Chronicle Reporters and Harare Bureau
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has mourned founding National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Vice-Chancellor and nationalist, Professor Phineas Makhurane, describing him as a strong nationalist.
Prof Makhurane, who was one of the first black Zimbabwean to attain a degree in Physics and Mathematics, succumbed to diabetes at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo on Saturday.
President Mnangagwa visited him last month at his home in Fourwinds, Bulawayo, when he learnt that the revered academic was not feeling well.
“The death yesterday of Professor Phineas Makhurane after a long fight with diabetes has robbed our nation of an outstanding scholar, educationist and founder-administrator of key institutions of our tertiary education,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Although I knew that Professor Makhurane had been unwell for quite some time, still I hoped that he would pull through and recover, and be able to be with us for much longer so our nation, particularly our higher education sector, would continue to tap from his vast and inimitable knowledge and experience in higher education.
“Quiet and unassuming, there was the other side to the late departed which his remarkable modestly kept away from public gaze. He was a strong nationalist whose privileged position as a man of letters with stable prospects even under colonial conditions did not blunt or diminish.
“He grew and pursued his academic career, a key part of nationalist politics then under the banner of ZAPU, a sister Liberation Movement. He kept connected to, and involved in, the whole process of the National Liberation Struggle, even as he taught at the University of Botswana.”
President Mnangagwa said Prof Makhurane played an important role in the reconstruction of independent Zimbabwe through higher education.
“At Independence, he heeded the call to come back home and help with the reconstruction of our nation, concentrating his efforts in the area he knew and did best, namely that of higher education,” he said.
“He helped raise generations of students and scholars, many of who occupy influential positions in the country and beyond.
“Later, he would be redeployed from the then sole University of Zimbabwe where he had risen to Vice-Chancellorship, to found the seminal National University of Science and Technology, Nust, which is located in Bulawayo and whose novel mandate was to pioneer the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM for short.
“Today, Nust stands out as a monument to his visionary leadership and sterling effort, with much of its structures and educational programmes having taken form and shape when our country was in the grip of deep economic challenges largely wrought by punitive sanctions from the West.
“As we mourn his passing on, we, at the same time, celebrate this incomparable bequest to our nation by which he shall be remembered across generations.
“On behalf of the Party, Zanu-PF, Government, my family, and on my own behalf, I wish to convey my deep, heartfelt condolences to the Makhurane family, especially to Mrs Makhurane and the children. In this hour of heavy grief, may the family derive comfort from the outstanding deeds of this great man who has left such an indelible mark on our nation. We mourn with them in this hour of deep loss and grief, praying that his soul be rested in perfect peace.”
The ruling party’s national spokesperson, Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo said the revolutionary party was shocked and dismayed by the death of Prof Makhurane.
“The revolutionary ZanuF humbly led by the indomitable President Cde ED Mnangagwa has learnt with shock and dismay of the untimely demise yesterday (Saturday) of Professor Phineas Makhurane, the former and founding Vice Chancellor of the National University of Science and Technology,” he said.
“His departure is a massive blow not only to his family, but to the entire Zimbabwe nation.”
Prof Makhurane’s last born son Mr Mooketsi Makhurane said his father suffered from diabetes and hypertension for a long time before he died on Saturday afternoon.
He said funeral arrangements were yet to be finalised, but his father would be buried at their rural home in Gwanda South on Saturday.
“We took him to the hospital on Friday and he died on Saturday at about 4.50PM,” said Mooketsi.
Mooketsi said Prof Makhurane remained a humble man despite his achievements.
“He was an honest person to anyone who approached him with any situation and this is something I learnt from him and I believe his legacy will live on forever because he inspired many people,” he said.
Prof Makhurane was born in Gwanda in 1939 and did his primary education in the district before enrolling at Chegato in Mberengwa, Manama in Gwanda, Mnene again in Mberengwa and Fletcher High School in Gweru for his secondary education.
He went to the then University of Rhodesia (now University of Zimbabwe) for his first degree where he majored in Mathematics and Physics and proceeded to the United Kingdom where he attained a Masters and PhD in Physics.
Prof Makhurane later worked as a lecturer at the University of Zambia where he helped many locals and Zambians, including President Mnangagwa to get scholarships.
He also worked at the University of Botswana where he was Dean of Faculty of Science until independence when he decided to come back home to work at the University of Zimbabwe where he became the Pro Vice-Chancellor, before moving to the University of Science and Technology (Nust) as the Vice Chancellor.
Prof Makhurane was tasked by Government to be a technical advisor in higher education and was appointed Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (Zimche) chairperson until his retirement.
He also played a big role in the planning of the establishment of the University of Gwanda.
Prof Makhurane was Zapu representative in Sweden during the struggle for independence.
He is survived by his wife, four children, three boys and a girl and six grandchildren. Mourners are gathered at Number 2 Marion Road in Fourwinds.