Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Dabengwa dies…1939 ~ 2019

By Nqobile Tshili

Liberation struggle stalwart, former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) intelligence chief and ex-Cabinet Minister, Dr Dumiso Dabengwa, has died.

Dumiso Dabengwa
Dumiso Dabengwa

He was 79.

Dr Dabengwa died yesterday in Nairobi, Kenya en-route to Zimbabwe from India where he had been rushed for medical treatment.

He had been suffering from a liver ailment since last year and was airlifted to India last month when his condition deteriorated. Dr Dabengwa spent three weeks in that country receiving treatment.

Opposition party Zapu, of which he was the president and the Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation (DDF), yesterday held a joint Press Conference in Bulawayo to announce the liberation war stalwart’s death.

A sombre atmosphere engulfed the Press briefing as members of his Foundation and party members gathered to also listen to the sad news.

DDF director and legacy manager Mr Mthulisi Hanana said he was sad to announce that the former Zipra Intelligence Supremo was no more.

“We have lost our Patron, Dr Dumiso Dabengwa. A great son of the soil who sacrificed his entire life for the Independence of this great nation of Zimbabwe. We have lost a man of the people and a mentor. Indeed we have lost a father figure,” said Mr Hanana.

Zapu national chairman Mr Isaac Mabuka said Zapu was devastated following Dr Dabengwa’s death, describing him as a liberation fighter for not just Zimbabwe but the Sadc region.

“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. The Zapu president passed on today after an equally long and strenuous struggle against illness since November 2018,” said Mr Mabuka.

“Zapu joins the nation and indeed the continent in mourning the struggle stalwart. We, however, take consolation in knowing that he leaves behind seeds of freedom, peaceful co-existence and national development that will germinate in all of us as we follow in his footprints.”

Zapu secretary general Mr Strike Mkandla said Dr Dabengwa, the liberation icon, needs no hero declaration as his works spoke volumes.

Dr Mkandla said the public will be notified of repatriation and burial arrangements in due course, appealing to the media to give the Dabengwa family privacy in its time of mourning.

He said the family will decide where Dr Dabengwa would be buried although he had often spoken of his desire to buried at his rural home in Ntabazinduna or at Bulawayo’s Lady Stanley Cemetery alongside the late General Lookout Masuku.

Dr Dabengwa is one of the pioneer liberation war guerrillas who included the late national hero Misheck Velaphi Ncube, Moffat Hadebe, Robson Manyika, Clark Mpofu, Sikhwili Khohli Moyo and Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube on the Zapu side.

Dr Dabengwa was born in Matabeleland North’s Umguza District in 1939.

He wrote his Junior Certificate at Kutama Mission in Mashonaland West Province and completed secondary education at Tegwane Mission, now Thekwane High School in Bulilima District, about 12km out of Plumtree Town.

He taught at Cyrene Mission for a year before joining the Bulawayo City Council and later Barclays Bank after his studies.

In the same period he became actively involved in politics after the ban of the ANC.

Dr Dabengwa was arrested and jailed for six months in 1962 after he joined the National Democratic Party (NDP) on charges of using inflammatory language against the racist Rhodesians.

In the same year he left for Zambia and joined the recently formed Zapu becoming its youth wing secretary. He was a member of the guerilla pioneer group which was sent to the then Soviet Union (Russia) for military training in 1962, where he stayed until 1965.

His group included former Vice-President Phelekezela Report Mphoko. Upon his return to Zambia in 1965, he became a key member in the setting up of Zapu’s military wing, which then was called the Department of Special Affairs and was then later to be transformed into the Zimbabwe’s People’s Revolution Army (Zipra).

Dr Dabengwa’s Soviet Union military training earned him the nickname, “The Black Russian”, due to his military intelligence astuteness. In the Soviet Union he had specialised in intelligence.

In the same period, he was appointed the chief investigator for a group of 40 military men who started mapping infiltration and invasion routes into Rhodesia.

Dr Dabengwa was part of the joint Zapu and ANC’s Umkhonto WeSizwe strategic committee that mapped and executed the famous Wankie (Hwange) Battle in 1967 that surprised the Rhodesian forces.

Although he did not take part in the battle, he was one of the brains behind the battle. He fought in one of the first armed contacts between the joint platoons and Rhodesian forces alongside the late Chris Hani of South Africa in the Hwange and Mana Pools battle.

His commitment to the liberation cause resulted in Dr Dabengwa reporting directly to late Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo, the Zapu leader and commander-in-chief of the Zipra forces.

During the 1979 Lancaster House negotiations, he was the Zipra’s defence representative while the late Cde Josiah Tongogara represented the Zanla forces. Both military strategists’ were crucial in the ceasefire guarantees and agreements.

At independence he served in the Joint Military Command whose duties were to bring together Zipra, Zanla and Rhodesian forces. Dr Dabengwa was imprisoned in 1982 following discoveries of arms caches on Zapu properties along side colleagues, the late General Lookout Masuku, the late national hero Swazini Ndlovu, another late national hero, Retired Colonel Masala Sibanda, the late Tshaka Moyo who was famously known as “Thodlana” and Nicholas Gilbert Nkomo.

Dr Dabengwa remained detained in prison until 1986 when he was released. He rejoined politics in 1987 following the Unity Accord pact between PF-Zapu and Zanu leading to the formation of Zanu-PF.

In 1989, he was elected Zanu-PF Matabeleland North provincial chairman and the following year he was appointed Deputy Home Affairs Minister, after winning the Nkulumane Constituency Parliamentary seat.

After serving two years as Deputy Home Affairs Minister, Dr Dabengwa was elevated to be the Minister in the same portfolio and held the position for two terms.

Dr Dabengwa retired from Government in 2000 after losing his parliamentary seat to the MDC late vice president, Gibson Sibanda.

He left Zanu-PF in 2008 to form Zapu and was its president until the time of his death.

In preparation for his retirement from active politics which he had set for next year, Dr Dabengwa in 2018 launched the Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation whose aim is to promote democracy while chronicling the liberation history.

Dr Dabengwa was a farmer who had passion for cattle ranching and also served as chairman of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust (MZWT). He is survived by his wife Zodwa, five children and five grand children. Mourners are gathered at number 50 Ashton Road, Fourwinds, Bulawayo. The Chronicle