Founding MSU Vice Chancellor Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe declared national hero

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Founding Midlands State University (MSU) Vice Chancellor Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe, who died yesterday, has been declared a national hero in recognition of his outstanding role as an academic, a great teacher and committed nationalist.

He was 81.

In his condolence message last night, President Mnangagwa said news of Prof Bhebhe’s death left him devastated.

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“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,” he said.

“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.

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“Together, we transformed MSU from being a pre-eminently academic-orientated institution as was the tradition then, to being research-led and solution-driven.”

President Mnangagwa said thanks to Prof Bhebhe, the MSU was now in the forefront of transforming higher education into a catalyst for national development, by generating durably-tested solutions in line with Vision 2030 of an empowered upper middle income society.

“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.

“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,” said President Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe remains indebted to Prof Bhebhe for a number of researched portraits of national icons, among them late Benjamin Burombo, and the first Vice President of Zimbabwe, the late Dr Simon Vengayi Muzenda, added the President.

Added the President: “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.

“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.”

President Mnangagwa said the whole nation mourns with the Bhebhe Family and pays deep respects to Prof 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,” he said.

Prof Bhebhe guided the MSU from its birth in 1999 when it had 400 students to 2016, when it had become the country’s biggest tertiary institution in terms of student enrolment that was above 20 000.

The MSU is now a multi-campus university with campuses in Harare, Zvishavane and the Gweru, its headquarters.

Speaking during Prof Bhebhe’s 80th birthday celebrations last year, Great Zimbabwe University Vice-Chancellor Prof Rungano Zvobgo said: “One of the good signs that show that someone has succeeded is the number of people you helped along the way. My brother here was never happy with mere support if he could not count the number of people he had helped succeed on their own.”


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