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Zimbabwe plunged into mourning

by Staff reporter
25 May 2019 at 08:35hrs | Views
LIBERATION war stalwart and former Cabinet Minister Dr Dumiso Dabengwa was a confidante of a number of Government ministers and helped them on issues of national importance, Deputy Minister of Defence and War Veterans Victor Matemadanda said yesterday.

Dr Dabengwa died on Thursday in Nairobi, Kenya while being flown back to Zimbabwe from India where he had gone for medical treatment. He was 79.

Dr Dabengwa died following a liver related illness that started last year in November. His death has plunged the nation into mourning as people from all walks of life united and spoke in one voice in remembrance of his contributions to pre and post-independent Zimbabwe.  

Yesterday, several Government Ministers visited Dr Dabengwa's residence in Fourwinds, Bulawayo where mourners are gathered to convey their condolences. Matemadanda said Dr Dabengwa is a true hero and he often confided with him intimately on national development matters.

"I'm here to mourn a comrade, to mourn a commander, to mourn a revolutionary, to mourn a true hero. I've an attachment to Dabengwa as I've been involved in quite a lot of dialogues with him, seeking advice.

"I've been involved in paying his bills to go to South Africa (for treatment), making follow ups all the time and realising that the effort hadn't paid off, that's when the President took over and directed that Government should send him to India. He's such an icon, a person that has got history of the liberation of this country, impeccable and a strategist, a true hero," said Matemadanda.

He said no one can take away Dr Dabengwa's hero status, adding that the Government will always recognise those who made immense contributions towards liberation and development of the nation.

"People that have contributed in any form be it freedom or development of this country, won't be forgotten, they'll always be remembered. I know some people would want to say Dabengwa had gone to form Zapu and so forth and so on, that does not remove an iota of his contribution and status and that has been said by the President which is very true and correct. I know so many people would've wanted to see some people resisting about the status, but this is a thing that a person works for and he has done his work and I think no one doubts it," said Matemadanda.

"The message has been sent and it's clear, when the President addressed, he is the same President who declares. He said Dabengwa has been our hero and will continue to be our hero. That's a statement on its own. It means that the qualification is there, can't reverse or subtract." Matemadanda said after due process, a decision will be made on Dr Dabengwa's hero status.

"The process of declaration and the process of announcement are two different things. While the President is the final authority, a procedure has to be done by those who should do it and it's informed to the nation and flags are flown at half mast. But the fact that President and everyone knows that Dabengwa is a hero, he is a hero indeed and no doubt flags are going to fly half mast. The process initiated itself because the President has said already, maybe it is just now administrative, but otherwise everyone knows the position now."

He said Government is already involved in the repatriation of Dr Dabengwa's body.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo told mourners that when President Mnangagwa received reports that Dabengwa had died he adjourned an ongoing meeting to deal with the tragedy. Minister Moyo said he idolised Dr Dabengwa and would interact with him on issues pertaining to the country.

"We worked together in Government as he was one of our seniors. So we knew that after he had spoken we would just follow orders. So we've a lost a senior person, whom we knew as a pioneer of the liberation struggle. In the past few years, whenever he was in Kwekwe we'd meet and discuss issues of national concern. We mourn him because a giant has fallen," said Minister Moyo.

Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Bulawayo Judith Ncube shed tears as she described Dr Dabengwa as a national leader whose national contributions have earned him respect across the country. Her counterpart in Matabeleland South Abednico Ncube said it was not just Dr Dabengwa's family in mourning but the nation at large, as he touched so many people with his works. Senior Zanu-PF officials including Cdes Tshinga Dube, Angeline Masuku and Absalom Sikhosana were also among the mourners.  

Dube described Dr Dabengwa as a national hero but said due process will be followed before a decision is announced. Other eminent figures from the region also converged at Dr Dabengwa's residence to pay their last respects.  Dr Dabengwa's family said they could not comment on his death as they are still waiting for most of his children who are out of the country.

Dr Dabengwa is one of the pioneer liberation war guerrillas who included the late national hero Misheck Velaphi Ncube, Moffat Hadebe, Robson Manyika, Clark Mpofu, Sikhwili Khohli Moyo, Retired Colonel Thomas Ngwenya and Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube on the Zapu side.

Dr Dabengwa was born in Matabeleland North's Umguza District in 1939.  He wrote his Junior Certificate at Kutama Mission in Mashonaland West Province and completed secondary education at Tegwane Mission, now Thekwane High School in Bulilima District, about 12km out of Plumtree Town.  He taught at Cyrene Mission for a year before joining the Bulawayo City Council and later Barclays Bank after his studies.  In the same period he became actively involved in politics after the ban of the ANC.  

Soon after he joined the National Democratic Party (NDP), Dr Dabengwa was arrested and jailed for six months in 1962 on charges of using inflammatory language against the racist Rhodesians.

 In the same year he left for Zambia and joined Zapu becoming its youth wing secretary. He was a member of the guerilla pioneer group which was sent to the then Soviet Union (Russia) for military training in 1962, where he stayed until 1965.  

His group included former Vice-President Phelekezela Report Mphoko. Upon his return to Zambia in 1965, he became a key member in the setting up of Zapu's military wing, which then was called the Department of Special Affairs and was then later to be transformed into the Zimbabwe's People's Revolution Army (Zipra).  

Dr Dabengwa's Soviet Union military training earned him the nickname, "The Black Russian", due to his military intelligence astuteness. In the Soviet Union he had specialised in intelligence.  In the same period, he was appointed the chief investigator for a group of 40 military men who started mapping infiltration and invasion routes into Rhodesia.

Dr Dabengwa was part of the joint Zapu and ANC's Umkhonto WeSizwe strategic committee that mapped and executed the famous Wankie (Hwange) Battle in 1967 that surprised the Rhodesian forces. Although he did not take part in the battle, he was one of the brains behind the battle.  

He fought in one of the first armed contacts between the joint platoons and Rhodesian forces alongside the late Chris Hani of South Africa in the Hwange and Mana Pools battle. His commitment to the liberation cause resulted in Dr Dabengwa reporting directly to late Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo, the Zapu leader and commander-in-chief of the Zipra forces.

In the 1970s following an internal Zapu strife in Zambia he led the National Security Organisation with members including Gordon Bucha, Victor Mlandu, Tshaka Moyo, Noah Mvenge and Zephaniah Moyo. He also mentored several intelligence officers who held important positions in independent Zimbabwe including late national hero, Zenzo Ntuliki, Albert Nguluvhe and Fred Mtanda.   

During the 1979 Lancaster House negotiations, he was the Zipra's defence representative while the late Josiah Tongogara represented the Zanla forces. Both military strategists were crucial in the ceasefire guarantees and agreements.  

At independence he served in the Joint Military Command whose duties were to bring together Zipra, Zanla and Rhodesian forces. Dr Dabengwa was imprisoned in 1982 following discoveries of arms caches on Zapu properties alongside colleagues, the late General Lookout Masuku, the late national hero Swazini Ndlovu, another late national hero, Retired Colonel Masala Sibanda, the late Tshaka Moyo who was famously known as "Thodlana" and Nicholas Gilbert Nkomo.

Dr Dabengwa remained detained in prison until 1986 when he was released. He rejoined politics in 1987 following the Unity Accord between-PF-Zapu and Zanu leading to the formation of Zanu-PF. In 1989, he was elected Zanu-PF Matabeleland North provincial chairman and the following year he was appointed Deputy Home Affairs Minister, after winning the Nkulumane Constituency Parliamentary seat.  

After serving two years as Deputy Home Affairs Minister, Dr Dabengwa was elevated to be the Minister in the same portfolio and held the position for two terms.  Dr Dabengwa retired from Government in 2000 after losing his parliamentary seat to the MDC late vice president, Gibson Sibanda.  

He left Zanu-PF in 2008 to form Zapu and was its president until the time of his death.  In preparation for his retirement from active politics which he had set for next year, Dr Dabengwa in 2018 launched the Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation whose aim is to promote democracy while chronicling the liberation history.  

Dr Dabengwa was a farmer who had passion for cattle ranching and also served as chairman of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust (MZWT). He is survived by his wife Zodwa, five children and five grand children. Mourners are gathered at number 39 Diamond Road, Fourwinds, Bulawayo.

Source - chronicle