Prof Makhu­rane hero dec­la­ra­tion ‘an­other first’

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

THE award­ing of a na­tional hero sta­tus to Pro­fes­sor Phinias Mo­gorosi Makhu­rane by the rul­ing party, the Zim­babwe African Na­tional Union-Pa­tri­otic Front (Zanu-PF) on 5 Novem­ber, 2018 was a very apt and wise de­ci­sion.

It was also a vir­tu­ally dif­fer­ent kind of hero sta­tus in that most of the na­tional pa­tri­ots ly­ing at the Na­tional He­roes Acre in Harare were buried there on the strength of their political and or mil­i­tary con­tri­bu­tion to the birth of a free na­tion of Zim­babwe.

Prof Makhu­rane’s mas­sive con­tri­bu­tion to the 38year-old na­tion of Zim­babwe was in the ed­u­ca­tional more than in the political arena, and very much of that af­ter the coun­try’s at­tain­ment of in­de­pen­dence in April 1980.

Dur­ing the armed lib­er­a­tion strug­gle, Prof Makhu­rane was a Zapu mem­ber and was first based in Lusaka, Zam­bia, where he helped a large num­ber of refugees to pro­cure op­por­tu­ni­ties to fur­ther their ed­u­ca­tion. Do­ing it in his unique, unas­sum­ing, hum­ble way, Prof Makhu­rane gen­er­ated a great deal of non-par­ti­san ad­mi­ra­tion and re­spect for him­self as an ac­com­plished scholar first and fore­most, and se­condly as an in­di­vid­ual whose mod­est and highly per­son­able char­ac­ter en­deared him to all who rubbed shoul­ders with him.

For quite a few years in the mid-1970s he was based at the Univer­sity of Botswana in Gaborone where he again in­flu­enced a larger num­ber of peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar the academia and lovers of ed­u­ca­tion. On Zim­babwe’s at­tain­ment of in­de­pen­dence, he re­turned home and joined the Univer­sity of Zim­babwe, UZ as Pro Vice-Chan­cel­lor un­der the Vice-Chan­cel­lor­ship of the cel­e­brated Pro­fes­sor Wal­ter Kamba, now de­ceased.

A math­e­mat­i­cal ge­nius, Prof Makhu­rane, was a man with a vi­sion, and ob­vi­ously look­ing into the coun­try’s so­cio-political fu­ture devel­op­ment, he qui­etly joined Zanu-PF so as to re­duce to a min­i­mum pos­si­ble ar­eas of con­flict be­tween him­self on one hand and UZ au­thor­i­ties at whose head was the Chan­cel­lor, Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

While he was work­ing qui­etly at UZ, back in his home re­gion of Mata­bele­land, in Bu­l­awayo to be ex­act, a lit­tle known group would meet in the mid1980s with­out any ad­vance or post-pub­lic­ity at the Bu­l­awayo Polytech­ni­cal Col­lege to dis­cuss ways and means of ei­ther up­grad­ing that col­lege to a univer­sity or build­ing a new univer­sity al­to­gether.

Chaired by a life as­sur­ance ex­ec­u­tive, Josia Dube, the other members were the Bu­l­awayo Polytech­ni­cal Col­lege prin­ci­pal who was an Ir­ish ex­pa­tri­ate, his then deputy, Cde Aaron Maboyi Ncube, and the au­thor of this ar­ti­cle, Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, who was the sec­re­tary. The group sent a cou­ple of let­ters to the Min­istry of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and copies to the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice, re­quest­ing the Gov­ern­ment to es­tab­lish a univer­sity in Mata­bele­land.

The au­thor can re­veal now that the only other peo­ple who were aware of the group’s ex­is­tence and de­lib­er­a­tions, al­beit un­of­fi­cially, were Pro­fes­sors Kamba and Makhu­rane. The for­mer was a close rel­a­tive of Gwakuba and was re­quested to drop a good word to Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe about the group’s wish.

Prof Makhu­rane was a friend in vary­ing de­grees of in­ti­macy to some members of the group, and some of them prayed and hoped that should their wish ma­te­ri­alise, he would play the ma­jor role to make it func­tional. The au­thor of this nar­ra­tion in 1987 joined Lon­rho Zim­babwe as a pub­lic re­la­tions ex­ec­u­tive, and was im­me­di­ately trans­ferred to Swazi­land (Now eSwa­tini) where he re­mained for five years.

The group dis­in­te­grated as Dube re­tired and went into farm­ing, Maboyi was ap­pointed Zim­babwe’s am­bas­sador to Egypt, and the Ir­ish ex­pa­tri­ate re­tired. But, as fate would have it, Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe’s ad­min­is­tra­tion had by the late 1980s de­cided to es­tab­lish a Na­tional Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy in Bu­l­awayo with Prof Makhu­rane as the found­ing Vice-Chan­cel­lor.

He left UZ to face a wild bush that had to be cleared to cre­ate space for a mod­ern in­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing.

Un­daunted, Prof Makhu­rane, the math­e­mat­ics wiz­ard, with “dou­ble brain” (as his for­mer Zimuto High School col­leagues had nick­named him be­cause of his bril­liance) “as­sem­bled” a for­mi­da­ble team of aca­demics, en­gi­neers, ar­ti­sans and tire­less labour­ers to con­struct and ad­min­is­ter the now highly famous Na­tional Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (Nust), a mag­nif­i­cent in­sti­tu­tion whose build­ings re­flect Zim­bab­wean ar­chi­tec­tural cre­ative­ness.

It is now glob­ally known and recog­nised as a source of well qual­i­fied sci­en­tist and tech­nol­o­gists all of whom owe it to the in­tel­lec­tual ex­cel­lence and moral rec­ti­tude of Prof Phinias Mo­gorosi Makhu­rane, a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of a per­son whose pro­fes­sional con­tri­bu­tions have made Zim­babwe a much bet­ter na­tion than when he found it when he was born on Jan­uary 13, 1939.

May his dear wife, chil­dren and grand­chil­dren take so­lace and com­fort in the fact that the whole na­tion has ever last­ing pride in him as an em­i­nent son of Zim­babwe whose “dou­ble brain” self­lessly served his na­tion.

The late Prof Phinias Makhu­rane

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