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Dumiso Dabengwa: Remembering a hero

07 Jun 2020 at 08:51hrs | Views
AT exactly 10:55am on May 23, 2019, a colleague, Gerald Mpofu, sent a message through a WhatsApp group, Real Politics, informing us of the passing-on of a liberation struggle stalwart, Dumiso Dabengwa. It was difficult to comprehend; the Black Russian was no more. I doubted the authenticity of the message until a reliable journalist, Zenzele Ndebele, tweeted, for sure DD was gone.

Dabengwa was a great leader. harold McAlindon, a philosopher, in one of his leadership quotes says if one's actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, that person is a leader. Dwight eisenhower argues that great leaders do not just follow where a path may lead, but instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Dabengwa was born on December 6, 1939, and served as the head of Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra) intelligence during the war of liberation. In 1982, Dabengwa was charged together with Lookout Masuku and four others, of treason by the Robert Mugabe administration. They were acquitted due to lack of evidence in 1983. On release, they were re-detained under emergency regulations. Dabengwa was released four years later, just before the signing of the Unity Accord.

From 1992 to 2000, he served in the government as home Affairs minister, and in 1991 he was appointed to be the chair of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project. During the Rhodesian bush war, the white minority nicknamed him the "Black Russian" because he trained in Moscow, Russia.

As a young man, I admired Dabengwa for his bravery and leadership. I used to walk from Burnside, Inverleith Drive, to the city centre, not that I did not have the 50 cents for Peugeot 504 pirate taxis, but wanted to pass by Diamond Drive and Langa Road to see where my heroes the Black Russian and Sydney Malunga lived, maybe if lucky, see them going out or coming in.

A lot was said about Dabengwa. Joshua Nkomo had to travel all the way to Fourwinds to try to convince to him to join the Zanu-PF government after he had declined. During that time there were no substantive opposition parties in Zimbabwe. But with Dabengwa, Malunga and Lazarus Nzarayebani, there were enough checks and balances in both arms of government, the executive and the legislature.

Dabengwa, although a minister, acted like a backbencher like his two colleagues. During his tenure of office in charge of the police, a fellow cabinet minister was arrested for corruption. Despite his pleas to DD to be released, the said minister was told that if innocent, the courts of law would clear him. During his illegal detention, three Zanu-PF cabinet ministers visited him in prison and proposed to release him on one condition that he joins their party. he refused. The great Albert einstein argues that a man should not try to become a man of success, but a man of value. Dabengwa was such, a real man of value.

I had to physically meet with DD when I was employed by a television assembling and servicing company with his two relatives, Nhlanhla and now Reverend eustice Ginya. he would frequently visit his relatives. Dabengwa was a man of a few, but powerful words. That is when I got to know and learn more about the man known as the Black Russian. I got to even know his dear wife umama umaKhumalo, umntaneNkosi Zodwa Dabengwa and his younger brother Zenzo. It is well documented that DD had to leave Zanu-PF and revived Zapu. he followed his convictions. DD was a very senior Zapu member and, according to the Unity Accord, he was aware he was at some stage going to be the vice-president of the country, but disregarded all that and chose to be a man of value.

Since life is a journey, I was forced to cross Dabengwa's path years later when I was the MDC Bulawayo provincial spokesperson when Zapu's spokesperson Methuseli Moyo wrote an article castigating the MDC leadership. I responded immediately to his article and reminded Moyo that their party and its leader were once in the Zanu-PF government and should not lecture us on democracy and rule of law. My article was scornful to both Moyo and DD. When publicised, I was condemned for that article even by members of my party

MDC. I tried to explain that Moyo had instead insulted my own leaders, but my explanation was not acceptableinmyownparty.Suchwas DD, he was loved across the political divide. Due to what I had insinuated in that article, I expected Dabengwa to "deal with me" according to what Moyo had said. But DD never said a thing and we even met during the funeral of the late heroine Thenjiwe Lesabe and greeted one another and talked politics without a scene.

Dabengwa's actions inspired others during the liberation era, inspired after independence and are still inspiring now a year after he passed on. According to an assertion by harold McAlindon, DD was a great leader. Instead of remaining in Zanu-PF in anticipation of becoming a deputy president, he decided not to follow where there was a clear path, but instead went to where there was no path, but left a trail.

We salute you, Cde DD, you are indeed a man of value. You shall always be remembered.

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Edwin Ndlovu is a member of MDC Alliance Bulawayo provincial executive committee and former provincial spokesperson.
email: endlovu71@gmail.com

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