Bruce Ndlovu in Gwanda
THE heavens opened up in Gungwe, Gwanda district in Matabeleland South and a heavy downpour capped a bitter-sweet morning which saw mourners — who included senior Government officials, academics, family members and villagers — in turns mourn and celebrate.
They were all paying tribute to the life and legacy of the founding Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Science and Technology, national hero Professor Phinias Mogorosi Makhurane.
Speaker after speaker eulogised the late Prof Makhurane (79), as they trumpeted his role as one of the key pillars of Zimbabwe’s vaunted higher education system.
His remarkable achievements in academia, following his courageous support for the liberation struggle as a student, a lecturer and an organiser, saw Zanu-PF’s Politburo unanimously confer national hero status on the don last Wednesday.
Prof Makhurane died on December 1 at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo after battling diabetes and hypertension for years.
The academic titan’s funeral brought life to the usually sleepy village of Gungwe, with mourners pouring in on foot, in buses and in their cars to pay their last respects to Prof Makhurane at the family homestead.
Zanu-PF National Spokesperson Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo revealed how Prof Makhurane’s death had saddened President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“I have been asked by the President to convey a message, a message that has been repeated by those that spoke before. It’s a message from the President conveying condolences to the Makhurane family at such a great loss,” said Ambassador Khaya Moyo.
Ambassador Khaya Moyo described the national hero as a man who eschewed ethnic and regional bias.
“His departure is a massive blow not only to his family but to the country as a whole. He knew no tribe, no region and no negativity,” he said.
Ambassador Khaya Moyo said Prof Makhurane counted amongst luminaries like Cdes Jason Ziyapapa Moyo and Edward Mbakwa Ndlovu.
“He was a man of destiny. He knew that one day that the Almighty would call him but he had fulfilled his destiny here on earth. A person like Phinias can never die. He only gets called for higher responsibility,” he added.
Prof Makhurane’s son Lesedi spoke of how his father embraced all humanity. “Thank you very much to the Government for honouring our father. We are very much humbled and touched by what you’ve done for us.
“Our father was a simple man. He got doctorates and had travelled all over the world but at the end of the day he was just a simple man. If you look at the house he built here, it’s big and bold.
“But if you take a closer look you’ll realise that its a home that was meant to accommodate everybody. It wasn’t for just the four Makhurane siblings. It’s a home that belonged to everyone…
“We, as his children, never owned him. He belonged to the whole family and to the nation. Growing up we were able to bask in that glory … They called him ‘Double Brain’ but all the time he was using his intellectual intelligence he was also using his emotional intelligence as well.”
Family spokesperson Ms Boitatelo Mnguni detailed the Prof Makhurane’s humble beginnings in Gungwe, narrating the start of an illustrious academic journey that began with primary education in Gwanda to detours in Chegato, Mberengwa, Manama in Gwanda, Mnene in Mberengwa and Fletcher High School in Gweru.
Prof Makhurane went on to the University of Rhodesia (now University of Zimbabwe) to read for a degree in Mathematics and Physics, before attaining a Master’s and PhD in Physics in the United Kingdom.
“The woman who died in that hut over there took a cow to Manama High School and the cow was used by the school and so Phinias’ school fee was paid,” Ms Mnguni said of the late Prof Makhurane’s mother.
Amidst the tears, there was much celebration of the academic’s life.
After the eulogies, Prof Makhurane was carried to his final resting place, with the Zimbabwe National Army Band, complemented by the Lutheran Church, singing farewell to the national hero.
A gun salute reverberated through the hills and valleys of Gungwe, and was immediately followed by a loud clap of thunder as rain poured on the Matabeleland South village.
As per his wishes, Prof Makhurane was laid to rest in the family burial plot, a few feet away from his father Mogorosi Tsukuba Mvomoli and brother Molikoa Blom Mogorosi lie.
Among the mourners were Minister of State in Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga’s Office Evelyn Ndlovu, Minister of State for Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs Abedinico Ncube, Zanu-PF Secretary for War Veterans and Deputy Minister of Defence and War Veterans Victor Matemadanda, and the ruling party’s Secretary for Youth Affairs Cde Lewis Mathuthu, among others.