Masuku then become deputy commander of the Zimbabwean National Army at independence but died literally at the hands of a government he had helped to construct.Masuku was released together with veteran Zapu nationalist Vote Moyo in March 1986 when he was seriously ill and Judith Todd, in her book Through The Darkness, expressed doubts whether the “specialist who attended to him was “indeed a specialist or even a registered doctor at all”. On April 7 he succumbed to cryptocococal meningitis at Parirenyatwa Hospital and this after the government had refused to grant him one of his dying wishes, to see his comrade Dumiso Dabengwa who was still languishing in jail.
General Lookout Masuku will go down in history as the first martyr of post-independent Zimbabwe.
Perhaps it would be critical to reflect on Masuku’s comments to Time magazine when he told the publication just after independence that “we have been fighting so people could express their will”.Yet 32 years after independence, what Mafela fought for is still a mirage.
Lookout Masuku was one of the first victims of Zanu PF’s flagrant disregard of the rule of law and he paid the ultimate price and as such we should not be fooled to think trampling on and of the rule of law and impunity only began in 2000; it has been with us since independence and Lookout Masuku, 26 years afterwards, is a sad reminder of an aborted revolution.
Joshua Nkomo summarised Masuku’s supreme contribution to the struggle on April 12 1986 at the funeral of the Zipra commander when he said “Mafela, Lookout after all his sacrifices, died a pauper in our own hands, we cannot blame colonialism and imperialism for this tragedy”. Up to today there is no major street or building in the country which is named after Masuku, what a betrayal!
Masuku’s life and death is a sharp rebuke of the very notion of independence when the country still boasts of an array of repressive legislation which infringe on fundamental liberties of speech, association, assembly, freedom of the press and expression. If Lookout Masuku, Jason Moyo, Nikita Mangena, Lazarus Nkala, Josiah Tongogara and Herbert Chitepo were to rise from the dead, I am sure they would not be sure whether they were in Rhodesia or the Zimbabwe they fought so hard and so long for.
Independence Day should not be a time of celebration but rather of moaning the betrayed liberation values of the likes of Lookout Masuku who literally died in chains in the same way that Steve Biko died in prison. Independence Day should remind us that we are yet to enjoy a new Zimbabwe where people can “vote “freely and choose their own destiny”.
As we tread cautiously towards Independence Day commemorations, it should be a time of reflection and indeed mourning for the betrayed ideals of the liberation struggle which Lookout Vumindaba Mafela Khalisabantu envisaged.
Dumisani is the Chief Executive Officer of Habakkuk Trust and political analyst. He can be contacted on Dumisani.firstname.lastname@example.org