By John Makumbe
One of Zimbabwe's most illustrious sons, Professor Walter Kamba (1932-2007), passed away on May 18 2007. The first black Vice Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, Prof Kamba was the ultimate academic. I recall him once stating courageously, "Disputation is the essence of acad

emia”. This was a far cry from the frightened attitudes of today’s leadership of the UZ, who view disputation as inimical to patriotism.
Kamba was appointed to the position of VC at UZ in 1980, soon after Zimbabwe attained national Independence from Britain. He had been instrumental in providing legal advice to the nationalist movements that sat down with the colonial British officials at Lancaster House in London. He was proud to have been part of that process, but he never sought to take advantage of his contribution by demanding a political position in the governance of this country.
Kamba used to love to address all new students at the beginning of each academic year. His addresses were always awesome in that he very quickly made the students feel at home while also bringing to their realisation the truth that they had the capability of making or breaking themselves in relation to how they performed at the august institution.
Blessed with a fine legal mind, he used to chair Senate meetings where senior academics would openly discuss serious academic and administrative issues without fear of political and professional victimisation. During those days, the UZ Senate used to make real decisions unlike today when the VC and his underlings come to Senate meetings to basically tell senators what they will have decided to do.
After a few stints in the consultancy arena, Kamba returned to the UZ for a few assignments before his health took a turn for the worse. He was aggrieved to see the national institution that he had nurtured over ten years incrementally falling into disuse. The UZ is now a glorified squatter camp and far from being an institution of excellence. When he left the UZ in 1990, the dictatorial Mugabe regime had just passed the notorious UZ Amendment Act (1990). This was probably the most vicious attack on academic freedom that this nation had ever experienced. I remember Kamba announcing his departure and acidly noting, “There are too many unprofessional fingers interfering in the running of the University”. Prior to his passing, Kamba had sadly witnessed some of the deplorable consequences of the work of those filthy “unprofessional fingers”.
The Prof’s humility, astuteness and presence of mind, and his contribution to this nation, particularly to academia, cannot be matched. In his passing, Zimbabwe has lost a national giant, and a crucial pillar in the development of this severely damaged country. He is survived by his wife Angeline and two sons.

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