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‘Champion of reconciliation’ unites Bulawayo in death

By Auxilia Katongomara

The late prominent Brethren in Christ Church pastor, Reverend Reuben Mabhena has been described as a charismatic man who championed national peace and reconciliation.

Mouners among them Bulawayo Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Cde Angeline Masuku and Cde Tshinga Dube yesterday paid their last respects to the late Reverend Reuben Mabhena in Bulawayo.

Rev Mabhena (68) died on Thursday morning at Mpilo Central Hospital and was buried yesterday at Lady Stanley Cemetery. Speakers at the funeral service which was attended by hundreds of Bulawayo residents, included politicians from across the political divide, business community and sports personalities.

Former magistrate and politician Mr Johnson Mnkandla said Rev Mabhena was a hero as he advocated for peace and reconciliation throughout his life.

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“Reverend Mabhena called me and sent me to invite Mugabe ( former President Robert Mugabe) to attend a church service here. Initially, he said he would be here for 30 minutes but spent about three hours. It was here when former President Mugabe was asked to apologise and that is when he said Gukurahundi was a war and he described it as a moment of madness,” said Mnkandla.

He said the only way there could be closure to the 1980s disturbances was for Government to reach out to victims.

The Minister of State for Bulawayo Province, Cde Angeline Masuku said Rev Mabhena taught her to pray and forgive.

“URev Mabhena taught me to pray and forgive. We were very close. He would always ask why politicians are not united like Christians who are united regardless of political affiliation. His message all the time was unity and reconciliation as well as forgiveness,” she said.

Masuku however, torched a storm when she said ‘people must put Gukurahundi behind and forget it’ and that some politicians are now pretending that they were not in Zanu-PF when the disturbances occurred.

She said: “Kumele sixole singabi silokhe sibambelele entweni zakudala, yizo izinto ezisibisela emuva . lami nginje ngabotshwa ngaya ejele kodwa sengaxola ngakutshiya emuva…(people must forgive and not hold on to the past. Let’s put this issue behind us. I was also incarcerated during that time but I have since put it behind me).

The Minister was heckled and forced to leave the podium.

ZAPU leader Mr Dumiso Dabengwa said Rev Mabhena preached forgiveness and unity.

“He came to me in 1986 when I was still very bitter about Gukurahundi but he prayed for me and from that time I felt that at least I could forgive but I will not forget. My message particularly to the youths is that let’s continue with Rev Mabhena’s path of reaching out to everyone including politicians preaching unity,” said Mr Dabengwa.

Women and Youth Affairs Minister, Cde Sithembiso Nyoni said she was very close to Rev Mabhena and he taught her to be humble.

“I arrived at the airport very late and the plane was already full but they wanted to give me preferential treatment to say you are a Minister we will find you a seat. I then remembered Mabhena’s words that you must be humble and I declined the offer. The plane later crashed and here I am today because I chose to listen to his words,” said Cde Nyoni.

Family spokesperson Mr Samuel Mabhena described his brother as a person with a big heart who loved peace.

He said whenever there was a quarrel he used to say “cool down, cool down”.

Dr Xolisani Ndlovu from Mpilo Central Hospital described Rev Mabhena as a good patient who was very strong.

He said last Wednesday, he summoned doctors and told them that his journey had come to an end and asked them to shave him.

Rev Mabhena was born in a family of 13 in Gwatemba, Filabusi in 1951.

He attended Mungwe Primary school and did his secondary education at Wanezi Mission.

In the early 1970s he pursued Theology at Mtshabezi Mission.

He was then appointed National Youth director of Brethren In Christ Church before moving to America for Theological Training.

In Dallas, America, Rev Mabhena studied Theology at two institutions, Christ for All Nations and Christwell Baptist Bible College and graduated with a BA in Theology.

Rev Mabhena returned home in the early 1980s and got married to his wife Ellinet Mhlophe in 1984.

He was a pastor at Bulawayo Central branch until his retirement in 2016.

He is survived by wife, Ellinet Mhlophe. The Chronicle