Sunday, 9 December 2018


THE heavens opened up in Gungwe, Gwanda District in Matabeleland South and a heavy downpour capped a bittersweet morning which saw mourners that included senior Government officials, academics, family members and villagers simultaneously mourn and celebrate the life and achievements of the founding Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) and 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 had brought, for the first time in Zimbabwe’s history, the burial of a national hero with a background heavily leaned on academia, to the province of Matabeleland South following his declaration to that coveted status by the ruling Zanu-PF Politburo last Wednesday.

Prof Makhurane died on 1 December at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo after a long battle with diabetes and hypertension.

Yesterday, the academic titan’s funeral had brought life to the usually sleepy village of Gungwe, with many people on foot joining those in cars as they made the trek through the twisted and dusty paths that lead to Prof Makhurane’s homestead.

What began as a typically calm day in Gungwe was interrupted by a helicopter that brought some of the dignitaries that attended Prof Makhurane’s burial. The giant bird was an object of curiosity for many villagers, with some swarming the beast that sat silently only a few metres from the place where a national hero was about to be laid to rest. It was among such simple rural folk that Prof Makhurane found joy, his son, Mr Lesedi Makhurane, said, as he thanked the Government for the honour they had bestowed on the late distinguished academic.

“Thank you very much to the Government for honouring our father. We’re 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,” said Mr Makhurane

Prof Makhurane, his son said, was a true man of the people whose skills in conflict resolution would be sorely missed by the family. He said that his achievements had brought weight to the Makhurane surname and his children wore it like a badge of honour wherever they went.

“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. I think there’s something that we forget. They call him double brain but all the time he was using his intellectual intelligence he was also using his emotional intelligence as well,” said Mr Makhurane. 

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 later went on to the University of Rhodesia (now University of Zimbabwe) for his first degree in Mathematics and Physics before attaining a Masters Degree 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 Phineas’ school fees was paid,” Ms Mnguni said of the late Prof Makhurane’s mother. “I don’t know what happened to that cow. I will ask the investigators that are here and I will ask them to find out what happened,” she said.

Zanu-PF spokesperson Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo said that Prof Makhurane’s death had saddened the country’s leader, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe and the Commander-In-Chief of the Defence Forces has instructed us to be with you on this solemn occasion. All I can say is that his Excellency sends his greetings to all. 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.

Chief mourner Ambassador Khaya Moyo gave tribute to Makhurane, describing him as a man who had no bias towards anyone because of ethnicity or region of origin.

“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 that even in the afterlife, Prof Makhurane would shine alongside some of Matabeleland South’s most illustrious sons including the last 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 Phineas can never die. He only gets called for higher responsibility,” he said.

Amidst tears from those that held him dearest to their hearts, the funeral was also a celebration of the late academic’s life.

After the speeches, Prof Makhurane was carried to his final resting place, with the Zimbabwe National Army’s band complemented by members of the Lutheran Church as they bade farewell to Nust’s founding Vice- Chancellor in song.

A gun salute that seemed to reverberate through the hills and valleys of Gungwe was followed by loud thunder as rain poured on the Matabeleland South village. There were gasps of shock followed by ululation as members of the ZNA fired shots into the overcast sky as part of the customary gun salute afforded to a national hero.

As per his wishes, Prof Makhurane was laid to rest among other deceased members of his family, with his grave only a few metres from his father Mogorosi Tsukuba Mvomoli and his brother Molikoa Blom Mogorosi’s final resting places.

The academic was buried close to midday, with the Master of Ceremonies having to cut short some speeches  and rebuff others that wanted to speak, as luminary after luminary in the field of academia and education lined up to wax poetic about the late educationalist.

Dignitaries who attended the burial besides Cde Khaya Moyo, included Minister of State for Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs, Cde Abedinico Ncube, Cde Evelyn Ndlovu, the Minister of State in Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga’s office, Zanu PF Secretary for War Veterans and Deputy Minister of Defence and War Veterans Cde Victor Matemadanda and the Secretary for Youth Affairs Cde Lewis Mathuthu, among other ruling party stalwarts. Sunday News


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