National hero Prof Bhebe a mentor par-excellence Professor Ngwabi Mulunge Bhebe

Blessings Chidakwa Herald Reporter

NATIONAL hero and founding Midlands State University (MSU) Vice Chancellor Professor Ngwabi Bhebe has been described as a mentor par-excellence with consultations for his burial arrangements now underway.

Some family members including his children based abroad were expected to arrive in the country yesterday from their foreign bases.

As condolence messages continue to pour in, the academic world has described his loss as one that leaves a wide and deep gap in that fraternity.  Prof Bhebe died last Friday at the age of 81.

Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Ambassador Raphael Faranisi yesterday said consultations with the family were expected last night or today.

“There are some of his children who are expected to arrive in the country today and they will do internal consultations.

“We expect to then immediately consult with the family then brief our superiors. At the moment our officers are in Gweru conducting all the necessary duties that are accorded to a national hero,” he said.

Former Finance and Economic Development Deputy Minister Clemence Chiduwa, who worked under Prof Bhebe at MSU as an economics lecturer, described him as a dynamic visionary and results-based leader who had focus and national orientation.

“A great hero and leader who left an indelible mark in the development history of Zimbabwe. He was a humorous person who could convey any message in whatever format. The great Vice Chancellor achieved a lot with his then so-called high school teachers whom he moulded to become renowned professors, academics and national leaders,” he said.

Gwanda State University Vice Chancellor Professor Doreen Zandile Moyo said the nation has lost a great mentor. Together they started MSU in 2000.  “He taught me and other section heads the importance of being a good and accountable leader. I cherish working under him as a chairperson of a department and later Executive Dean. Such mentors are rare to find,” she said.

“His legacy will live on through some of us his products that emulate his work ethic. I am now a Vice Chancellor of Gwanda State University as a result of the mentorship I received from him, even after he had retired as MSU Vice Chancellor.”

Bindura University of Science Education Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Executive Dean, Professor Johnson Masaka, said the late national hero was “a walking work of scholarship”.

Prof Masaka said under the visionary leadership of Prof Bhebe, he had a rare opportunity to work under him for more than 22 years as a lecturer, senior lecturer, professor, chairperson of department, deputy dean and dean of faculty.

He said over these years, the late national hero was one of the greatest scholars of their time who excelled in amassing knowledge as a historian and university administrator.

“It remains a brutal fact that Prof Ngwabi Bhebe marks the highest peak of professional ethics in university administration and leadership,” he said. “He built brick by brick the MSU from a mere teacher training college with 400 students to a branded and internationally recognised 25 000 student university that has produced esteemed graduates working in the country, region and the world at large.”

Prof Masaka said Prof Bhebe, through his unparalleled administrative and distinguished professional ethics, produced budding and internationally rated professors who have become esteemed professionals themselves exuding academic traits of the late national hero.

“As a person, Professor Bhebe is a departed image of humble humanity. I cannot be what I am today without his guidance. He was a source of motivation for many of us, a team builder and model for future leaders,” he said.

The Institute of African Knowledge (INSTAK) board chairperson, Prof Simbi Mubako, also consoled the family of the late national hero, describing him as a great African scholar and historian.

Prof Mubako said his loss left a great void in the nation.

“We are left very much orphaned in the academic world and indeed in the whole Zimbabwe development story. The passing on of Prof Bhebe was a great shock when I heard about it last night and it will take a long time for me to get over it.

“I have no doubt the whole nation feels the loss of this great mind,” he said.

Prof Mubako said Prof Bhebe was also a prolific writer who wrote a number of books on Zimbabwean and African history.

“He also tutored great people like Air Marshal Josiah Tungamirai and he also produced a biography of the former Vice President Cde Simon Muzenda.

“He was also working on a biography project of President Cde Dr Emmerson Mnangagwa. More recently when we published the Africa Factbook, Prof Bhebe was one of our contributors on the history of Zimbabwe, “ he said.

Due to his passion and commitment to the preservation of Zimbabwe’s history and nation building, Prof Bhebe teamed up with colleagues to found the MSU and became its first Vice Chancellor.

In Gweru mourners are gathered at 266 Mutausi Park.

Minister of Public Service and Social Welfare Cde July Moyo, who visited the residence, described the late national hero as a great scholar and nationalist who committed his whole life to the development of education in the country.

“I knew the professor way back when him and Professor Phineas Makhurane (NUST founding Vice Chancellor) taught us in Form 1. He would inspire a lot of people to join the liberation struggle back then. Later he was instrumental in shaping the academic sphere in the country. He was indeed a big man in his own right,” he said.

Midlands State University Vice Chancellor Prof Victor Muzvidziwa described the late Prof Bhebe as a great academic.

“The greatest legacy the man has left is MSU. As the founding Vice Chancellor of the institution, the late Professor made sure that the institution would transform for the better. He is the person who brought the aspect of entrepreneurship at the institution. Prior to the inception of the Second Republic, the university didn’t get any funding from Government. He started projects that would later see the construction of the institution to be where it is today,” he said.

ZIMCHE Chief Executive Prof Kuzvinetsa Nzvimbo said: “I for one was a former student of Professor Bhebhe. He was a great mentor who would teach us to be where we are today. As the board Chairman of ZIMCHE, he has been hands on in making sure that the education system in the country is where it is today. The man was just in a league of his own,” he said.

Family spokesperson, Dr Philip Bhebe, said Prof Bhebe left a huge void which will be hard to fill.

“He was the torch bearer of the family. Whenever we would face problems we knew he could provide direction. We now have to adjust and accept what has befallen the family. It’s a huge loss,” he said.

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