The Arena Hildegarde
Dr Hikwa’s desire to take the library as we know it to the people saw one of the most amazing projects come out of library land in Zimbabwe. He was among the people that came up with the unique donkey-drawn mobile library.
THE world’s ready reference tool for anything and everything, the Internet through the search engine Google has this to say about morbidity: “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living,” and this is attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero.
As a practicing librarian, lecturer and finally the Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Information Science at the National University of Science and Technology in the city of Kings, the terms used in my introduction would have easily resonated with Dr Lawton Hikwa.
But then, death can be that cruel!
In cricket, scoring half a century is a remarkable feat and you look forward to a century. But the God of Lawton said his time would be up at 50 years, when the world was appreciating his giftings more and more.
Just last Thursday evening, someone in the Herald newsroom asked me for his contact number. They wanted his opinion on a story.
It had become quite normal that I would hear his name called out for possible commentators on socio-political issues, but then I would never have guessed that the next time I would see “Lawton Hikwa” would be on October 12 when there would be a story informing the nation that the man they had trusted with so much responsibility regarding issues of national interest, was no more.
Dying just like that when a few days before, we wanted his opinion. However, as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7, Lawton “fought the good fight, (he) finished the race, (he) kept the faith.”
I write this piece to mourn Hikwa the man who was a professional colleague for more than two decades. We experienced the formative years of the of library and information science in this country, and on a number of occasions shared podiums at workshops and seminars organised by the National Library and Documentation Service, as Government strived to professionalise a discipline that many employers out there took for granted.
The University of Zimbabwe, the only tertiary institution then did not have a department to train library and information professionals at a higher level.
The minimum one could get was the certificate course at both the Harare and Bulawayo polytechnics.
This was notwithstanding that the university wanted high calibre personnel to work in its library. While Dr Hikwa trained elsewhere so did I and many other people coming out of the UZ.
His passion for the profession was evident. You could sense that he felt that the majority of the population was marginalised in terms of accessing relevant information to enable them to make fundamental decisions.
Dr Hikwa was also a man who believed that people, irrespective of their location were entitled to having a library close by.
We used to discuss that the only way to achieving a reading culture was through the provision of relevant reading materials since all the existing libraries, including the so-called best libraries were full of Western publications whose content had very little to do with our local situation.
Together with other young professionals, we opined at the seeming lack of interest to change the status quo, and just like we are doing at the moment, we wondered why the educated people around us were not filling in that gap, until local publications outnumber Western publications, and until Western authors wrote the African story that reflected Africa’s people and their way of life and thinking.
Dr Hikwa’s desire to take the library as we know it to the people saw one of the most amazing projects come out of library land in Zimbabwe.
He was among the people that came up with the “unique donkey-drawn mobile library, with shock absorbers, a book holding capacity of 2 000, audio visual facilities”, that was launched in the Sikhobokhobo area of Nkayi in October 2004, according to a Chronicle report of 14 and 16 October 2004.
The “donkey-drawn mobile library” was a Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme, which was a community-based non-governmental organisation, which strived to make information accessible to Zimbabwe’s rural communities.
In research and academia, if this cannot be listed under original inventions, what would then qualify?
According to the project director Mr Obadiah Moyo, “The mobile library should go a long way in improving the availability of books to young children in Nkayi.
Most schools in the district do not have libraries and adequate books…”
On the academic front, all that I remember is that there are not many librarians who are PhD holders. But Lawton became one of the people to achieve this high qualification and he became cognisant of the fact that a doctoral degree in a majority of cases is for teaching, research and publishing in refereed journals.
He achieved that and trained many library practitioners who are serving the nation and beyond. He also managed the affairs of the Faculty of Communication and Information Science, a duty he executed very well because his products are there for all to see.
When you have what it takes to be a key decision-maker, people want you to be that voice of reason in their affairs. It was not surprising therefore to see Dr Hikwa being a board member in a number of organisations.
However, it was my recollection of Dr Hikwa the family man that made me write this obituary-sort of narrative.
After the formation of the Inclusive Government in 2009, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, chaired then by Justice Simpson Victor Mtambanengwe kept itself in a state of readiness for the eventuality of harmonised elections.
This writer, Mrs Kathy Bond-Stewart, Mr C. Tsingano and Dr Hikwa were invited by ZEC to edit some voter education materials, which were distributed in English, Shona and Ndebele.
As the week progressed, Dr Hikwa’s daughter gave birth to a baby girl. This was his first grandchild. Not only was he excited, but he was so anxious to fly back to Bulawayo and see his granddaughter. Not just that, he told me that there was no way he could miss the naming “ceremony”.
I told him, “But Dr Hikwa, mwana wemukuwasha, so why should you be part of the naming process?” He was adamant and said he had a stake in that naming, because she was his first grandchild, and the only way they could show respect was by allowing him to also suggest a name for the baby.
ZEC wanted their work completed, but by Thursday of that week, Dr Hikwa just wanted to go. He knew his obligations as a professional, but he also tried to balance it with his family obligations.
Early this year, we met at a ZEC event and I had to ask him whether he arrived on time to give the baby a name, and he just smiled, and said, “Much as I tried, the parents’ wish prevailed.” My feelings were that inwardly, he called her by the name he had had even before she was born.
This was Lawton Hikwa who has left his family, professional colleagues and students poorer. But then, death beckons for us all.
I reiterate the farewell by Zanu-PF spokesperson Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo: “BuKalanga gonda.” (The Kalanga has gone.) Rest in eternal peace!