Lawson Mabhena in Victoria Falls
PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday bestowed the Royal Order of Munhumutapa on former Liberation Committee executive secretary in the Organisation of African Unity, Brigadier-General (Retired) Hashim Mbita who joins a distinguished group of five of Africa’s founding fathers who received the honour before him.
Only Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Agostino Neto (Angola), Samora Machel (Mozambique), Seretse Khama (Botswana) and Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), have also been conferred the lofty recognition.
President Mugabe also gave Rtd Brig-Gen Mbita of Tanzania US$100 000 here yesterday in recognition of his central role in the liberation struggles of Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular.
The President also called on Sadc and Africa to find a way of honouring Tanzania’s founding president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, describing him as one of the foremost characters in the decolonisation agenda.
President Mugabe honoured Rtd Brig-Gen Mbita — who at one point served as Tanzania’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe — soon after launching nine volumes of the Hashim Mbita Project, which document the liberation struggles of nine Southern African countries.
The project is the brainchild of Sadc leaders and is wholly funded by member-states.
Nine countries covered by the project are Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, the DRC, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
Rtd Brig-Gen Mbita was the last and longest serving Liberation Committee secretary, responsible for mobilising arms and military equipment to fight colonialism.
The Liberation Committee office was in existence for 30 years with Rtd Brig-Gen Mbita its executive secretary from 1974 until the agency was officially closed in 1994 when South Africa gained independence.
The Liberation Committee was established at the founding summit of the OAU in 1963.
“This is in recognition of his sterling contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe from colonial bondage,” President Mugabe said to Ms Shella Hashim Mbita, who received the award on her father’s behalf.
“It is an honour for me to stand before you today on behalf of my ailing father, Brigadier-General Hashim Mbita, who was invited to attend this auspicious occasion. It is unfortunate that due to his current state of ill-health, he could not attend. But he would have liked very much to be with you.
“When I informed my father about the launching of the publication documenting the history of the liberation struggle of the Southern African region by the Hashim Mbita Project, and about the invitation extended to the family, he was greatly moved,” Ms Mbita said.
Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda told the Summit that to date only Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Agostino Neto (Angola), Samora Machel (Mozambique), Seretse Khama (Botswana) and Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), had received the Royal Order of Munhumutapa for their contributions to Zimbabwe’s liberation.
“In light of (Rtd Brig-Gen Mbita’s) contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe, Government felt he deserved this honour,” Dr Sibanda said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi read the accompanying citation.
Renowned historian and Midlands State University Vice Chancellor Professor Ngwabi Bhebe, who presented the Hashim Mbita Project Publication to the Summit, said indigenous academics from the nine countries the volumes focus on worked on the publication from 2006.
On Mwalimu Nyeyere’s status, President Mugabe said Africa had not done enough to honour this icon of continental liberation. He said this as he accepted ascension to the post of Sadc Chair.
“We have not done much by way of paying tribute to our founding fathers. Yes, something has been done for (Kwame) Nkrumah at the AU, and recently a hall was named after (Nelson) Mandela.
“But we forget, perhaps as a new generation of leaders, that the greatest burden of freeing Africa was borne by one country — Tanzania. That one. Not that he was the greatest, but Mwalimu — no mention has been made, no symbol to remember his part. We cannot be that ungrateful, no.
“I would want to say, help us, help me, respect Mwalimu at the AU somehow,” President Mugabe, who is also the AU deputy chairperson, said.