Midlands’s provincial affairs minister Owen Ncube has revealed that the late founding vice chancellor of Midlands State University (MSU) Ngwabi Bhebhe wished for his body to lie at the institution’s chapel when he died.
Bhebhe died last Friday aged 81.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared him a national hero and he was buried at the National Heroes Acre yesterday.
Speaking at the MSU chapel where a memorial service was held for Bhebhe last week, Ncube said the chapel was the brainchild of the late academic.
"The MSU chapel is an initiative of the resourceful work ethic of the late national hero," Ncube said.
"This chapel is his brainchild and as a founder the former vice chancellor wished his body would lie in glory at the time of his departure as we are witnessing today.
“Thank you professor (Victor) Muzvidziwa (incumbent MSU vice chancellor) and your team for fulfilling the late professor Bhebhe's dream."
Bhebhe served as the MSU vice chancellor from 1999 t0 2014 and is credited for its growth and development.
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He was part of the committee that established the MSU alongside the late Vice President Simon Muzenda, national heroes Richard Hove and Cephas Msipa.
Ncube said Bhebhe made invaluable contributions not only to the academic fraternity, but also to political leadership and learners in Zimbabwe and abroad.
"Accordingly the national hero status accorded to the late professor Bhebhe is consistent with the whole criteria that incorporate hard honest work, loyalty, commitment, patriotism and desire to improve the livelihoods of communities," he said.
Bhebhe is one of the few individuals not actively engaged in politics to be declared a national hero and buried at the Heroes Acre.
The late academic Phineas Makhurane the founding National University of Science and Technology (Nust) vice-chancellor, was also declared a national hero when he died.
In his condolence message, Mnangagwa said Bhebhe’s research projects helped redefine the nation’s collective identity.
Mnangagwa singled out Bhebhe’s leadership in compiling the Zimbabwean chapter on the history of the African Liberation Struggle, which is considered an essential read for citizens of the continent.
He also acknowledged Bhebhe’s research on national icons such as Benjamin Burombo and the late Simon Muzenda, as well as his work on the Ndebele state.