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Dr Dumiso Dabengwa - End of an era, resilience of a vision

02 Jun 2019 at 20:09hrs | Views
Speaking notes for ZAPU statement at the funeral of party President Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa
Ntabazinduna, Umguza District, Matebeleland North, Zimbabwe
Dr. Strike Mkandla, Secretary General
Saturday,  1st June 2019

Dabengwa and Khumalo families
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Honorable Ministers & Members of Parliament
Army Commander Gen. P. V. Sibanda and other Members of the Security Services
Ministers and Ret. Generals of the SANDF in the ANC and MK delegation
Traditional leaders here present (Amakhosi omdabu)
Political Party leaders and Representatives
Leaders from Faith-based communities (Abafundisi labakhokheli bamabandla okholo)
Leaders from Academia, NGOs, CSOs, and CBOs
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

All protocols observed

•    The presence of delegations from outside Zimbabwe is much appreciated, not downplaying the strong presence of our own local leaderships and dignitaries. I recognize many political party leaders who had already indicated their presence or visited Dr Dabengwa's home as well as gone to the White City Stadium yesterday. My own party ZAPU is here in full strength from all regions.

•    I want to start off by an anecdotal point as I go straight to the characteristics and practices that affect us today when we remember Dr Dumiso Dabengwa and bid him farewell. First of all he knew his friends and inspired their loyalty. "Mkhwenyana usubuyile?" (You have come back home, brother in law?), he said at the funeral of Naison Khezwana. He just assigned me the drafting of the 2010 ZAPU constitution and did not ask if upon coming from UN retirement I was going to join the revived party. On the presentation day he left me to do the job and went to the funeral of MDC Founder Gibson Sibanda. This week our Acting President, Isaac Mabuka, said on a light note on sharing roles for the ceremonies, "Wena uzakhuluma ekhaya ngoba ungumkhwenyana wakhona." (You will be our speaker at the interment at home because you are a son- in-law there).

•    Dr Dabengwa lived and breathed his politics because he put the state of the country and the state of his party above personal wealth and attention to his health. He took for granted also that he should dedicate his valuable time to his various roles: The Mafela Trust (to reconstruct and preserve the ZPRA story and achievements) , the ZPRA Veterans Trust, the Matebeleland Zambezi Water Trust (MZWT), the ZPRA Veterans Association, and lately the Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation (DDF) to shape his legacy.

•    This is the first time in nearly 10 years that D.D. was either not around or given indications before he left what he thought about an impending event. He was never too unwell to shape a major event. In a curious way he shaped today's event because he called members of the ZAPU Presidency to come to his last family gathering of his relatives (generations of them) about three days before he left the country for treatment in India.

•    In the area of governance Dr Dabengwa was of course committed to promoting democratization and peaceful change. It was sometimes frustrating to see how often he refused to put first his personal interest and ego in efforts to build a united front of opposition parties. We sometimes worked late into the night because he was determined not to react to manouvers of leaders preoccupied with leading ahead of his considerable experience and proven political stamina. In the run-up to the Zimbabwe 2013 harmonized elections and again in the run-up to the 2018 elections he spared no effort to achieve opposition unity. He spent years and both money and time he could hardly afford in order to play a major role in building the Coalition of Democrats (CODE) before the (2018) recent elections. He also worked tirelessly to reach out to over 16 parties in "secret" negotiations under the auspices of In Transformation Institute (ITI), and to craft the Rainbow Coalition before his efforts were thwarted by inside politics. Finally ZAPU lost out in its partnership with the MDC Alliance when DD's support was not reciprocated after he stood down from contesting the 2018 elections. These "losses" show that it is possible for any leader to put public interest above self in order to build a culture of "give and take" (not just others to give and one to take always, as Dr Kamuzu Banda insisted on Malawian independence from Britain!").

•    Dr Dabengwa worked with SAPES to push for a National Transitional Authority (NTA) that could provide consensus for a peaceful end to the regime of President Robert Mugabe prior to Mugabe's ouster in 2017. In the same manner he gave unstinting support to religious leaders in their inter-faith push for peace, justice and reconciliation. He was always available to church leaders who could provide value-based solutions to national problems and institution building.

•    Dr Dabengwa had nothing to prove to anyone. He did what he had to do for Zimbabwe as a young man before and during the Liberation War. This part of his life is well-known. This is why the Government of Zimbabwe did not have to be petitioned to grant him a National Hero status. President E. D. Mnangagwa's deserves praise for this courageous recognition of a courageous, tenacious, and principled critic of the ruling party, a man  whose patriotism has been tried and tested for three quarters of his life. His commitment to Africa has also not been wavering because he belongs in the generation that believed that an injury to one progressive (authentic) liberation movement is an injury to all. Comrades and friends of DD in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome & Principe, Namibia and South Africa remember this gallant son of Africa. It is the nature of politics that transition to state power imposes a downplaying of solidarity among friends from the trenches. DD's case is no exception to this law of political power. He ran a party (ZAPU) that put demands on his personal physic, time and family resources.

•    Today's service for this last farewell to Dr Dumiso Dabengwa marks the end of an era in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa and beyond. Dabengwa has been a stable bridge across political, racial, ethnic, tribal and other divides. From this point onwards, when we confront our numerous problems of governance in the absence of that bridge it will be like crossing a gorge by rope. Already the calamity of Dabengwa's death is generating soul-searching across the political spectrum.  I hope his efforts to bring the benefits of the liberation struggle and independence will be realized in a way that was not completed in his lifetime. One key to that is selfless leadership. In that regard he refused to prevaricate on key issues of our time such as the unresolved accounting for the killing of over 20,000 civilians in Matebeleland and the Ndebele-speaking parts of the Midlands. He was concerned to the end too that devolution of power and other constitutional reforms had not yet been realized.

•    I am sure that there are people who will think I have focused too much on the positives in DD's life. Like most of us he was not a saint, and certainly not an angel. But on balance he spent his life working for the common good. Lately he was also concerned that not enough had been done to promote leadership of women and youth in politics. He saw this as a perquisite for progress, continuity and change that builds on the achievements of successive generations and guarantees responsiveness to evolving needs and challenges of our country and localities.

•    I want to end with an expression of gratitude to two sources of strength to Dr Dabengwa.

1.    Makhumalo, mamazala, I am sure that you will not find bagfuls of money stuck away somewhere in the house. I am sorry that we put so much strain and pressure on family and personal resources for a whole decade. I am also sorry that quite often you had to drive DD at unholy hours to link up with transport or to be collected from clandestine trips to meetings away from Bulawayo. E-Khumalo.

2.    Chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni, siyabonga Mdladlla. Olenkosi elomgogodla ubusisiwe ngoba uzahlala emukelwe kibo anganikelwa ezitheni zakhe. Not only have you protected the rights of your people in general but you have recognized strong leadership committed to the common good of your people.

•    Hamba kahle Dumiso Dabengwa kaMavakatsha. The leadership and members of ZAPU and all Zimbabweans of goodwill value your contribution and tenacity.

Source - Dr. Strike Mkandl
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