BY SILAS NKALA
ACTING Zapu president Isaac Mabuka yesterday said the Zanu PF politburo should not have the monopoly to declare who national heroes are and called for an independent body to be set up to select people who deserve such recognition.
Speaking at the memorial of the late national hero and former Zipra intelligence supremo, Dumiso Dabengwa, at White City Stadium in Bulawayo, Mabuka, however, hailed President Emmerson Mnangagwa for declaring an opposition leader a national hero.
“This is the first time that a leader of an opposition is conferred with the hero status by government, which did not happen in the previous government. Now they have set a new direction that even if you are an opposition member, you can be declared a hero. That only Zanu PF politburo is the one which confers heroes status is not correct,” he said.
“We applaud the President for that. We, however, appeal for an independent body that will look into hero statuses, not the Zanu PF politburo. Surely, you cannot be in Zanu PF forever, even if you see that the ship is sinking just because you want to be declared a hero.”
Mabuka said despite betrayal by several of his comrades, Dabengwa was not bitter and sought to always unite and bring peace in the country.
He blasted Zanu PF legislators who refused to observe a moment of silence for Dabengwa in Parliament, describing them as ignorant.
“Only four days ago, we heard that in Parliament, some MPs shouted the name of Dabengwa and I have seen the Minister of Industry (Mangaliso Ndlovu) here. I would like to send a message that Dabengwa cannot be called a traitor. I believe even the generals behind me would not agree with that. The party must reign in on those members,” Mabuka said.
“That they sit in Parliament we fought for and say Dabengwa is a traitor, we do not agree with that.”
He said Dabengwa, at the time of his death, had respected the national and party constitution by indicating to members that he would not contest for Presidency in the coming congress in 2020.
Mabuka said Dabengwa had been fighting all along since independence to have the Zapu and Zipra records, which were confiscated by government, returned and until he died, that had not happened.
Bulawayo Metropolitan minister Judith Ncube said Dabengwa was not given hero status by anyone, but he prepared himself for the status and even Mnangagwa did not call for a meeting to declare him, but called a Press conference to announce his status because he was a cut above the rest.
The memorial was attend by Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Philip Valerio Sibanda, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, his vice-president Welshman Ncube, chairman Tabitha Khumalo, Ndebele king from South Africa, Bulelani Colins Khumalo, Defence deputy minister Victor Matemadanda, Ndlovu, various traditional leaders and government officials.
“If it was not Dabengwa, Zapu name would have been erased today. It would be Zanu PF only. The records on Zipra and Zapu were taken by government and remains a pain to many of us.
Dabengwa told me that all the records, which bear all the information of the comrades, some who died during the war and some at camps, were taken,” Mabuka said.
“We are appealing to authorities to release those records and by so doing, you would have respected the wish of the Black Russian. It would be injustice for the generations to then tell the history without including Zipra. We had music records with Zipra songs, all were taken and we do not know if they still have them.”
Mabuka said Dabengwa before he died said he would not be happy to be buried at heroes’ acre while thousands of his Zpra colleagues lie in shallow graves in various parts of the country.
The Zapu acting leader described Dabengwa as a selfless leader, who refused to accept privilege when it meant that the rights of the people were trampled on.
“Many of Zanu members, some of them I see them here, approached him in my presence asking him to join Zanu PF in that he would be Vice-President and he refused in my presence. It is sad that at the time of his death, many youth cannot be employed because a few elite have plundered the wealth of the country.
And what those MPs said that Dabengwa is a traitor can only be said by a Rhodesian parliament. If they said so I doubt if they are not criminals,” Mabuka said.
Zpra spokesperson Buster Magwizi said DD was instrumental in drafting, organizing and executions of the liberation struggle that brought the colonialists to their knees and he must be honoured for that.
He also reiterated that the Zpra lost priceless information at the hands of Robert Mugabe’s regime during Gukurahundi and some members of the Zapu military wing had to skip the border and remain outside to date. He called for the return of the records, properties under Nitrum Company and the facilitation of the return of cadres who were exiled by the crack military Fifth Brigade soldier during Gukurahundi.
“Zpra call for the return of the records, properties and the facilitation of the return of members back home and this will fulfill Dabengwa’s wish,” Magwizi said.
“There are some who are feasting on our properties we need them back and we need the truth to be told about what happened. We have lost a gallant son of the soil. He might not have been a darling to the current administration, hate him, love him, insult him… his heroism cannot be taken away.”
Magwizi warned Zpra members in other political parties and those who are serving that there is a time they would need Zpra and advised them to come back to the organisation.
“Those who might be in parties A, B.. X, Y , Z must know there is unfinished business and those serving remember you are going to retire you will come back to us,” Magwizi said.
He said Dabengwa sometime told those issues to Deputy Minister of Defence and War Veterans Victor Matemadanda and War Veterans leader Christopher Mutsvanga in 2017 when they had approached him to plan on how they should remove former President Robert Mugabe urging them to resolve those outstanding issues.
Dabengwa’s young brother Sijabuliso said despite his brother having spent most of the youthful and elderly age fighting for the freedom and success of citizens it was sad that Zimbabweans were the suffering lot out of most African countries due to government failures.
He said when he was arrested before the unity accord, when they visited him in jail and asked him when he was going to be released, he would say to them “ I do not know when because they are saying unless I join Zanu PF.”
His uncle Abraham Nkiwane said Dabengwa did not take government and national duty as an inheritance which he described as the norm prevailing among most Zimbabwean politicians.
Former Mkhonto weSizwe cadre Retired Major General Sedibe for SA said Dabengwa was not only a Zimbabwean hero but a Southern African hero whose status cannot be limited to a political party of one nation. She narrated the wars which Dabengwa fought together with the Umkhonto weSizwe cadres both in Zimbabwe and in SA describing him as outstanding.
Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation Director Mthulisi Hanana said Dabengwa when they started the foundation had expressed doubt if they would be successful, indicating that he had been disappointed by many people he trusted hence he did not trust him (Hanana). He however said despite his passing on the foundation will soldier on and assist in the documentation of Zapu and Zpra history which has been confiscated by Zanu PF government.
He said it was sad that since Dabengwa has gone he would tell his fellow luminaries like Joshua Nkomo, Nikitha Mangena, Lookout Masuku, Josiah Tongogara that the military which used to fight for the freedom of the citizens is now shooting and killing innocent citizens on the streets.