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Dumiso Dabengwa's Lookout Masuku memorial lecture

by Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa
06 Apr 2016 at 08:18hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE AFRICAN PEOPLE'S UNION (ZAPU)
15 JMN Nkomo Street/Connaught Avenue, Bulawayo
 
Lookout "Mafela" Masuku Memorial Lecture
Presentation Notes by ZAPU President Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa

Ibhetshu likaZulu, Fidelity Towers, Bulawayo, 5 April 2016
Distinguished Guests
Colleagues and Friends
Ladies and Gentlemen
All protocols observed
 
I would like to start by commending the organizers of this event, Ibhetshu likaZulu, who approached me to deliver this inaugural lecture. This day, 5 April 2016, is the 20th anniversary of the untimely death of Lt. General Lookout "Mafela" Masuku who passed away in 1986. Some of his friends, colleagues and relatives are here today, recollecting the journey and the highs and lows of this remarkable man. In line with my brief when I got this invitation, I will go through salient facts and events and shared experiences with Lookout, then reflect on what we hoped for and what we actually got.
 
A life of struggle
It is remarkable that Zimbabwe will be celebrating 36 years of independence on 18 April 2016  and that Lookout Masuku (7 April 1940 – 5 April 1986) died two days short of his 46th birthday. The gap is even smaller when you calculate the time that Lookout devoted to the armed struggle for independence from his early twenties and add the over 4 years spent in prison in post-independence Zimbabwe till his death. He literally spent half his life in struggle and never had the chance to enjoy the fruits of independence.

Steady development of a hero
The progression of Lookout from a militant ZAPU youth to army Commander of the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) is an inspiring story. It illustrates how young people shaped the course of this country's history by sheer dedication and their readiness to sacrifice. In 1962-3 the late Amos "Jack" Ngwenya who had set up office in Lusaka received the first volunteers like Lookout Masuku who he first deployed in the Copper Belt to organize party structures, before military and related training in Russia and other parts of the Soviet Union. We came in the later part of 1963 and proceeded to Russia early in 1964. On our return we formed the first military wing of the party under the Department of Special Affairs. Subsequently we sent other contingents for training, such as those that went to Algeria in 1965 and included future ZPRA Commander Alfred "Nikita" Mangena and the legendary John Dube (J. D.) of the Wankie 1967 ZAPU-ANC alliance battles against Rhodesians and South Africans.

Lookout Masuku and Nikita Mangena trained a steady stream of our people in Morogoro in Tanzania, allowing us to deploy high-quality fighters. It is important here to point out that Lookout Masuku was in charge of political and ideological training, because part of his training was that of commissar. More than anyone else, he built up ZPRA's famed record as a people-centered force that worked harmoniously with the public in our operational areas. It is no accident therefore that, from the outset, indiscriminate use of force against unarmed civilians was out of question in our ethos.

Upon the setting up of ZPRA in 1971 Lookout Masuku moved from Tanzania and became a member of the High Command, as Deputy Commander under Nikita Mangena. In this capacity he covered all camps and prepared cadres politically before their deployment, assigning commissars to all units as they were deployed. When Nikita Mangena was sent to Mozambique to help build the Zimbabwe People's Army (ZIPA) combining ZPRA and ZANLA (ZANU's military wing), Lookout Masuku was left in charge of the Northern Front along the Zambezi Basin.

I will not dwell on the difficulties that accompanied efforts to build a united ZIPA force, but for today's talk what is relevant is that a more political approach to unification was begun after the "Third Force" (ZIPA) had collapsed. I (Dumiso Dabengwa), and Lookout Masuku and a ZANLA team led by Solomon Mujuru (a.k.a. Rex Nhongo) got the assignment to find out if our military cadres would accept to operate under a united political leadership. This was a prelude to the formation of the Patriotic Front between ZAPU and ZANU, formed after the release from Zambian prison of Josiah Tongogara (plus others incarcerated after the assassination of Herbert Chitepo) and political leaders (Dr. Joshua Nkomo included)previously detained by the Ian Smith regime in Gonakudzingwa, Whawha, and other places.

While the quest for unity was going on Nkomo introduced in our Revolutionary Council (of which I was Secretary) the "Turning Point" strategy. This would involve the escalation of fighting, using regular army battalions and deploying the civilian departments of the party to administer semi-liberated territory.  Whilst the regular battalions would defend the liberated zones, smaller guerrilla units would be deployed further inland towards towns and cities to carry out sabotage and ambushes along the routes used by Rhodesian forces.
 
Before the end of war our forces had achieved a strong presence in operational areas in Hurungwe, Sipolilo (Chipuriro, Guruve, Gokwe, Binga, Hwange and Tsholotsho. among other areas in Mashonaland West and the Midlands. This capacity to take on and push back the enemy which we proved when the Rhodesian forces attacked our bases in Zambia and Angola was a major factor in the rush towards a political settlement that followed talks in Malta and Geneva and finally Lancaster House in London.

From war to dodgy peace
It should be noted that Comrade Jason Ziyapapa Moyo and Nikita Mangena had been killed by the time we went to Lancaster House. On the ZANU side of the Patriotic Front the patriotic ZANLA's Josiah Tongogara was killed between the end of the Lancaster House talks and our return to take over control of the country. Lookout Masuku and Solomon Mujuru were now respective Commanders of ZPRA and ZANLA. In January 1980 I worked hard on enforcing the ceasefire arrangements and on modalities for integration of the three armies into the new Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), with General Peter Walls and Mujuru, deputized on my side by Lookout Masuku.

Treacherous politics
When we left Lancaster House the expectation was that the Patriotic Front of ZAPU and ZANU would take part in independence elections as a united movement. Until the last moment Dr. Joshua Nkomo did not make arrangements for a separate campaign because he believed in the Patriotic Front. The decision by ZANU-PF to go it alone was not only a surprise but a disappointment to Nkomo because he anticipated problems and unproductive competition between the war allies. Even as the election campaigns took place, it was evident that our efforts to create conditions for peace were politically undermined. ZANU kept a sizeable portion of its seasoned fighters outside the assembly points to campaign for elections, while ZAPU relied on the assurances of British administrators that where violence was used to intimidate voters and create no-go areas the election results would be annulled. No such annulment took place, with the result that even in areas previously dominated by ZPRA the population was left at the mercy of ZANLA that terrorized voters and restricted ZAPU and other campaign teams. This was a classic case of winning the war and losing the peace.

Since we are in Bulawayo today you are no doubt familiar with the clashes that took place between ZPRA and ZANLA forces in Entumbane because of political tensions and a rush by politicians to prematurely show off the fighters prior to their integration. This happened elsewhere in places like Connemara, but the underlying problems were more politically generated by failure to create unity.
I want to suggest that Dr. Joshua Nkomo's unwavering commitment to unity in the face of treachery and even personal humiliation is the main reason why this country did not go through civil war at the attainment of independence. Politicians with different egos would have used the massive forces at his disposal to refuse being relegated to seats in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces when they could challenge results elsewhere in the country. We got to know even before results of the elections were announced that ZAPU was not going to be allowed to get more than twenty seats. Dr. Nkomo believed in British assurances whereas the Western countries were more worried by our links with South Africa's Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) and what they saw as Soviet advantage in geo-politics. In my view, this hangover from geopolitics has continued to affect ZAPU because independence of thought is wrongly seen as opposition to other people's interests. In spite of being the party whose supporters have received the most documented atrocities since independence, there is no support for our struggle to achieve true liberation as part of unfinished business of the struggle. There is still no closure on the Gukurahundi massacres involving more than 20,000 killed and many injured and displaced. The resulting "development deficit" from engineered insecurity has yet to be dealt with.

Lookout Masuku is buried in this city at Lady Stanley cemetery. His status as a hero is beyond question. Ironically, he took the salute here when the colonial flag was lowered in 1980 while Mujuru did that in Harare. He could not be given a place in Heroes Acre in Harare, while all sorts of people we have to look up in references are buried there. I salute the City of Bulawayo for giving us space to bury those whose massive contributions have been denied. In a way this development allows those victimized not to be buried like captives in hostile graves whose yardstick is political loyalty to ZANU rather than what they have done for this country.

May the memory of Lookout Masuku be an inspiration to young people and future generations, to appreciate that contributions to liberty live longer than us.

I thank you for your attention and for taking the time to come today.


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Source - Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa
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