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Iron fist in a velvet glove: Dr. Cephas Msipa leaves unique record - Dabengwa

by Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa, ZAPU President
22 Oct 2016 at 09:38hrs | Views
Gweru, 21 October 2016

For a period of over fifty years Dr. Cephas Msipa took an active interest in the affairs of Zimbabwe. This period covered popular ferment against minority rule, armed struggle for national liberation, post-independence reconstruction, and the unfinished business of justice, peace and reconciliation. It is a tragedy that Comrade Msipa's death came barely a week after that of another paragon of peace and reconciliation, Advocate Cyril Ndebele. It is no accident that these two giants came from the same political stable, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) of the legendary Dr. Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, of which Comrade Msipa was a founding member. In fact Dr. Msipa was active in the two parties that preceded ZAPU and were also led by Dr. Nkomo: the African National Congress (ANC) of 1957 and the National Democratic Party (NDP) of 1960. His death therefore depletes the thinning band of political veterans who not only know first-hand the shortfalls in fulfillment of our dreams but have seen it as a personal duty to take principled stands for a better society. Needless to say, people like Dr. Msipa have paid a political price for taking courageous stands.

In pursuit of freedom and justice
I kept in touch with Dr. Msipa either by passing through his home in Gweru or by making sure to arrange appointments at functions where he was attending. In March this year (2016) he came to Bulawayo to launch his memoirs: In Pursuit of Freedom and Justice (Weaver Press, 2015). He was in a jovial mood when we chatted and when he narrated snippets of political developments where he was involved. He was humorous when he recalled how he had been quietly axed from his government position after taking up the issue of "Gukurahundi" killings to cabinet.
Dr. Msipa was a renowned educationist who fought colonial education as a teacher and as a union leader in the education sector. He carried his commitment to truth and justice into the political arena and in his various posts in government. In retrospect, it is remarkable how consistent he was in standing up for justice and fair play. He brought out several examples in the launch of his book that draw attention to this way of thinking. He kept friendships but did not allow friends to cloud his judgment in specific circumstances.  This enabled him to keep friends in both his own PF-ZAPU and ZANU-PF even before the 1987 "Unity Accord" which he helped facilitate.

Promoting development, not demagogy

As his biography shows, Dr. Msipa had a longish stay in the private sector (1984-1995) after being sacked from government allegedly for supporting dissidents. His presence on the boards to which he was appointed was very useful because of his understanding of government. The reverse was true in that he came to understand the private sector itself and the operations of business even better. This prepared him for his later role in government when he was recalled in 1995.  In 1996, Dr. Msipa established the department of State Enterprises and Indigenization in the Office of the President and Cabinet. In 1998, the department, under Msipa's guidance, published the government policy framework on indigenization of the economy. The policy focused on poverty eradication among the majority of black Zimbabweans, through broad based economic empowerment and economic development. I bring this out because haphazard management of indigenization is not the result of lack of a rational policy framework but the result of greed among well-connected individuals and cliques. Nobody knew this better than Dr. Msipa and did more than him for economic prosperity.

It is not surprising that even when he became Governor of Midlands Province Dr. Msipa tried to make indigenization work even in the farming sector and not just grab farms from white farmers without plans for productive use by the black farmers, let alone multiple farm ownership like the white farmers had practiced.

Instinctive democrat who valued individual freedom and choice

The likes of Dr. Msipa will be missed as we go forward, when personal integrity of leaders will become more crucial for the advancement of the majority. I am personally not surprised that he was not concerned about going to the Heroes' Acre in Harare and had expressed the wish to be allowed to rest in the provincial heroes' acre in Gweru. Of course, if anyone had expressed such a wish to him he would automatically accede to that wish and not assume better judgment or power to change such individual choice. We have lost an instinctive democrat, who valued the rights of others like he valued his own.

On behalf of ZAPU, I would like to convey my condolences to the Msipa family on this irreplaceable loss.

May His Soul Rest in Peace

Source - Dr D Dabengwa