By Bulawayo Correspondent
OPPOSITION Zapu’s acting president, Isaac Mabuka has called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to set up an independent body, to deal with the controversial issue of conferring heroes’ status on outstanding Zimbabweans.
Mabuka was speaking at a memorial service for the late liberation war stalwart and national hero Dumiso Dabengwa, at Bulawayo’s White City Stadium. He added the issue must not be the sole responsibility of the ruling Zanu PF party.
“The President (Mnangagwa) has set so many commissions. If the so called new dispensation is really new, the President should appoint an independent commission, which selects national heroes and heroines.
“These days we have people who cannot leave Zanu PF just because they want to be declared heroes when they die,” said Mabuka.
The Zapu Acting president, described Dabengwa as a true hero of the liberation struggle and a “prisoner of Zimbabwe”.
Mabuka said the late Dabengwa was strongly against the 1987 Unity Accord between Zapu and Zanu but only succumbed to pressure from the late party’s president Joshua Nkomo.
“Dabengwa stood by his innocence and refused to sell out the revolution. He only capitulated at the insistence of his Supreme Commander Josh (Nkomo) to stop the wanton slaughter of civilians by the government,” the acting Zapu leader said.
Along with another Zapu commander Lookout Masuku, Dabengwa was arrested and charged with treason, in the early years of independence by then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s administration. The two were however acquitted of the charges but Mugabe was not to be stopped, as he unleashed a North Korean trained crack military unit that is blamed for the deaths of more than 20 000 civilians in a brutal campaign commonly referred to as Gukurahundi.
Nkomo was forced to concede to Mugabe’s demands for a united party and watched as his then opposition was swallowed to form Zanu PF. Dabengwa wlked out of Zapu over 10 years ago.
Said Mabuka: “In the interests of peace, he (Dabengwa) joined the government that had incarcerated him and as tribute to his professionalism, he served with distinction in the service of the country.”
He also deplored the deteriorating health standards a situation that forced Dabengwa to seek treatment in India. He died in Nairobi, Kenya on his way back.
“It must have weighed heavily on him (Dabengwa) as he reflected on the irony of seeking medical help very far from his people, something that has become a privilege of very few in this country, as the rest of the population cannot access adequate health facilities within the country,” Mabuka said.
“Dabengwa was not a bitter man. In the face of betrayal by his erstwhile colleagues, he fought bravely for those principles. Dabengwa did not lose hope and faith in the founding principles and fundamentals of Zapu.”
Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation director Mthulisi Hanana said one of the best ways to honour the late national hero would be to resolve the Gukurahundi issue.
“One of the things that was foremost on Dabengwa’s mind was to make sure that there is justice for victims of Gukurahundi,”Hanana said.
“Dabengwa dedicated his life to the fight for justice and freedom and I urge the youths of today to learn from him.”
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, former Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commender Philip Valerio Sibanda and Defence and War Veterans Deputy Minister Victor Matemadanda were some of the political heavyweights who attended the memorial service.
Dabengwa will be buried in Ntabazinduna on Saturday.