THE body of late national hero and Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa will now arrive in Bulawayo on Monday after family members and Zapu officials resisted government’s move to ferry his body through Harare.
The body of the struggle icon was set to arrive in Bulawayo on Sunday aboard a South African Airways plane but did not come as expected, much to the disappointment of hundreds who thronged Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport to welcome their much-loved hero.
It also emerged that some family members – who included Dabengwa’s widow – who had gone to South Africa to meet his body from Kenya, were informed their relative’s body was not on the flight when the plane was mid-air.
Addressing journalists at the airport Sunday afternoon, Vice President Kembo Mohadi said that Dabengwa’s body could not fit into the plane’s cargo area.
“Unfortunately, the body could not come in this plane. We were told that the holding was very small. The body remained behind.
“We are making arrangements that his body be flown into Zimbabwe either this evening (Sunday) through any other aircraft but not directly to Bulawayo here. We will have to try to get him to come in a commercial plane so that when he comes through Harare, we will take over, the Air Force will bring the body here,” said Mohadi.
Mohadi was leading a handful current and former government officials who went to the airport to receive Dabengwa’s body.
After announcing his national hero status on the runway at the airport, the VP went into a closed door meeting with family members and senior Zapu officials.
During the meeting, Dabengwa’s family members and the Zapu leadership expressed reservations over government’s move to take Dabengwa’s body via Harare.
“Dabengwa’s wife Mama MaKhumalo openly told Mohadi and his delegation that the option of taking her husband’s body to Harare was unacceptable.
“She also told the VP that while they accepted the decision to declare him a national hero, it must not override the family’s decisions,” said a source who was part of the tense meeting also attended by Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Zanu PF secretary for Administration Obert Mpofu and Patrick Chinamasa.
During the meeting, said the source, the family members also queried why Mohadi had to announce Dabengwa’s hero status at the airport.
“One of Dabengwa’s brothers, Sifiso told Mohadi that the government disrespected the family by announcing his hero status at the airport.
“During the meeting, Zapu acting president Isaac Mabuka also reminded VP Mohadi that it was government and not Zanu PF that was assisting with resources,” said the family source who attended the meeting.
Addressing mourners at the late national hero’s home, family spokesperson, Gibson Sibanda said Dabengwa’s body will no longer go to Harare.
“We welcome government‘s assistance but it should not interfere with our programme,” he said bluntly.
“The body of our hero will now arrive in Bulawayo tomorrow (Monday) morning,” said Sibanda.
Dabengwa, who died in Nairobi, Kenya on Thursday enroute to Zimbabwe after undergoing a month-long treatment in India, will be buried on Saturday at a family graveyard in Ntabazinduna.