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SADC launches Hashim Mbita Project to honour outstanding leaders

LILONGWE (MaraviPost) –Founding regional leaders within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region will now be periodically honored courtesy of the Hashim Mbita Publication Project.

“The Project will appropriately honor founding leaders who played outstanding roles in the liberation of Africa both at regional and continental levels,” Malawi leader Peter Mutharika, out-gone SADC chair, said during the 34th SADC Summit in Zimbabwe.

He added that the Mbita Publication will outline the history of the national struggle in Southern Africa.

The Hashim Mbita Research Project was initiated in August 2005 with the objective to document the history of the liberation struggle of the southern African region through collection, cataloguing and compiling of oral texts and data in SADC Member States, as well as outside the region.

Led by Brigadier-General Hashim Mbita, the publication profiles the history of seven countries in southern Africa – Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Mbita, from the United Republic of Tanzania, was Executive Secretary of the Liberation Committee of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – precursor to the African Union (AU) – for 20 years from 1974 until his mission was accomplished with the democratic elections in South Africa in 1994.

The OAU Liberation Committee was established at the founding summit of the AU in 1963 to support the decolonisation process diplomatically and materially, and formally ended in August 1994 with a closing report titled, Mission Accomplished.

Speaking at the launch, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe hailed the contribution made by Mbita in ensuring that the history project was a success.

He said considering the important role played by Mbita in regional integration, Zimbabwe had decided to confer him with the highest honour – the Royal Order of Munhumutapa.

The Royal Order of Munhumutapa, named after a significant pre-colonial empire, is the highest award that Zimbabwe can bestow on a foreigner.

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.

In her address soon after the launch and conferment of the honour by Zimbabwe, Mbita’s daughter, Shella Hashim Mbita paid tribute to SADC and Zimbabwe for the honour bestowed on her father.

She said her father, a former ambassador to Zimbabwe, was honoured to receive the award and happy that the project work had finally been published.

She paid tribute to SADC Member States for supporting the SADC Hashim Mbita Project since its conception a few years ago.

“Today’s launching of the Hashim Mbita Project Publication marks a milestone in making it possible to access the most authoritative record on the liberation struggle from various sources including the archives of the OAU Liberation Committee,” she said.

The nine volumes cover the period between 1964 when the committee offices were opened in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, and 2012.

She said the publication is a critical reference source as it provides very useful information on the history of the region.

“There is no doubt that the Hashim Mbita Project Publication will provide vital and very useful information to students and academic institutions of high learning on southern African history, politics and humanities,” she said.

“Likewise, the publication will benefit tremendously all those undertaking various researches on colonization and de-colonization, African general public and progressive intellectuals worldwide will also be interested in reading about the liberation of this part of our continent now and in the future.”

In one of his inspirational addresses to researchers, Hashim Mbita once said the “decolonisation struggle which engulfed the African continent during the last 60 years was basically one, though fought in various parts and against different colonizing powers.”

Thus, the need to “record the inspiration, commitment, determination, sacrifices, means, strategies and experiences gained at different stages became apparent,” he said.

Furthermore, he noted that “there is a lot that has been written about Africa mostly by non-Africans.”

As such the information looked through alien lenses, and the Hashim Mbita Project provided SADC with a unique opportunity to record our history in an African perspective.

The Hashim Mbita Publication is made up of nine volumes, which have been typeset into approximately 5,394 pages.

The volumes are structured into four parts, covering the history of countries that achieved independence through armed struggles, the role of Frontline States, role of “extended” Frontline States, and external support from non-SADC or non-Frontline States.

The countries that were involved in wars of liberation were Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe while the Frontline States were initially Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia.

Countries whose history was documented under the section on “Extended” Frontline States are Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland.

One of the volumes focuses on the support and assistance provided by other countries outside

SADC and the Frontline States. These include China, Cuba, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, East Germany and the Scandinavian countries of northern Europe.

The publication was produced by Mkuki Na Nyota publishers from Tanzania, and the well-known publisher, Walter Bgoya, was present at the launch. The publication of the first edition comprises 400 sets of nine volumes each.

The research component of the project was undertaken by a team of researchers from the countries involved.

Additional reporting by

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