based Automotive Service Association (ASA), which is considered to be the biggest professional body of automotive service and repair professionals.

He is also the first African to attend the Vision Hitech Training & Expo, which brings together the best automotive technicians from the United States and Europe.

And still he does not have an ‘O’ Level certificate or formal professional qualifications.

“My story conflicts with the belief that one needs a university degree to succeed,” he told The Sunday Mail in an interview at his Harare home.

“I do not have an Ordinary Level certificate in my drawer. I sat for my ‘O’ Levels at Oriel Boys High in 1993 and never went back to collect my results. I do not know my ‘O’ Level results to this day, but I can tell you I have dined and wined with some of the world’s most powerful.

“I have set my feet on grounds where no African man has ever landed. I have had some of my work being taught at colleges in the United States of America. Sometimes I fail to believe it myself.”

Painful Journey

Born in 1976 in Harare, he grew up in Glen Norah with the dream of becoming a computer programmer.

Although he maintained good grades, his background, however, forbade him from pursuing his long-cherished dream.

“My mother was more of a single mother even before my father passed away,” he added.

“He was a mechanic, who would go and work in places such as Mutoko but would stay there for two or three years without visiting his family.

“So my mother sold home-sewn clothes in farms in Bindura and Shamva to make ends meet.

“My father only came back when I was doing Form One to be part of the family again.”

After sitting for his ‘O’ Levels, Taurai joined his brother who was already selling spare motor vehicle parts at Gazaland Shopping Centre.

Part of his day’s work included foraging for discarded or used spare parts in places such as Mbare and burnishing them until they looked almost brand new and ready for resale.

The little that he got from this onerous and taxing trade was used to take care of his mother and siblings.

And for him, going back to school was out of the question.

“In 1997, my brother asked me to join his trade and shortly after that, I met Charles Beat. He frequently bought spare parts from us because he had a company that repaired trucks in Msasa,” he added.

“Each time he bought a spare part, he would give a lecture on how the part would work once it was in the engine. I became fascinated with spare parts.

“At times I would open up transmitters just to take a look inside. I wanted to see how the wires and cables were connected; that is how I learnt what is called reverse-engineering.

“Despite being the third born and having elder brothers, I was the breadwinner. I have since realised that in a family we are not all the same. We do not see things the same way.”

He started fixing transmitters, brakes and eventually engines.

The more passion he developed for his trade, the more effort he put in his new-found love.

He soon opened his own company which specialises in road construction equipment hire.


However, his desire to become the best in the trade did not fade.

Sometime in 2017 when he was binge-watching YouTube videos on automotive technologies, he bumped into a clip uploaded by Jim Morton, an American automotive technology training instructor.

He subsequently took the bold step to contact Jim via email and his life took a turn.

He got the opportunity to attend the Vision HiTech Training & Expo, which is held annually in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

“If you want to be the best you have to be with the best. That is the best and biggest event on automotive that one can ever attend.

“I was the first African to attend the event,” he said.

Currently, Taurai is studying for his ASE L2 (Advanced Medium and Heavy Duty Electronic Engines Diagnosis Specialist), ASE L3 (Advanced Hybrid and Electric Vehicles Specialist) and ASE Master (Technician for Automobile and Medium and Heavy Duty Diesel Trucks), which will make him one of the few automotive technicians in the world to be certified in all these areas.

In October, he will be leaving for another internship in America.

He is now on the way to become the only professionally certified technician for hybrid and electric vehicles in Africa.

Big dream

While in the US, Taurai will also make every effort possible to meet with South African-born investor and entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is the owner of Tesla Motors, which is currently on a crusade to promote electric vehicles (EVs).

He believes that the global inexorable march towards environmentally friendly EVs puts Zimbabwe — which is has one of the biggest deposits of lithium in the world — in good stead to manufacture lithium batteries, which power EV vehicles.

“We need to begin making high-voltage batteries because we have the second largest deposits of lithium.

“If we are able to have that deal, we will be able to make lithium batteries in Zimbabwe that will supply the world — I do not think there is any forex generation that beats that — and eventually introduce hybrids in the country.”

Taurai contends that the country also needs to promote the development of technical skills.

“We need to move along with the times, with technology, in Africa. We also need to remove this notion of focusing on theoretical learning and embrace practical learning,” he said.

The country is presently redoubling efforts to promote skills training in colleges as part of a deliberate effort to engender innovation and practical skills needed for industrialisation.

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