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Mnangagwa mourns Brig-Gen Mabenge

by Staff reporter
03 Aug 2022 at 06:41hrs | Views
President Mnangagwa has described national hero Brigadier-General Benjamin Mabenge (Retired) as an intelligent and principled cadre who never deviated from the cause of the revolution from the time of the liberation struggle until his death.

The President said this when he went to pay his condolences to the Mabenge family in Harare last night, ahead of burial today at the National Heroes Acre.

"We have three principles of consistency, perseverance and commitment that we look into if we are deciding one's hero status and it was a straight forward decision in his case because of his consistency," he said.

"I want to thank you for accepting our request to bury him tomorrow where his comrades and commanders are buried.

"He was your child as a family but he was now ours. He was a principled cadre and is among a few who toed the correct line of the revolution from the beginning to the end."

President Mnangagwa narrated how he met Brig-Gen Mabenge during the liberation war at Xai Xai after (the President) had been released from prison and stayed together for a few days.

He had the mourners in stitches when he narrated how the national hero, whose Chimurenga name was Freddie Matanga, would bring chillies to meals when he knew they would make him sneeze.

President Mnangagwa added that because of his intelligence and commitment, Brig-Gen Mabenge had been appointed commander of Gaza Province and later as Zanu-PF's representative in the Middle East.

"When we thought of having someone who would represent us in the Middle East, we settled on him following a meeting between President Mugabe, Vice President Simon Muzenda (and) Edgar Tekere because of his intelligence," he added.

"Freddie was meticulous in whatever he did, he was very meticulous and when you discussed issues with him, he would record everything and would always remind you of what you said if ever you tried to change."

After independence, Brig-Gen Mabenge was attested into the Zimbabwe National Army where he rose through the ranks to Brigadier-General, but eventually retired.

Added the President: "He, however, remained one of us that is why you would see that he would occasionally be appointed to various positions in State institutions."

When the Second Republic came in, the President said, it took a decision to address the welfare of former commanders of the liberation war.

"So recently I asked the Vice President about his (Brig-Gen Mabenge) whereabouts and he told me that he was there but not feeling well, so I assigned him to make arrangements to bring him here to receive medical attention and I was always updated on his condition until yesterday (Monday) around 7am by the Vice President that he had received a call from Dr Maxwell Hove that Freddie was no more," he said.

In an earlier statement, President Mnangagwa had said the death of Brig-Gen Mabenge had come as a great shock to him and others who "once shared the trenches" with him during the liberation war.

"He operated in the then Gaza Province as Provincial Commander for the region during which the ZANLA forces scored notable gains against the enemy forces," he said.

"After the struggle, Matanga was attested into the Zimbabwe National Army where he rose through the ranks to Brigadier General, the rank he occupied on retirement in 1988. On retirement, the late Brigadier General continued to serve his country faithfully in various civilian portfolios and special assignments as a senior member of our party, Zanu-PF, and as a war veteran.

"His passing on has robbed our nation of an intelligent, outspoken, diligent and bold revolutionary cadre who frowned upon corruption in any form or shape. He will be solely missed by all of us," said the President.

In his address, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said he had met Brig-Gen Mabenge in 1974 at Mgagao and narrated how the national hero became his commander in Gaza province.

VP Chiwenga said he had a close relationship with the national hero, who always referred to him as uncle.

Family spokesperson, Mr Ranchies Mabenge thanked the President and Government for taking care of his younger brother during his illness and according him the national hero status.

Earlier in the day, Brig-Gen Mabenge's body was flown from Harare to his Kwekwe farm where mourners gathered to pay their last respects.

Speaker after speaker praised Brig-Gen Mabenge for his contribution to Zimbabwe.

Zanu-PF Midlands provincial member, Moses Murada, who worked with the late hero before and after independence, described him as a disciplinarian who stood by his word.

Murada said they met in 1979 before they worked together during the 2002 elections when Brig-Gen Mabenge was deployed to lead the Zanu-PF campaign in Kwekwe.

"He unified people within the party within a short space of time and for that reason he was promoted to be in charge of election campaigns for the whole province. But as a straightforward man, he did not go behind anyone's back but he would confront you when you misfired. He was a straightforward man who stood for the truth," said Murada.

During the land reform, Brig-Gen Mabenge played a critical role in Kwekwe.

"He was the leader during the land reform and we all followed behind his wise leadership. He was a shining beacon that we would always rely on for advice. But most of the young people would avoid him because he was very strict and one who would discipline you there and there," he said.

His last-born son, Mr Savior Mabenge described his father as a disciplinarian who brought order in the family and community at large.

"When he retired from the army, I was still very young but growing up with him, he was a loving father, but one who did not want to cut corners but a straightforward person.

"We looked up to our father and our family hero and we are grateful to President Mnangagwa for according him the hero status that I think he truly deserved," he said.

"When I heard about his passing on, that is when I realised that I could have learnt more than I leant. I was still in the learning process when he died. But all the same, we have to be proud of what we managed to siphon from him during his time and we celebrate his life and legacy," he said.

His farm, just outside Mbizo Suburb, became a no-go area for wood poachers.

"As you can see the proximity of our farm to Mbizo, people would usually sneak into the farm to poach firewood. But he brought order and everyone knew that if you wanted firewood, approach him for permission and he would assist you with the firewood. What he didn't want was the random cutting down of trees as he was very fond of the environment," he said.

Ward 11 Councillor Washington Moyo (CCC), said: "I would frequently visit him at his farm and we would discuss a number of things. What he wanted was order in the manner things were done.

"He didn't want people who cut corners when doing something. He emphasised on the notion that Zimbabwe was more important than political parties hence he would accommodate everyone."

A close family friend, Retired Major George Valentine Makombe, said Brig-Gen Mabenge was more than a soldier.

"I knew him in 1977 and from there we were working together during the war of liberation. What I can say is that he was a soldier who was different from the rest.

"He was a real commander together with the late Major General Paradzai ‘Tonderai Nyika' Zimondi and the late Air Marshal Perrance Shiri all of whom I had the privilege of working under," he said.

"I ended up being a part of his family. Our families became so close to such an extent that one of my children once stayed with Brig-Gen Mabenge at their homestead. He was a political giant too who did not mince his words when it comes to patriotism and nationalism."

Meanwhile, the body returned to Harare yesterday evening.

Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe said proceedings will start early and mourners should be seated by 7:45 am.

Source - The Herald