The last man standing in Matabeleland has gone! When I was in primary school in the 1990s , I knew the names of all the cabinet ministers and their portfolios.
My dad and I would play a game where he would ask me capital cities of the world and ministers’ names and I would always hit the bull’s eye.
I carried the same interest to high school and so on.
Interestingly, all my favourite characters are dead.
These were the late Chris Ushewekunze (whom I liked for his style and charisma), Edson Zvobgo (whom I liked for his accent and jokes on his high levels of intellect I heard from my brother Lloyd who was also a strong fan), Timothy Stamps whom I liked because he was white (yes it tickled my fancy) and the last man standing was Dumiso Dabengwa whom I liked for his calmness.
I liked him more when I later read about his background when I was around the fourth form at Moleli High.
News of his death reached to me on Thursday morning and it did not really come as a shock since his ill health was not ‘classified information’.
But the fact remains that it is sad!
Who is Dabengwa?
Well, I believe Dabengwa was one of the few brave men from his tribe left.
He was a firebrand politician who was never vacillating or bought by few pieces of silver like the politicians of our time.
His died a bitter man and his death might mark the end of ZAPU.
It is an open secret that some of our opposition politicians are beneficiaries of the administration they purport to fight against.
Some own haulage trucks that transport wares and products produced from the system they condemn using skilful language and political banter at podiums.
Dabengwa was not such politician.
He has always been mistrusted by ZANU from the onset after independence.
With his Russian trained military background, Robert Mugabe and ZANU were afraid that he along with the late Lookout Masuku and others would rebel.
Precedence had been set in countries like Mozambique, where Renamo (Matsanga) waged a rebellion against government,
In Angola MPLA got into power with Augustino Neto and later Dosantos but Jonah Savimbi formed UNITA and rebelled against the revolutionary parties.
Such precedence gave Mugabe and ZANU corridors fear knowing that Dabengwa had training in the Soviet Union and would probably rebel since there was a rumour that ZAPU had superior Russian weapons which in fact belonged to Africa National Congress (ANC).
They kept a hawk eye on Dabengwa.
This mistrust saw his arrest in 1981 along with Lookout Masuku where they were charged with treason and spent four years in detention.
Masuku never lived longer,he died a year before the signing of the Unity Accord.
Reports said they were tortured a lot such that Dabengwa was against the signing of the Unity Accord.
After the conclusion of the Unity Accord in 1987, Dabengwa was offered a deputy minister position which he initially refused but had to be convinced by the late Joshua Nqabuko Nkomo.
He accepted but his wounds did not heal, he was bitter.
Even when he was in government, he always questioned the ‘distorted’ liberation struggle history and narrative that Robert Mugabe and ZANU presented.
In 1990, he was to deliver a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe that left tongues wagging.
He contested that ZANU started the war in 1966, he made it crystal clear that ZAPU started the war in 1963.
He was Home Affairs minister from 1992 to 2000.
Dabengwa was a fierce critic of the Gukurahundi and that is why he differed with Nkomo on signing the Unity Accord.
He was a trained soldier and Nkomo was a politician so their opinions naturally differed.
Military people are trained in conventional warfare to regard respect to civilian authority and that is why he eventually respected Nkomo.
Not to say Nkomo wanted the Unity Accord, but as an astute politician he found it convenient at the material time because he wanted peace.
Even after Nkomo died , Dabengwa remained in government as a sign of respect until such time he had reached the orgasm of discontent and left to revive ZAPU .
That was in 2008 and he blasted the administration of the time , a stance that he had been hiding over the years as a sign of respect to Nkomo.
In 2013, he took up ZAPU candidature in the general elections premonition that Mugabe had suspected soon after independence.
Though health took a toll on him, he vowed that he would retire active politics in 2020 bjut his maker had other ideas.
He was promoted to glory after founding Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation last year.
The foundation was meant to champion the emancipation and capacitation of people for an independent, well-governed and self-reliant continent with empowered citizens.
Endorsing Nelson Chamisa
This chapter of his life is probably where he showed the zenith of his hatred for ZANU PF in whichever form.
He backed and endorsed Nelson Chamisa bid for the presidency in the 2018 harmonized elections. He had to pull out of the presidential race and put his party’s weight in support of Chamisa and the MDC Alliance.
There were also reports that President Mnangagwa made a futile attempt to make him rejoin ZANU PF.
It is also refreshing to note that the State paid for his treatment reinforcing Mnangagwa’s commitment to opening up the democratic space.
However, his litmust test is will he declare him a national hero?