President Emmerson Mnangagwa has strongly hinted that the former Zipra intelligence supremo and Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa will be declared a national hero following his death in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday.
BY SILAS NKALA/ SHARON SIBINDI/ SIBONGINKOSI MAPHOSA
Dabengwa (80), a former Zanu PF politburo member and ex-Home Affairs minister before reviving the Zapu party in 2008, died while on his way from India where he had gone for medical treatment.
In a televised address yesterday, Mnangagwa gave a glorious eulogy of the late veteran, describing him as one of the founding stalwarts of the armed struggle whose works deserved recognition.
“My last contact with the late Dumiso Dabengwa was at State House this April, just two days before our independence celebrations. He clearly looked unwell and I directed government to arrange for his speedy evacuation to India for urgent medical attention on government expense. That was promptly done and we all hoped that Cde Dabengwa’s condition would improve and take a turn towards full recovery. Sadly, that was not to be and we lost him today (yesterday) in Nairobi as he was being flown back home,” Mnangagwa said
Mnangagwa narrated how Dabengwa, as the head of the Zapu intelligence wing during the armed struggle, helped to integrate two armed wings of Zanla and Zipra at independence to form the Zimbabwe National Army.
He said despite him dumping Zanu PF in 2008, Dabengwa remained resourceful to Zimbabwe.
Dabengwa has been in and out of hospital after suffering from an undisclosed liver disease. He had been in South Africa for some time where he was receiving treatment before he was airlifted to India for further medication.
Zapu spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa said the Zimbabwe and southern Africa liberation icon has taken rest from the struggle that has spanned all his life since 1939.
“The finest citizen Zimbabwe ever produced, statesman, brave soldier and commander, retired from the long-struggle that has seen the liberation from colonialism of the whole southern Africa region and beyond before contributing to a peaceful development of Zimbabwe post-independence, against the odds that were all scaled against him,” Maphosa said.
Dabengwa leaves behind a wife, Zodwa and five children.
Vice-President Kembo Mohadi, a former Zipra intelligence officer under Dabengwa during the war of liberation, told journalists in a brief address after meeting with chiefs from Matabeleland in Bulawayo that he had spoken to his former commander two days ago.
“As government, when we heard that he was not feeling well, we actually called him to State House, we decided to take him to India and we are still going to bring him back. In fact, we were trying to process a private plane to go and collect him. The commercial plane crew said he was too weak to take a commercial flight and we intended to hire a private plane for him. We look after our friends, that he was Zapu president does not mean anything. We grew up together so we recognise each other,” Mohadi said.
Both Mohadi and Dabengwa, along with other ex-Zapu members then led by the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, were arrested during the Gukurahundi era on allegations of plotting to overthrow the Robert Mugabe-led regime.
Addressing journalists in Bulawayo yesterday, the Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation director, Mthulisi Hanana said it was with a deep sense of sorrow to learn of the veteran’s death.
“This morning, at a stopover in Nairobi, he unfortunately passed on. He was in the company of his wife,” Hanana said. “We have lost Dabengwa, a great son of the soil, who sacrificed his entire life for the independence of Zimbabwe. We have lost a man of the people and mentor. Indeed, we have lost a father figure. His great contribution to the liberation of this country, the formation of Zimbabwe National Army and various projects post-independent Zimbabwe speak for themselves.”
Although funeral arrangements were yet to be announced, there are reports that the late hero wanted to be buried at his home in Ntabazinduna.
A Bulawayo based civic group, Habakkuk Trust expressed its condolences to the family of the late Dabengwa.
“Dabengwa’s wish in the last few years was the completion of the Zambezi Water Project, an initiative that he started. He had a burning desire for the countryside liberation war history to be re written to reflect the contribution of Zipra and Zapu to the armed struggle,” the trust said.
“No one in the government has the right or moral authority to discuss whether or not DD (Dumiso Dabengwa) was a hero. He is our hero, a hero of the struggle in Zimbabwe, a hero of Umkhonto we Sizwe in South Africa and a hero of Matabeleland.”
Dabengwa had not been active in Zapu politics and had revealed plans to step down from the leadership at the party’s upcoming congress in 2020.
In the run up to 2018 election, Dabengwa supported MDC leader Nelson Chamisa’s campaign after Zapu joined forces with the MDC Alliance.
In a condolence message, Chamisa said: “Umdala uDumiso Dabengwa was a humble, wise, honest and principled leader. A hero of our liberation struggle without fear, he lived a simple life. We don’t take it lightly that he endorsed our cause before he left us. We join the Dabengwa family and nation during this sad moment.”
Church and Civic Society Joint Forum national chairman Anglistone Sibanda said despite his long history, profile, stature and status, he would exhibit such an amazing discipline.
Bulawayo Vendors Trust said its members were pained by the passing away of a renowned liberation war fighter.