JOHANNESBURG – The South African province of Zimbabwe’s opposition ZAPU party will Sunday hold a memorial service for fallen party President Dr Dumiso Dabengwa.
Dabengwa, head of intelligence for Zapu’s military wing, ZIPRA, during the liberation war that brought Zimbabwe’s independence from former colonial master Britain in 1980, died in Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, en route to his home country from India, where he had gone to seek an operation for a liver ailment.
The memorial service is scheduled for 1pm inside the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, at Number 16 Stiemens Street Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
Affectionately known as Comrade DD, the Black Russian, he was one of the first from the ZAPU ranks to undergo military training in the then Soviet Union and was trained by the KGB to eventually become the ZIPRA intelligence supremo. His training came after Dabengwa had served three years in prison for his political activities as a teenager.
He took part in the first major armed confrontation with the racist Smith regime in the Wankie and Sipholilo Campaigns in northern of Zimbabwe, where ZIPRA fought alongside Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress. He fought alongside the likes of Chris Hani, who was later to become General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, later to be gunned down by assassins in 1993 and Basil February, who died weapon-in-hand, fighting the Rhodesian settlers.
Dr Dabengwa is one of the few Zimbabwean politicians known across Africa and throughout the socialist and progressive part of the world as a principled, courageous and knowledgeable.
After independence, Dabengwa and his best friend, Lookout Masuku who had become ZIPRA Commander, ZAPU Administrator Misheck Velaphi and Sydney Malunga were arrested by the regime of then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe on trumped-up charges of trying to overthrow Mugabe’s ZANU PF government, making Dabengwa the first Zimbabwean to be accused of treason by a government of independent Zimbabwe.
Although found innocent of the charges of treason and hoarding arms in the court, Dabengwa and company were to remain detained for four years without charge. Masuku died in prison, while Dabengwa was released in 1987, following unity talks between ZAPU and ZANU, which led to the signing of the Unity Accord and the merger of the two parties under ZANU (PF) in 1987.
The ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo had to persuade him to join ZANU (PF) which he did reluctantly, but Dabengwa reportedly never held membership of ZANU PF and always was adamant that he, against his wish, only joined the government of national unity and not ZANU PF.
In 1992-2000, Dabengwa served as Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Minister. It was under his superintendence that the police force in Zimbabwe underwent major reforms in as much as human and peoples’ rights were concerned. It was under him that the department of Home Affairs was digitalized and services improved. He introduced the digitalized passport in Zimbabwe.
During this time, he also fought for the implementation of the Matabeleland -Zambezi Water Project, which he managed to get started. He also became Chairman of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust, a position he held till his death.
At the end, of 2008, ZAPU was revived at a National Convention held in Bulawayo and at the Special Congress held the following year, ZAPU formally pulled out of the Unity Accord with ZANU (PF), where Dabengwa was entrusted with the leadership of the revived liberation and revolutionary movement first as National Chairman in the interim leading to the 2010 People’s Congress, where he was elected President.