Former Matabeleland North governor and shrewd politician, Welshman Mabhena, has died.
He was 86.
Mabhena died at his Four Winds home in Bulawayo yesterday morning.
The cause of death is still unknown.
Family spokesperson, Norman Mabhena, said they had lost a pillar of strength and a loving father.
“We as a family have lost a father, a friend, a brother, all rolled into one. He was a man we could all depend on. We have lost an invaluable asset,” he said.
The spokesperson said burial arrangements would be announced once Mabhena’s three daughters who are outside the country and other relatives arrive.
“We are waiting for other family members in and outside the country to arrive. They have been notified of this sudden death of our father. We are also waiting for his three children and grandchildren. Once they all arrive here, the family will then be in a position to announce burial arrangements,” he said.
Mabhena attended school at Inyathi in Matabeleland North province. He went to South Africa briefly before he returned home and became a teacher.
He took up full-time politics and was imprisoned by the Ian Smith regime for five years.
According to Norman, the late Mabhena was detained at Whawha and Salisbury prisons.
“While in detention, Mabhena attained a Bachelor of Commerce degree. After independence, he became chairman of Nkayi Rural District Council. He was also the secretary of Zapu before the Unity Accord in 1987.
“After the Unity Accord, he became a member of the Zanu PF central committee and also governor of Matabeleland North province,” related Mabhena’s younger brother.
Mabhena became popular with the people of Matabeleland for his openness and condemnation of attempts by the then Zanu PF regime to sideline the region on issues of development.
He also challenged some of President Robert Mugabe’s policies, leading to his removal from the governorship of Matabeleland North some 10 years ago.