THERE is an English expression which goes “the goods are turned in their bones”. This is indeed true for Maclean Mackson Bhala (pictured) whose good works will forever be cherished by students and staff at Lupane State Unversity (LSU), Lupane, Matabeleland North communities and the country as a whole.
I first met Bhala in 2004 at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), where LSU was initially operating from and he introduced to me in my capacity as secretary-general of the Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme (RLRDP), his vision and plan of action for LSU.
We later met again at the Nust boardroom where we were joined by Ntombizakhe Mpofu from the LSU’s faculty of agricultural sciences. We had a fruitful discussion and agreed a partnership between our two organisations.
One of the concerns Bhala mentioned at this meeting was that LSU was being initiated at a time when the country was experiencing economic hardships and that any assistance RLRDP and other organisations could provide would go a long way.
Mpofu was tasked by Bhala to liaise with RLRDP to come up with a memorandum of understanding (MoU). Our several meetings with Mpofu, later joined by Melusi Moyo from the same faculty, produced an MoU that proposed the establishment of a centre for agriculture and rural development (Card) housed at LSU.
I was also tasked with the sourcing of books, mainly agriculture books to support the faculty of agricultural sciences and Card. Through contacts with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation RLRDP was able to source and donate to LSU a number of books that became some of the initial materials for the university.
One of the challenges that Bhala faced was that books had been made available to his institution, but there were no shelves for the books. He appealed to RLRDP to loan LSU book shelves, which RLRDP gladly provided. The shelves were later returned to RLRDP when the university library was fully established.
In 2005 when the university had moved to the National Railways of Zimbabwe Complex, a ceremony for the signing of the MoU between LSU and RLRDP was held, where Bhala signed on behalf of LSU and I on behalf of RLRDP.
During the ceremony Bhala mentioned that this was a historic event since it was the first MoU that LSU was signing.
This is just but one example where Bhala spread his influence to mobilise resources and support for LSU.
He had a lot of passion for his work and he often imagined what Lupane would look like once the university was fully established at its designated sites in Lupane.
Bhala’s belief in the provision of relevant and appropriate education, capable of transforming rural lives, is what I will among some of his achievements, remember him for.
On my own behalf and that of colleagues at RLRDP, we say farewell thee Mclean Mackson Bhala — pillar of knowledge.
We will continue to live your dream of “building communities through knowledge” and contributing to your vision of LSU “to be an international premier university in research-based knowledge, teaching and learning”.
May your dear soul rest in eternal peace.
Obadiah Moyo is the RLRDP secretary-general writing in his personal capacity