‘Go well, devoted prof and cadre’
I FEEL honoured to be invited to make a statement on the occasion of the funeral service for one of the most distinguished sons and daughters of this country, Professor Phinias Makhurane.
Many young, and indeed even older, citizens will be surprised because they have known Prof Makhurane only as an academic who focussed his energies on getting quality education and training for Zimbabwe and hardly as a political activist.
Yet the struggle for Independence and freedom was intrinsically connected to the desire for education because the oppression and discrimination of black people by the colonial racist regime was anchored on denial of access to essential education and training for the majority.
That is why the line between politics and educational ambition was very thin.
Young Makhurane took an active interest in politics while at High School and was a member of ZAPU’s Youth Wing while at the University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now University of Zimbabwe) in the mid-1960s.
He continued his contact and activities with the party as it geared itself for the armed struggle.
Senior cadres, myself included, sometimes used his residence in Botswana in the early years of the struggle to escape from public places.
The house was, of course, a frequent refuge for young people en route to study abroad or while looking for scholarships and contacts abroad.
As a student in Sweden after leaving Botswana, Phinias Makhurane became the natural organiser and representative of Zimbabwe students in Scandinavia before the party appointed a full-time Representative to Sweden.
Thus even while pursuing his studies, Phineas Makhurane combined education with support for ZAPU activities.
It is remarkable that while he worked on the African Virtual University and represented the International University Exchange Fund, Makhurane provided critical support to educational needs and activities of the liberation movements from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia, among other institutions.
For us he was one of those who shaped our programs through advice and technical support towards training of future academic and technical personnel in African and other countries.
He provided literature and other materials for all sorts of needs.
Professor Makhurane did not just work with educational and technical institutions, he also sourced and provided educational materials and financial support to political prisoners and detainees whenever possible.
This is because he saw it as essential that those intending to run countries and their institutions at some point needed to be prepared for their responsibilities and future roles.
As ZAPU we were fortunate that he was able to support the party’s educational programs, particularly when in the 1970s the war led to influx of young boys and girls who were too young to be involved in the armed struggle.
The educational needs of girls at Freedom Camp and those of boys at Jason Ziyapapa Moyo Camp befitted immensely from Makhurane’s work.
When we returned home, Professor Makhurane continued to be in touch while retaining his usual professional objectivity and non-partisanship. He then joined the University of Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, after the merger of ZAPU and Zanu through the Unity Accord, ZAPU decided to create a pressure group called the Matabeleland Action Group. Its main purpose was to spearhead the development of Matabeleland.
It comprised all ZAPU Members of Parliament and of the Central Committee who merged into the New ZANU-PF.
The pressure group was chaired by the late Cde Sydney Malunga.
It managed to push for the establishment of the National University of Science and Technology, construction of a new maternity wing at Mpilo Hospital and push the implementation of the Zambezi Water Project.
For the university, we had Prof Phinias Makhurane in mind. We were happy that he got appointed as the first Vice-Chancellor of Nust.
We are proud to have been chosen as a political path by Prof Phinias Makhurane, who showed that strong convictions and rigorous professionalism can go together.
We offer our condolences to the family at this hour, but also take solace that we are celebrating a life well lived by a devoted husband, father, comrade, and colleague. ◆ This is an abridged version of a statement to The Sunday Mail by ZAPU president Dr Dumiso Dabengwa following the death of National Hero Professor Phinias Makhurane