BY SILAS NKALA/NQOBANI NDLOVU
CIVIC groups in Matabeleland have described the late Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) Commander General Lookout Masuku as the epitome of democracy, hence his inexplicable death on April 5, 1986 shortly after his release from a Zanu PF government-engineered detention marked the end of the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Masuku died just after his release from prison, where he had been detained for four years together with 86 other ex-Zipra officials, although the courts had cleared them of charges of planning a coup d’état against then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s administration.
Mugabe accused then Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s PF Zapu of plotting to unseat the Zanu PF government, and launched a military-led witch hunt, dubbed Gukurahundi, which claimed over 20 000 civilian lives in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
Various civic leaders said Masuku’s death was quite significant as it marked the height of Gurukurahundi and a major turning point in post-independent Zimbabwe’s political landscape.
Ibhetshu likaZulu secretary-general Mbuso Fuzwayo said Masuku should be remembered as a patriot who put national interests ahead of self.
“He was a liberator-turned victim, face of abuse of the Constitution by the Executive and unsung hero,” Fuzwayo said.
He called on the authorities to name Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo after Masuku.
Human rights activist Effie Ncube said: “So he is one of the tens of thousands of people exterminated in the Gukurahundi genocide. His death is very significant in that it raises issues about the treatment of those who went to liberate the country when they came back particularly those from Zipra and Zapu.”
Zapu director of communication and marketing Patrick Ndlovu said they would continue to hold Zanu PF responsible for Masuku’s death.
“Our people should use his memory as an inspiration in the fight for the liberation of this country from a cartel of corrupt politicians,” Ndlovu said.
Ex-Zipra fighter and District Development Fund director Mthulisi Hanana called on government to name several public institutions in honour of Masuku.
“Such a man should be honoured. We should push for facilities such as stadiums to be named after these stalwarts and this must be across the country. Let’s have a street name in Harare after Masuku because he is a national hero,” he said.
On November 18, 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa renamed Llewellin Barracks, situated on the outskirts of Bulawayo, after Masuku.
Meanwhile, Zapu says it feels betrayed by Bulawayo City Council’s failure to name one of its streets after national hero Dumiso Dabengwa.
Zapu in June 2019 wrote to the MDC Alliance-led council requesting that the local authority names Fife Street in the central business district after the late liberation icon.
However, three years on, Zapu is still to get a favourable response from the local authority.
“Enquiries were made as a follow-up on that request. We were told that it’s a process that involves a lot of offices and the council was working on it,” Zapu Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Patrick Ndlovu said yesterday.
“As a party, we do not want to soil the image or legacy of Dabengwa and others like him which the system has tried to erase from history and memory by engaging in undignified dogfights.”
Mayor Solomon Mguni could not be reached for comment, while his deputy Mlandu Ncube was said to be in a meeting.
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