Zimbabwe Loses Brilliant Scholar

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Scores of academics, politicians, lawyers, diplomats and many other people bade farewell to one of Zimbabwe's finest legal minds on May 22.

Africa News Update

Professor Walter Joseph Kamba's death has robbed Zimbabwe a brilliant
scholar and one of the most professional and dedicated educationist who
was the driving force behind the expansion and transformation of the
University of Zimbabwe in the post-independence era.

His unparalleled legal expertise and enormous organizational skills
helped to transform the UZ from what Higher Education Minister Dr. Stan
Mudenge said was a relatively “small colonial university” into a vast
institution providing education to the majority of knowledge-hungry
Africans. Prof. Kamba died on May 18 after a long battle with diabetes.
He was 75.

Scores of academics, politicians, lawyers, diplomats and many other
people bade farewell to one of Zimbabwe's finest legal minds on May 22.
Prof. Christopher Chetsanga, the president of the Zimbabwe Academy of
Sciences said Prof. Kamba made a sterling contribution to the promotion
and development of science and technology in the country by sourcing
funds for research, equipment and learning materials for labs at UZ.

"He was one the greatest educational leaders in Zimbabwe," he said. "He
persuaded many of us to return home and teach. I was teaching at the
University of Michigan when he persuaded me to come back soon after
independence in 1980. When he took over the running of the UZ it was a
small university with just over 1, 000 students and when he left the
campus had a population of more than 8 000 students."

"The UZ has provided lecturers to all the universities in the country.
Vice chancellors, deans and professors in the country's 13 universities
all went through the UZ. Prof Kamba played such a dominant role in the
expansion of the university that it will be difficult to talk about the
success of the UZ without mentioning his name," Prof. Chetsanga said.

He expressed concern that there was high concentration of knowledge,
especially scientific and technological knowledge in the rich North and
hence the need for Zimbabwe to generate its own knowledge for its
development context. Prof. Kamba was a gifted communicator and whenever
he spoke people listened and learnt. White lawyers, diplomats and even
government critics joined politicians and academics from the divide in
mourning one of the most professional educationists the country has
ever had.

"He had foresight, he always looked forward –for constructive solutions
and initiatives that could break the negative spiral and put Zimbabwe
on a more positive path," said Sten Rylander, the Swedish Ambassador to

"One thing we can be very sure about, Walter will be able to rest in
peace in heaven. As far as I know, Walter had only friends. All the
people around him liked and loved him.

"What he stood for was peace, harmony, intellectual and personal
integrity, inclusiveness, non-violence, humanity, friendship, humility,
tolerance, positive development, freedom, true democracy and rigid
respect for human rights – all these good things that most of us would
like to see inherent in Zimbabwe," Rylander said.

But, Prof Kamba's most enduring contribution was his role in crafting
the path to Zimbabwe's freedom at the 1979 Lancaster House talks. Prof.
Kamba, together with professors Simbi Mubako and Reg Austin, provided
legal support to the country's main liberation movements –Zanu and PF
Zapu towards the end of the 1970s war of liberation.

Said President Robert Mugabe: "Professor Kamba proved his pedigree when
together with professors Simbi Mubako and Reg Austin they provided the
much-needed legal advice to the Patriotic Front at the Lancaster House
Constitutional Conference.

His work at what was to become the University of Zimbabwe saw him
establish contact with and instruct several luminaries of independent
Zimbabwe's civil and diplomatic services. Indeed it was fitting that in
1980 he became the first black vice chancellor of the University of
Zimbabwe. It was under him that enrolment at the institution
experienced phenomenal growth and also began to reflect the country's
demographic profile. Even after his retirement from the University of
Zimbabwe in 1990, Prof Kamba continued to lend his skills to the
advancement of mankind with stints in Namibia where, at one time, he
was chairman of vice chancellors of African universities."

Prof. Kamba was accorded a state-assisted funeral.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’ Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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