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President Mnangagwa salutes ‘nationalist, scholar of high repute’

Story by Josephine Mugiyo, Diplomatic Correspondent

THE late national hero, Professor Ngwabi Bhebe has been laid to rest at the National Heroes Acre, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa describing him as a patriotic academic who never used his academic prowess to denigrate their motherland.

Zimbabweans from across the country, including members of the academia, came to bid farewell to the founding Vice Chancellor of the Midlands State University, who died last Friday at the age of 81.

Professor Bhebe’s name has over time become synonymous with MSU, with many renowned academics having passed through the late national hero’s hands.

As he addressed mourners, President Mnangagwa said the country has been robbed of a patriot and nationalist park excellence, a long-serving higher education administrator, a historian and scholar of high repute and global standing.

President Mnangagwa said, “The head of state said as the founding Vice-chancellor of Midlands State University, his name became synonymous with that dynamic national institution. Professor Bhebe was a long-serving intellectual and academic. His rich history is a record of merit and immense success, particularly in the field of higher education. We credit to his name numerous frameworks, which have laid a firm foundation and contributed to the sound administration of our higher education sector. The caliber and professionalism of the students and staff that went under the tutelage of the late Professor Bhebe are a testimony that “Tumbare” as he was fondly known, was a great mentor and wise teacher. A considerable number are now serving in senior positions within the administration of our institutions of higher learning, in Government and beyond.”

He highlighted that beyond academia, the late national hero played his part in advancing the prosecution of the war of liberation, saying he was part of a cohort of nationalist academics who still took part in the liberation struggle despite being based abroad.

“Beyond the academia, the late National Hero, Professor Bhebe, played his part in advancing the prosecution of our war of Liberation. He was part of a cohort of nationalist academics based in regional universities who never saw their stay in foreign lands as an excuse to avoid responsibilities to the raging armed liberation struggle unfolding back home. Through the mobilisation of diplomatic support and material resources, he was part of a student corps that was instrumental in advancing the objectives of the liberation struggle under the banner of the Patriotic Front.

“His contemporaries in the struggle include the late National Heroes Professor Phineas Makhurane; Dr Stanislaus Gorerazvo Mudenge and Professor Walter Kamba. Others in this group include distinguished public servants such as the former Chief Secretary, Dr Misheck Sibanda and the former Director General of the President’s Department, Dr Elleck Mashingaidze. These and other renowned nationalist academics committed their time, skills and resources to the sustenance of our struggle for independence. They balanced their quest for academic excellence with the weighty obligation demanded of them before and after independence. They never used their intellectual and academic prowess to denigrate our motherland. Vakaramba vari mugwara rekuda nekuremekedza nyika yedu.

“Professor Bhebe was among the pioneering cohort of black Zimbabwean historians to acquire a Doctor of Philosophy degree and in 1972, he was awarded a Ph.D. in imperial history at the University of London,” the President added.

President Mnangagwa said the late national hero used his academic prowess to advance the liberation struggle.

He also said, “The late Professor Bhebe’s area of research specialisation was informed by his commitment to unmasking the numerous misfortunes that had befallen the African people at the onset of foreign colonial rule. Alongside other historians and intellectuals from various fields, the late Professor Bhebe became an intellectual resource to the Liberation Struggle. His scholarly efforts were deeply rooted in amplifying political awareness among our people. Professor Bhebe was an author of repute, whose work included numerous books, and journal articles.”

As enunciated by President Mnangagwa these included perspectives on traditional religion and Christianity; African biographies; the nexus between the land question and nationalist struggles as well as conflict prevention and reconciliation.

His work also included a biography of the late Vice President, Dr Simon Muzenda as well as A Portrait of The Last Ndebele King.

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