Mzansi Profiles! People Dr Murunwa Makwarela Biography: Early Life | Education | Professional Career | Political Career | Tshwane Mayor | Personal Life | Death

Dr Murunwa Makwarela Biography: Early Life | Education | Professional Career | Political Career | Tshwane Mayor | Personal Life | Death

Dr Murunwa Makwarela Biography: Early Life | Education | Professional Career | Political Career | Tshwane Mayor | Personal Life | Death post thumbnail image

This is the biography of Dr Murunwa Makwarela, plant scientist and former Mayor of the City of Tshwane who died on 23 April 2024.


Early Life And Education

Murunwa Makwarela was born in 1972 in Cullinan, located outside Pretoria in the then-Transvaal Province of South Africa. Growing up in the village of Tshitereke in the Venda bantustan, Makwarela’s childhood was rooted in a community that would shape his character and aspirations.

Makwarela went to University of Venda, where he pursued a Bachelor of Science in Botany and Zoology, graduating in 1994. His passion for the sciences led him to the University of Natal’s Durban campus, where he furthered his education with an Honours degree in Plant Biotechnology in 1995. His quest for knowledge continued as he earned a Master of Science in Eucalyptus cold tolerance and tissue culture in 1997.

In 2006, he received his doctorate from the University of the Witwatersrand. During his doctoral studies, Makwarela conducted research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Institute in Missouri, United States.


Dr Murunwa Makwarela Professional Career

The scientist had a diverse career that spanned across academia, research, and public service. His professional journey began at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he worked as a researcher in cassava genetic engineering from 2000 to 2005.

In 2005, Makwarela took on a leadership role as the first Divisional Head of Gene Banks at the Agricultural Research Council. His expertise in biotechnology and his vision for agricultural development were evident in his work, where he was responsible for overseeing the preservation and utilisation of plant genetic resources.

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Dr Murunwa Makwarela Joins Public Service And Makes A U-Turn

Makwarela’s career in the public sector began when he joined the City of Tshwane as the strategic executive director of the municipality’s Agriculture and Environmental Management Department, serving from 2007 to 2012. His tenure here was marked by initiatives aimed at enhancing the city’s environmental sustainability and agricultural productivity.

Transitioning from public service to the private sector, Makwarela became the chief executive officer of TAHAL South Africa, a branch of the TAHAL Group, from 2012 to 2014. His leadership skills and business acumen were instrumental in steering the company towards new heights in the South African market.

Furthermore, Makwarela held various positions as a non-executive director. He served as the board chairperson of the Biofuel Business Incubator from 2014 to 2019 and was also a non-executive director at the SA Essential Oil Business Incubator.

In the years leading up to his mayoral tenure, Makwarela continued to influence urban development and policy as a non-executive director at the Johannesburg Development Agency and the Johannesburg Market, where he was involved from 2020 to 2022. His roles often centered around human resources and economic development committees, showcasing his dedication to improving the socio-economic landscape of the region.


Dr Murunwa Makwarela As Mayor Of Tshwane

Dr Murunwa Makwarela Biography

Dr Murunwa Makwarela Biography [Image: @Dr_MurunwaM/X]


In 2021, Dr Murunwa Makwarela entered politics. He was elected as the Congress of the People’s lone proportional representation councillor in the City of Tshwane in the November 2021 local government elections.

He became the Speaker of the Tshwane City Council from 20 January 2022 until he assumed the mayoral office on 28 February 2023. His ascension to the mayoralty followed the resignation of his predecessor, Randall Williams. Makwarela was nominated for the position by the ANC and EFF, and he successfully defeated the DA candidate Cilliers Brink to secure the mayoral chain.

His tenure as Mayor, however, was short-lived due to a series of controversies. Makwarela was initially removed from office on 7 March 2023 by the city manager after it was discovered that he had been declared insolvent in 2016. He managed to be reinstated on 9 March 2023 after presenting a rehabilitation certificate, which was later found to be fraudulent. Consequently, he resigned from his position on 10 March 2023.

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Court Battles

Dr Murunwa Makwarela Biography

Dr Murunwa Makwarela Biography [Image: Zintle Mahlati/News24]


Dr Murunwa Makwarela faced legal challenges primarily related to allegations of fraud concerning his insolvency status and the submission of a purportedly fake rehabilitation certificate.

Makwarela’s case was brought before the Pretoria Commercial Crime Court, where he faced two counts of fraud. These charges were related to the fake rehabilitation certificate and the time he spent as a councillor and Speaker in Tshwane, earning more than R1.4 million without disclosing his insolvency. Despite his efforts, he failed to have his fraud case struck from the court roll following an objection for a postponement.

During the court proceedings, Makwarela’s attorney placed his financial position on record, revealing that he had lost his house and vehicles.


Dr Murunwa Makwarela Personal Life And Death

Tragically, Murunwa Makwarela passed away on 23 April 2024, amidst these ongoing court battles. His family revealed that he succumbed to a short illness. They rushed him to the hospital early 23 April and he died hours later.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters.


Dr Murunwa Makwarela Biography

Dr Murunwa Makwarela Biography [Image: Murunwa Makwarela/Facebook]


Dr Makwarela was also the leader and founder of a church called The Righteousness of God, located in Wallmansthal.

On his last social media post, he said:

“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Saints, all believers hail from heaven but function on Earth. Earth is our post to fulfil the mandate we receive from God. Think about it, Jesus hailed from heaven to fulfil His God given mandate. Our mandate will also one day finish when the day of the Lord comes. We’ll all be transformed and be like Him and stay with Him forever. 



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