Liberation icon Hashim Mbita dies
Liberation war icon Retired Brigadier General Hashim Mabita of Tanzania has died. According to information received from the Director of Tanzania Information Services, Asa Mwambene, Gen Mbita died on April 26 at Lugalo Military Hospital in Dar es Salaam where he was receiving treatment. At the time of going to press, burial arrangements were still being finalised by the Tanzanian government.
A minute of silence was observed at the opening of the SADC Council of Ministers meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, on April 27 in honour of the liberation icon. All delegates from the 14 SADC countries stood up to honour the late Brig Gen Mbita for his contribution to the freedom of SADC as well as the African continent as a whole.
The order to observe a minute’s silence was made by chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who is also Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Minister.
Mumbengegwi told the meeting that Mbita was one of the outstanding liberation war heroes in the emancipation of Africa from colonial forces and had played a big role in the integration of the regional body.
He also noted the role Mbita played in chronicling the history of the liberation struggle in various African countries – an honour that earned him as recipient of an honour of the highest order from the Zimbabwe government at the SADC Summit in Victoria Falls in August last year.
The late Brig Gen Mbita, who was secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union) Liberation Committee for two decades between 1974 and 1994, was conferred with the highest honour in Zimbabwe – the Royal Order of Munhumutapa, named after the great Munhumutapa Kingdom of the pre-colonial era.
Previous recipients of the honour were former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, the late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, and the late founding presidents of Angola, Botswana and Mozambique, respectively Dr Agostinho Neto, Sir Seretse Khama and Samora Machel.
“We in Zimbabwe are very glad that he accepted the honour and cherish all the good works he had undertaken,” Mumbengegwi said before his official opening address of the meeting.
Brig Gen Mbita also worked as Tanzania’s ambassador to Zimbabwe and has been unwell for some time before his death.
The late Brig Gen Mbita is revered for his work on the Hashim Mbita Publications project in which the liberation struggle of nine southern African countries has been researched archived and is now highly regarded as an academic contribution to the history of southern Africa. The nine countries whose liberation struggles were chronicled are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The nine-volume publications have been fully funded by SADC.
While conferring the honour on the late retired brigadier general at the SADC Summit in Victoria Falls in 2014, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe noted that it was important to document the history of the liberation struggle in Africa so that the future generations may learn about their true history.
In addition to receiving the Royal Order of Munhumutapa, Brig Gen Mbita was also awarded with a cash prize of US$100,000 from President Mugabe. Brig Gen Mbita, who was not present at the event, accepted the award through his daughter Shella Hashim Mbita.
“It is an honour for me to stand before you today on behalf of my ailing father, Brigadier-General Hashim Mbita, who was invited to attend this auspicious occasion,” Ms Mbita said at the summit then.
“It is unfortunate that due to his current state of health, he could not attend (the meeting) but would very much want to be with you.
When I informed my father about the launching of the publication documenting the history of the liberation struggle of the southern African region by the Hashim Mbita Project, and about the invitation extended to the family, he was greatly moved.”
Brig Gen Mbita’s dream to see Southern African being integrated through his publications might have come to fruition at the summit this week as the Council of Ministers made their deliberations.
The Extra-Ordinary Meeting Council of SADC Council of ministers was tasked with considering and recommending the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap, for consideration and approval by the Extra-Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government, held on April 29 and 30 in Harare.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete expressed his condolences to the Mbita family for the loss of one of the most important figures who played a great role for security and development of the country and the surrounding regional integrations, the Tanzania Daily News reported.
“Only a few in our country can be compared to the late Brig. Gen Mbita as he served in the government for many years with no defeats, served as a journalist, Head of the Department of Information, president’s Journalist and later as Tanzania Ambassador to Zimbabwe,” said President Kikwete.
He added that the late Brig Gen Mbita was a true nationalist who dedicated his life and wisdom to the sustainability of the nation as after retirement he initiated and led the activities of Hashim Mbita Project of preserving the records of liberation movements in Southern Africa and the heads of state.
Brig. Gen Mbita was born in Tabora and grew up in that region. Upon leaving school in 1957 he joined the Co-operative Department from where he moved to Public Relations, the military and politics.