Prof Makhurane hero declaration ‘another first’
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