A hero of many tal­ents

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - ORBITIUARIES - Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor Ng­wabi M Bhebhe

PHINIAS Mo­gorosi Makhu­rane was a gi­ant in terms of his con­tri­bu­tions to society, and is very dif­fi­cult to en­cap­su­late in a mere obit­u­ary.

He was sim­ple and highly ap­proach­able while at the same time full of help and ad­vice.

Truly a Zim­bab­wean, he was at home in Gwanda, his home area, in Mberengwa, Masvingo, Harare and let alone Bu­l­awayo and com­mu­ni­cated flu­ently in Shona, Nde­bele, Sotho, Tswana and Venda.

We shared the same faith of Evan­gel­i­cal Lutheran Church in Zim­babwe, sim­i­larly heavy ru­ral back­ground.

I first shared teach­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with him in 1965/6, when our for­mer prin­ci­pal at Che­gato Se­condary School, Mr Tore Bergman, of­fered us tem­po­rary em­ploy­ment and he taught physics while I taught his­tory.

Our stu­dents who in­cluded July Moyo, the cur­rent Min­is­ter of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, Pub­lic Works and Na­tional Hous­ing, Dr Jo­rum Gumbo, Min­is­ter of En­ergy and Power De­vel­op­ment, Dr Philip Bhebe, Lec­turer in Ed­u­ca­tion at Mid­lands State Univer­sity and sev­eral oth­ers in other walks of life.

They still cher­ish fondly their mem­o­rable en­coun­ters with their two in­spir­ing young en­er­getic teach­ers.

He was ahead of me as he was then wait­ing to fly off to Sh­effield Univer­sity, UK, for his Mas­ters and PhD in Solid State Physics while I was still to com­plete my BA at the Univer­sity of Botswana, Le­sotho and Swazi­land, be­fore fol­low­ing him to do my PhD in Im­pe­rial His­tory at the Univer­sity of Lon­don.

Our in­tel­lec­tual odysseys for a while did not in­ter­sect as he first taught at the Univer­sity of Zam­bia from 1968 to early 1974, while my own aca­demic wan­der­ings took me through the Univer­sity of Rhode­sia, Prince­ton Univer­sity and Univer­sity of Sierra Leone.

Hap­pily he landed his post at the Univer­sity of Botswana, Le­sotho and Swazi­land based at the then emer­gent Botswana Col­lege in 1974, while I joined the same in­sti­tu­tion but based in Swazi­land in 1975.

The three Gov­ern­ments en­vis­aged a sit­u­a­tion whereby the col­leges in Swazi­land and Botswana would grad­u­ally de­velop to fully fledged univer­si­ties over time.

In the mean­time, how­ever, they would teach only Part I of the de­gree pro­grammes and then trans­fer the stu­dents to Le­sotho to fin­ish their Part II, es­pe­cially in science pro­grammes.

The set­ting of ex­am­i­na­tions, their mark­ing, mod­er­a­tion and con­sid­er­a­tion by both fac­ul­ties and sen­ate were all cen­tralised and mem­bers of staff com­muted across to South Africa for their meet­ings.

While the Univer­sity com­mu­ni­ties at the three Pic: Den­nis Mudza­miri cam­puses ap­peared happy with the ar­range­ments, gov­ern­ments were un­happy and the up­shot of it was Le­sotho’s na­tion­al­i­sa­tion of the lo­cal cam­pus and most of the Univer­sity as­sets and records, leav­ing Swazi­land and Botswana to cope with the com­ple­tion of Part II de­gree pro­grammes of their stu­dents.

As Prof Makhu­rane ad­mits in his bi­og­ra­phy, the Botswana and Swazi­land sit­u­a­tion gave us our first ex­pe­ri­ence in set­ting up univer­si­ties, which would be handy when he would be asked to come up with the Na­tional Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy (NUST) and I with the Mid­lands State Univer­sity.

He was Dean of Science and I was first Deputy Dean and later Dean of Hu­man­i­ties on the Swazi­land Cam­pus.

We learned how to set up de­gree pro­grammes, to plan for their req­ui­site hu­man and in­fras­truc­tural re­sources – so that by 1978/79 we had al­most at­tained our goals of build­ing the two univer­si­ties, al­though they con­tin­ued to op­er­ate as col­leges.

Mean­while, Makhu­rane moved from teach­ing to full time univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion as Deputy Rec­tor un­til he left Botswana to be­come Vice Prin­ci­pal and Deputy Vice Chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of Zim­babwe in 1981.

Pro­fes­sor Makhu­rane was a far­sighted thinker in the coun­try and the first to ex­press the need for the ex­pan­sion of our univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion in or­der to cope with the in­creased out­put of A-Level school leavers in post-in­de­pen­dence Zim­babwe.

He aired his views through his Vice Chan­cel­lor Pro­fes­sor Wal­ter Kamba in 1981.

But the is­sue was only taken up se­ri­ously by Gov­ern­ment in 1989 when it set up the Wil­liams Com­mis­sion, which rec­om­mended a sec­ond univer­sity with a science bias to be built in Bu­l­awayo.

Prof Makhu­rane, first as its Foun­da­tion Com­mit­tee Chair and later as its Found­ing Vice Chan­cel­lor brought to bear his enor­mous ex­pe­ri­ence as a higher ed­u­ca­tion ar­chi­tect and de­liv­ered to the na­tion the mon­u­men­tal and mag­nif­i­cent NUST.

It stands there to­day as his in­deli­ble legacy on the in­tel­lec­tual her­itage of our na­tion.

Prof Makhu­rane was a man of many parts and should be re­mem­bered not just for what he did in higher ed­u­ca­tion.

When he was teach­ing at the Univer­sity of Zam­bia he was ap­pointed Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity Ex­change Fund which was based in Geneva and raised funds in Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries and Hol­land. He was given wide pow­ers in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the Fund, which largely catered for stu­dents coming from non-in­de­pen­dent South­ern African coun­tries, es­pe­cially from Rhode­sia, South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia). The stu­dents were con­sid­ered refugees. The dif­fi­cult cat­e­gory in­volved chil­dren of par­ents who had mi­grated into neigh­bour­ing in­de­pen­dent coun­tries and had be­come nat­u­ralised in those coun­tries.

Un­for­tu­nately their chil­dren were not au­to­mat­i­cally granted lo­cal cit­i­zen­ships and there­fore were ex­cluded from univer­sity grants of their host coun­tries.

Prof Makhu­rane came to the aid of such stu­dents by in­clud­ing them in his wide def­i­ni­tion of refugees.

In­deed that was how our Pres­i­dent, Dr ED Mnangagwa, ben­e­fited from an IEUF schol­ar­ship when he did his Law stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Zam­bia.

There are many Zim­bab­weans, South Africans and Namib­ians who to­day oc­cupy strate­gic po­si­tions in those coun­tries who ben­e­fited from Prof Makhu­rane’s ad­min­is­tra­tion of IEUF.

Prof Makhu­rane was a Zim­bab­wean na­tion­al­ist to the core and was fiercely loyal to the Zapu and to Dr Joshua Nkomo.

We were for­tu­nate to have him based in Botswana at that mo­ment in the his­tory of our strug­gle, when Botswana played both the host and tran­sit hub of our peo­ple es­cap­ing the wrath of the colo­nial regime as well as go­ing to Zam­bia and Mozam­bique to join the strug­gle.

The ad­van­tage we en­joyed was that Prof Makhu­rane was not only per­son­ally close to the pow­ers that be in Botswana, he had cousins in the pres­i­dency of that coun­try.

Those cousins were reg­u­lar din­ing and drink­ing com­pany of his so that is­sues of Zim­babwe refugees were quite close to the ear of the Pres­i­dent.

Each time I drove to Gaborone from Swazi­land, Du­miso Dabengwa from ZAPU, based in Zam­bia, would be at Prof Makhu­rane’s house, of course with weighty is­sues des­tined for the Botswana au­thor­i­ties.

It did not mat­ter whether one was Shona, Nde­bele or ZANU or ZAPU, all were wel­come in Makhu­rane’s house and all re­ceived help.

I must il­lus­trate the late pro­fes­sor’s ar­dent loy­alty to the late Vice-Pres­i­dent Joshua Nkomo.

Soon af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion of the late Vice-Pres­i­dent’s story of his life, I sat with Prof Makhu­rane and made the ob­ser­va­tion that the old man had not ap­pre­ci­ated the strate­gic im­por­tance of twin­ing the gun with pol­i­tics which had turned the tide of mass sup­port in Zim­babwe from Zapu to Zanu dur­ing the war.

I can’t re­mem­ber how ex­actly I put it; per­haps I must have put it clum­sily, most un­typ­i­cal of me.

The Pro­fes­sor’s re­ac­tion was al­most vi­o­lent – most un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of him, es­pe­cially to­wards me.

I quickly saw that I had touched a raw nerve and dumped the sub­ject as quickly as I had started it.

Phinias was a man of in­tegrity who cared about both per­sonal ap­pear­ance as well as his stand­ing in society. He was al­ways de­cently and smartly turned up. He was mar­ried to a most lov­ing and car­ing Lydia, who al­ways made all of us Phinias’ friends and col­leagues most wel­come in her well main­tained and man­aged house.

Their four chil­dren, one girl and three boys, are won­der­ful and re­spect­ful.

His watch word, in­di­cat­ing the con­scious cir­cum­spec­tion of an up­right mind, al­ways was, “uza­phuma emaphep­heni”, mean­ing you will come out in the papers and of course news­pa­pers are not in­ter­ested in good things — they don’t sell. Scan­dals are the stuff they call news wor­thy. If you had an up­right life the papers kept away from you.

He was won­der­ful, rich in sound phi­los­o­phy and joy­ous com­pany.

When­ever I was lost in the process of build­ing MSU I would phone, even at night to ask my spe­cial friend for clues and he would oblige.

The na­tion has in­deed ac­corded him the most fit­ting sta­tus of Na­tional Hero.

I thank Zanu-PF and His Ex­cel­lency the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Zim­babwe for the honour.

Hamba kahle qhawe lamaqhawe — Phinias Mo­gorosi Makhu­rane!!!

May your soul rest in peace.

ZANU-PF Na­tional Spokesper­son Am­bas­sador Si­mon Khaya Moyo lays a wreath at the grave of Na­tional Hero Pro­fes­sor Phinias Makhu­rane in Gungwe, Gwanda yes­ter­day —

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