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Msipa's death depletes the thinning band of political veterans

23 Oct 2016 at 11:34hrs | Views

For a period of over 50 years, Cephas George Msipa took an active interest in the affairs of Zimbabwe. This period covered popular ferment against minority rule, armed struggle for national liberation, post-independence reconstruction, and the unfinished business of justice, peace and reconciliation.

It is a tragedy that Msipa's death came barely a week after that of another paragon of peace and reconciliation, Advocate Cyril Ndebele.

It is no accident that these two giants came from the same political stable, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu) of the legendary Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, of which Msipa was a founding member.

In fact, Msipa was active in the two parties that preceded Zapu and were also led by Nkomo: the African National Congress of 1957 and the National Democratic Party of 1960.

His death, therefore, depletes the thinning band of political veterans who not only know first-hand the shortfalls in fulfilment of our dreams, but have seen it as a personal duty to take principled stands for a better society.

Needless to say, people like Msipa have paid a political price for taking a courageous stand.

I kept in touch with Msipa either by passing through his home in Gweru or by making sure to arrange appointments at functions where he was attending.

In March this year (2016) he came to Bulawayo to launch his memoirs: In Pursuit of Freedom and Justice (Weaver Press, 2015). He was in a jovial mood when we chatted and when he narrated snippets of political developments where he was involved.

He was humorous when he recalled how he had been quietly axed from his government position after taking up the issue of "Gukurahundi" killings to Cabinet.

Msipa was a renowned educationist who fought colonial education as a teacher and as a union leader in the education sector.

He carried his commitment to truth and justice into the political arena and in his various posts in government. In retrospect, it is remarkable how consistent he was in standing up for justice and fair play.

He brought out several examples in the launch of his book that draw attention to this way of thinking. He kept friendships but did not allow friends to cloud his judgement in specific circumstances.

This enabled him to keep friends in both his own-PF-Zapu and Zanu-PF even before the 1987 "Unity Accord" which he helped facilitate.

As his biography shows, Msipa had a longish stay in the private sector (1984-1995) after being sacked from government, allegedly for supporting dissidents.

His presence on the boards to which he was appointed was very useful because of his understanding of government. The reverse was true in that he came to understand the private sector itself and the operations of business even better.

This prepared him for his later role in government when he was recalled in 1995. In 1996, Msipa established the department of State Enterprises and Indigenisation in the Office of the President and Cabinet.

In 1998, the department, under Msipa's guidance, published the government policy framework on indigenisation of the economy. The policy focused on poverty eradication among the majority of black Zimbabweans, through broad-based economic empowerment and economic development.

I bring this out because haphazard management of indigenisation is not the result of lack of a rational policy framework, but the result of greed among well-connected individuals and cliques. Nobody knew this better than Msipa and did more than him for economic prosperity.

It is not surprising that even when he became governor of Midlands Province, Msipa tried to make indigenisation work even in the farming sector and not just grab farms from white farmers without plans for productive use by the black farmers, let alone multiple farm ownership like the white farmers had practised.

The likes of Msipa will be missed as we go forward, when the personal integrity of leaders will become more crucial for the advancement of the majority.

I am personally not surprised that he was not concerned about going to the Heroes' Acre in Harare and had expressed the wish to be allowed to rest in the provincial heroes' acre in Gweru.

Of course, if anyone had expressed such a wish to him he would automatically accede to that wish and not assume better judgement or power to change such individual choice.

We have lost an instinctive democrat who valued the rights of others like he valued his own.

On behalf of Zapu, I would like to convey my condolences to the Msipa family on this irreplaceable loss.

May His Soul Rest in Peace

Dumiso Dabengwa is the Zapu president. He was originally scheduled to deliver this speech at Msipa's memorial in Gweru on Friday but was prevented from doing so after the programme was taken over by the government.

Source - Dumiso Dabengwa
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