President mourns, declares Professor Bhebhe a national hero The late Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe

Stanford Chiwanga, [email protected] 

PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has mourned and declared Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe, the founding Vice Chancellor of Midlands State University (MSU), a national hero. Professor Bhebhe passed on yesterday, leaving behind a legacy of academic excellence and nationalist scholarship.

He was an academic of international renown, who won several awards and honours for his contributions to the field of history. Prof Bhebhe was the Vice Chancellor of MSU from 1999 to 2014 and oversaw its growth and development into a multi-departmental institution. President Mnangagwa together with the late Vice-President and national hero Cde Simon Muzenda, national heroes Cdes Richard Hove and Cephas Msipa, were members of the first committee that resulted in the birth of MSU. He was a member of several academic and professional associations, and authored and co-authored many books and articles on various aspects of Zimbabwean and African history.

The President expressed his devastation at the news of Professor Bhebhe’s death.

“The news of the passing on of Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe today left me devastated. An academic of international renown, and a founding, long-time Vice Chancellor of Midlands State University, MSU, the late Professor Bhebhe was an outstanding teacher and scholar through whom successive generations of historians passed, all to subsequently make great names for themselves in their own right, and at various institutions in our Sadc region and the World at large. 

“I worked very closely with Professor Bhebhe at every stage from the inception to the development of Midlands State University as a full-fledged, multi-departmental institution which grew steeped in the national ethos. Together, we transformed MSU from being a pre-eminently academic-orientated institution as was the tradition then, to being research-led and solution-driven. Today, thanks to the late Professor Bhebhe, MSU is right in the forefront of transforming higher education into a catalyst for National Development, by generating durably-tested solutions in line with our Vision 2030. We forever will be indebted to him for this outstanding Vision which was always tempered by a bend towards the urgent practicalities of our nation,” said President Mnangagwa. 

He also commended Professor Bhebhe for his numerous research projects and publications that re-narrated the history of Zimbabwe and Africa, and helped the nation to redefine and rebuild its collective identity. 

“A nationalist through and through, Professor Bhebhe was associated with numerous research projects and publications which re-narrativised our history, thus helping us re-define and re-build our collective personality through decoloniality. I especially recall his outstanding leadership in compiling the Zimbabwean Chapter on African Liberation Struggle history, to give us a tome which is a must-read for all nationally aware citizens of our continent. This monumental work was interspersed by numerous other projects we repeatedly assigned to him as Government. 

“We remain indebted to him for a number of researched portraits of national icons, among them late Benjamin Burombo, and the first Vice-President of Zimbabwe, late Dr Simon V Muzenda. His research into the Ndebele State before colonisation, and on the role of the Presbyterian Mission in the Midlands Province under successive colonial governments, added a rich, authoritative chapter to our history as a people. 

“He will be sorely missed by our country’s community of researchers, and by the numerous PhD students he supervised as a Professor Emeritus at MSU, and before then as a leading lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. It spoke highly of him that the current top leadership of the Great Zimbabwe University, GZU, emerged from within his top staff at MSU. He advised Government on several universities which now operate,” said President Mnangagwa. 

President Mnangagwa conveyed his deepest condolences to the Bhebhe family and the nation, and said that the ruling party, Zanu-PF, had unanimously agreed to confer upon him national hero status. 

He said: “On behalf of the Party, Zanu-PF, Government, my Family and on my behalf, I wish to express my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the Bhebhe Family on this their saddest loss. 

“May their pain be assuaged by the distinguished role the late departed played in founding key institutions of Higher Education, and in mounding several minds which today drive our nation from various echelons and in different capacities. Our whole nation mourns with them and pays deep respects to Professor Bhebhe.

“In recognition of his outstanding role as an academic, a leader of our leading institutions, a great teacher and a committed nationalist, the ruling Party, Zanu-PF, has                                               unanimously agreed to confer upon him national hero status. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace.”

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