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The Solomon Mujuru I knew: Dabengwa

21 Aug 2011 at 05:49hrs | Views
SOLOMON Mujuru stayed in Bulawayo with his uncle in Mzilikazi suburb and became an organising secretary for the Zapu Youth League for the branch during the sixties. He then left for Zambia in 1967 to join the liberation struggle.

He was sent to the then Soviet Union to train as a signaller with a group of five other cadres. He came back to Zambia in 1968 and was sent to Morogoro, Tanzania, for further military training with the group of 70.

Not long after that, Rex Nhongo (his nom de guerre) left Zipra to join Zanla forces when Zapu was affected by an internal conflict. Zanu also suffered an almost similar internal conflict, which led to the detention of the leadership, including Zanla commander (Josiah Magama) Tongogara by the Zambian government.

During their detention there was negotiation by Zanla and Zipra to work together on the Mozambican front. There followed a détente period wherein the ANC-Muzorewa came to Zambia with a proposal for the Lusaka Unity Accord, which was to bring all the liberation forces under the ANC umbrella.

The agreement did not take off because of opposition from both Zanla and Zipra. Instead, both our forces, with the support of presidents (Julius) Nyerere and Samora Machel, went on to form a joint command under Zipa.

This was the first time I worked with Mujuru. Previously when he first came to Zambia for training I did not know him since I was already senior in the Zapu military structures and he was a junior cadre.

We worked with Mujuru under Zipa in Mozambique, where he was the joint commander of Zanla/Zipra, assisted by the likes of the late Alfred Nikita Mangena. After the Zipa arrangement collapsed following the withdrawal of Zipra from the Mozambique front, there was a new effort to reunite the forces. The new effort involved the leadership of both Zapu and Zanu, led by (Joshua) Nkomo and (Robert) Mugabe.

Rex, myself and other commanders went through all the camps in Zambia and Tanzania to sensitise cadres about the proposal to unite our forces. The response was unanimous from all the camps, which was that the cadres had no problem in uniting as one        force as long as the leadership also united under one party.

Commanders briefed leadership from both sides and this led to the formation of the Patriotic Front, which later went to the Lancaster House talks as one.

Tongogara had been released from detention and led the Zanla delegation while I led the Zipra delegation to the talks. In the meantime, Rex remained in charge of the Zanla operations in Mozambique.

Following Tongogara's death just before the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, Rex was appointed the acting commander of Zanla forces.

At the Joint High Command Headquarters in Harare, we worked with Rex under very trying and difficult circumstances. We had to implement the ceasefire and make sure that it held. There were times when we had sharp differences, between ourselves as Zipra and Zanla, but most of the time with the Rhodesian side. Together with Rex, we managed to ensure that at the end of the day we reached compromises that kept the ceasefire holding.

After independence, we continued working together with Rex to integrate our forces into the new Zimbabwe Defence Forces. He became lieutenant-general and deputy commander of the army, while I left the military.

Rex would soon become commander of the defence forces when General Peter Walls left.

As we all know, Gukurahundi followed and I was detained.

After my release from detention I joined Government in the Ministry of Home Affairs and we had regular meetings with Rex under the Joint Operations Command.

After he retired from the army we both became members of the Zanu-PF Politburo, where most of the time there were controversial issues discussed.

Most of the time we shared similar views. For example, when we started discussing the acquisition of land, we proposed that the Government must nationalise all land such that people would lease and not own land.

This, unfortunately, was shot down by our colleagues who apparently were scared by the term "nationalisation". In the Politburo, Rex always spoke his mind and was never afraid to stand his ground on anything he believed was not right.

We also had a difficult time with Rex when he was chairman of the War Veterans' Board. I assisted him to come up with suggestions for a compensation package for the freedom fighters, which

would take into account the welfare of the ex-combatants without endangering national coffers.

Again we were shot down in favour of the (Chenjerai) Hunzvi-led war veterans' association who got a better reception, leading to the famous $50 000 payouts to the war veterans. The next hurdle was the management of the War Victims' Compensation Fund, which Rex and I strongly opposed. We were probably the only ones among the political leadership who did not claim anything from the fund.

We later came up with a proposal for war veterans to fall under the Ministry of Defence as a reserve force. This was approved and the instrument gazetted and Rex was appointed chairman of the new war veterans' board. For reasons better known to the authorities, this board never took off.

Our reasoning was that war veterans should fall under formal Government structures, and not under a political party or an individual.

Rex was a very good strategist who knew when to retreat when a situation got heated up. However, there were quite a number of occasions in his lifetime when he had to make retreats, some of which went sour and he lived to regret. He was man enough to admit when we talked that he had made his mistakes.

Because of the length of time we worked together, we naturally became very good friends, even when he was junior to me by age. We had very little to hide from each other all the time, up to the time of his unfortunate departure.

Rex felt that in life he should only do those things that he was most capable of doing. He left the rest to others. He did not want to be bogged down in office or administrative work. My impression of him was that he would never want to take up any position in Government or politics. He had played his role by contributing to the liberation of the country and in the defence forces and that was enough.

May Rex's soul rest in peace.

Dr Dabengwa is the president of Zapu. He is a pioneer ex-combatant and former Zipra chief of intelligence, ex-Minister of Home Affairs and former Zanu-PF Politburo member.

Source - Dumiso Dabengwa
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