Thandeka Moyo Chronicle Reporter
PROMINENT African academic and historian Professor Terence Osborn Ranger has died. He was 85. Prof Ranger, who was born in 1929, immensely contributed to the development of Zimbabwean history. At the time of his death, he was working on a project of documenting Matabeleland history in collaboration with local writers.
In an email yesterday, Ranger’s family friend, Marieke Clarke, said the popular historian died in his sleep at his Oxford home in the United Kingdom on Saturday evening.
“I’ve been asked to inform friends and colleagues that Terence Ranger died peacefully at home last night in his sleep. We’re yet to get more details from his daughter,” said Clarke.
Speaking from his hospital bed yesterday, historian Pathisa Nyathi – who was Ranger’s friend, described him as a world class scholar and historian who dedicated his life to establishing the history of Zimbabwe.
“We’re saddened by the loss of Ranger who died at a time when we were working on intensively researching and writing the history of Matabeleland. We’re, however, happy that he had at least recruited other people who will continue walking in his footsteps,” said Nyathi.
He added that Ranger was one of the few people who supported nationalism together with the late Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo.
“Ranger also contributed to nationalism and ensured that he visited detainees and supported their families during the tough times. He even produced magazines that highlighted the plight of detainees till he was expelled from the country in 1963.”
After his deportation, Ranger left for Tanzania where he was employed as a lecturer and only came back to Zimbabwe after independence.
On his return, he became a lecturer at the renamed University of Zimbabwe and joined the History department where he focused on Mashonaland history.
He later developed interest in Matabeleland history and spent a lot of time researching about the life of the Matabeleland people before and after independence which resulted in him publishing a book titled Memory and Violence; 100 years in Matabeleland Darkness.
He also wrote another book based on his findings titled Voices from the Rock; History of Matabeleland South.
Besides editing and publishing dozens of books, Ranger contributed substantially to the historiography of East Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular. In 1980, he founded the Britain-Zimbabwe Society with Guy Clutton-Brock of which he was president (2006-2014). Between 1980-82, he was President of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK). He also was a trustee of the Asylum Welcome organisation, and much of his academic work was concerned with human rights in Zimbabwe. He spoke out against forced removals of Zimbabwean asylum seekers from the UK during the crisis in Zimbabwe.
In retirement, Prof Ranger was made a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.