THE declaration of founding National University of Science and Technology Vice Chancellor Professor Phinias Makhurane as a national hero is befitting of man who contributed immensely to the education sector in Zimbabwe. The decision by the Zanu-PF Politburo to confer the lofty status on Prof Makhurane – who died last Saturday at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo after battling diabetes and hypertension for a long time – shows that indeed Zimbabwe is in a new dispensation where citizens are recognised for their stellar contribution to the nation regardless of their status in the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Indeed Prof Makhurane was an academic giant who not only pioneered the setting up of the country’s second State University but was a champion of the teaching of sciences – a field very dear to his heart. Nust was his brainchild and he dedicated most of his academic life building and nurturing the university and he should be proud of the work that he put in because the institution today stands as a beacon of academic excellence particularly in the teaching of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related subjects.
Nust has pioneered some groundbreaking researches and inventions with its graduates dotted all over the world where they are excelling in their respective fields of study. Scientific research and technological innovations are at the heart of Government’s vision to attain middle income status by 2030 and we applaud the work of Prof Makhurane which has made it possible for the country to make giant strides in technological advancement.
In countless interviews with his publication when he was still at Nust, Prof Makhurane bemoaned the slow pace of infrastructure development at the institution and inadequate budgetary allocations to complete major works such as the Ceremonial Hall and student residencies.
Due to financial constraints, Government is still complete construction of some of the buildings at Nust but we are sure Prof Makhurane is resting in peace, knowing that his dream has come to reality and thousands of graduates will be churned out to contribute meaningfully to national development.
When he retired from Nust, Prof Makhurane did not rest on his laurels but gladly accepted another assignment from Government where he was tasked with setting up another institution of higher learning from scratch – the Gwanda State University in 2006. Working with other committee members, they established the university whose focus is on Agriculture and Mining with a temporary campus at Epoch Mine in Filabusi.
The plan is to set up the main campus on an 87hectare piece of land in Gwanda Town where a world class centre of excellence for learning, research and innovation in sustainable exploitation of resources will be fully operational by 2030. A cursory look into Prof Makhurane’s background shows a man who overcame numerous obstacles during the colonial era to achieve the impossible.
At a time when blacks were considered inferior, Prof Makhurane was among the first blacks to major in Physics and Mathematics at the then University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. He was to obtain a BSc degree in Mathematics and Physics at Rhonya University, MSc and PhD degrees in Solid State Physics at Sheffield University, United Kingdom and a Post-graduate Diploma in Geophysics at Upsala University in Sweden.
He also worked as deputy vice chancellor at the University of Botswana and was Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Zimbabwe for five years after which he was appointed the inaugural Vice Chancellor at Nust. Prof Makhurane will be buried at his rural home in Gungwe, Gwanda South today and we applaud the decision of the Zanu-PF Politburo to honour him with the highest accolade in the land.
We also respect the wishes of the late academic who expressed a desire to be buried with his clansmen at their rural homestead but that will not demean his national hero status.
In announcing the decision to confer national hero status to Prof Makhurane’s family at his Four Winds suburban home on Thursday, Vice President Kembo Mohadi said: “We had a Politburo meeting in Harare yesterday (Wednesday) to discuss the passing on of our brother Professor Phinias Makhurane.
We looked at the request that had come from Matabeleland South province asking us as a party to confer Prof Makhurane with some status. We then deliberated and found that Makhurane deserved to be a national hero and we unanimously agreed as the Politburo, including the President himself, to accord our brother with a national hero status,” said VP Mohadi.
“He was someone who was consistent in the party and never deviated. We were together with Makhurane in Zambia and at one time he was in charge of the international university education fund under which quite a number of liberation movement cadres acquired their higher and tertiary education.
We also looked at his contribution at Gwanda State University”. We say go thee well son of the soil. You ran your race. Robala kakhotso.