Mathabelazitha/The anvil BY ZIFISO MASIYE
The top left grandstand at the iconic White City Stadium gave me a vintage hawk’s eye view of proceedings. Increasingly, White City has become an arena less popular for sport, for football and Boy Ndlovu than it is for hair-raising political drama and theatre. On Friday, the stadium didn’t disappoint. It took Musaka, my neighbour for the day and eventual friend some 70 minutes, my offer of ice-cream and my familiar reference to his Binga Chief Sinansengwe — to thaw relations and build trust enough to engage in some free flowing conversation. This was as beautiful, sunny Friday mid-morning. The atmosphere, the momentum and steady build-up to Dumiso Dabengwa’s farewell was pregnant with rare, peculiar expectation.
Except for the ever rhythmic, spectacular, “hawu-hawing” toyi toyi platoon that graced us with that nostalgic thumping and stumping serenade, gnawing reminder of DD’s “soldiers-of-peace” … a chilly breeze stung our legs on the stands. Those bobbing eyes in the steadily building crowd seemed to search for answers in each other, to questions never asked. No one knew exactly what and wherefore, but everyone clearly expected some unsaid explosive afternoon. Today, the sprawling poverty and desolation of the decrepit infrastructure and shrunken long faces of the city stood in bemused, in scornful contrast with the extravagant elegance of a repertoire of spanking SUVs, spectacular drone surveillance — a grand exhibition of indecent opulence, never before seen in this the city’s “dogs section!”
They lined their sewer-strewn streets and clung to their broken windows in collective awe of a shimmering grand spectacle of: When government pays a visit to poverty!
You couldn’t help notice the mutual shock and surprise when, say a driver of Bulawayo’s Datsun 120Y’s crossed paths with a couple of drivers of the flashy future models of government splendour. A startling encounter of two separate words in the same spatial and time space.
There’s some certain pomp and fanfare at that level, by which Nyaradzo connives to make death really look cool, sexy even! So I really thought it a deeply discerning comment when my friend Musaka, pondering long and hard, signed and remarked, “If they don’t understand leadership, someone must tell both Nyaradzo and government to treat living citizens as they do dead heroes!”
One knew they were not in terrible company when their roving eye caught sight of the who’s who of Bulawayo — Rev Damasane, Useni Sibanda, Themba Ndlovu, Dumi Nyongolo Nkomo, Matson Hlalo, Welshman Ncube, Sipho Malunga, Lovemore Moyo to Soames and Dave Coltart, right to the decorated King Bulelani. Then up came a succession of firebrand speakers and their gripping eulogies — one must attend these gatherings because there aren’t words to capture and convey the mood, the grief train and emotional sensation and the raw nerves torched by the successive stage champions that spoke truth to power. Suffice to say “Umgogodla wesigodlo ubhibhidla invinvinya!” (not sure how they say it in other languages)
In no special order — Sijabuliso Dabengwa: In much the same measured, hospitable demeanour of his late brother, he clearly wasn’t one to undress the guests in his home death and laid a calm and candid account of DD’s life and tribulations. For a moment, I feared his mundane account would bore me, but his enduring memory of Dumiso changed that. The commander’s response to the brothers question at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison: You have been so long in prison — what really do they say it will take for you to be released?
Dumiso: “They have come several times and offered me immediate freedom on one condition — If I join Zanu PF. My answer to them has also been consistent. That condition can only happen if and when I die!”
This may well have been the closest surviving link to the genesis of the wars, her Zambian umbilical cord and her early, embryonic mutations from an idea, to the ANC, to UNIP, into Zapu…right up to the tragic, surgical decoupling of her rebellious womb-twin, Zanu — that sits at the epicentre of our colossal collapse of nationhood. As co-architect of the war, the grand old warrior, BroNkii accorded the mesmerised crowd a painstaking account of the nurturing valour and distinguished courage of Dabengwa, in the ingenious architecture that gave form and content to the liberation war. Clearly, there is an intriguing, chilling, enormous unknown history of the war and our country that, if we don’t set out to document and tell, this government has a thousand reasons to bury and never bring to the ears of our children and their children. Nkiwane’s revelation is for another day. But he summed up the defining principle that made the soul and mental frame of Dabengwa in three ways: (a) [Lingabunjelwa izitshwala zenhlabathi njengabafana benkomo] Nothing is more futile, more ridiculous than conflict and war between black brothers. In the absence of sincere consensus and unity, our country shall remain a global laughing stock. (b) True leadership and the drive to influence change does not require power or public office. Learn to lead effectively without the incumberance of political power. (c) [Umbuso kayisilo lifa] Power and incumbency, to be useful to society should never be perceived as some permanent monopoly of the incumbent — whatever level of leadership. Learn the beauty of willingly relinquishing power to the next person.
Prof Reg Austin
The unrelenting courage, disarming humility, self-denying sacrifice and measured anger of the “Black Russian” soon produced in an ambitious young minority lawyer, searching for clues to the humanity’s complex challenges, what became the “Consummate White Comrade”. From the early days of their encounter and candid tete-a-tete through Dabengwa’s fierce resistance to Mugabe and Zanu PF’s rabid pursuit of a one-party-state, Dabengwa’s unwavering commitment to free, sovereign, just coexistence of humanity and to the fundamental principles of democracy and rule of law was a matter of life or death. The crowing hallmarks of constitutionalism, rational distribution, tolerance, discipline and political career right into his coffin.
Retired Gen Modise – Sidibe
The history of the supremely heroic Luthuli Detachment and ultra- danger of the Sipolilo Campaign is so conspicuously unknown by Zimbabweans and scant and obliterate from the annals of or war history… Yet a compassionate none- citizen, one Retired General Jackie Modise-Sidibe could recite the minute details the heroics of our own war with such powerful pain and needle point precision.
A moving reminder of the precarious balance DD managed between his deceptively quiet, peaceful, saintly demeanour and his unrivaled strong will and militant determination for the ideals for finality to the Damocles sword of Gukurahundi that hangs ever perilously over the nation, the return of Zapu and Zipra properties and files, the correcting and rewriting of the true history of Zimbabwe..
The soldier of peace has run his race and urged, in his footsteps, that even with those who won’t listen, we must seek and pursue dialogue. That said, Dabengwa’s death is an invitation to the young people of Zimbabwe to “pick up the spear and free yourselves!
I need to proceed to Ntabazinduna to pay my last respect before I finish this.
Zii Masiye (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.