THE Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation’s week-long anniversary started on Saturday with various speakers hailing the late Zapu leader’s humility and describing him as a politician who cherished peace even after extreme provocation.
BY SILAS NKALA
Habakkuk Trust chief executive officer Dumisani Nkomo said the first time he had a close engagement with Dabengwa was when he was Home Affairs minister in the mid-1990s. Nkomo was president of the Junior Association of Christian Communicators.
He was one of the radical activists clamouring for the withdrawal of the Public Order Bill which was the precursor to the Public Order and Security Act.
“Our strategy was to block the passage of the Bill and this entailed inviting the Minister of Home Affairs to come and present on the Bill and there was to be a counter-presentation from a civic society activist David Coltart, who was one of the leading lawyers of the time. We hesitantly sent an invitation to Minister Dabengwa, but doubted that he would come. To our shock and pleasant surprise, Dabengwa agreed to come to the meeting,” Nkomo said.
“Our leadership team of Qobo Mayisa (vice-president), Thabaang Nare (secretary-general), Thando Sibanda (electronic media head) and Betty Nyoni (social concerns) managed to mobilise between 300 and 400 people to pack the meeting venue.”
“The crowd was restive and baying for blood and after Coltart’s presentation, the Black Russian went on stage.
“He was calm, cool and commanding throughout. You could hear a pin dropped during his address as he quietly and gently delivered his points moving his eyes around the crowded room. He was not threatening or aggressive, but very engaging, yet commanding great authority. He did not verbally abuse anyone in his responses, but was collected, respectful, carrying an air of authority about him,” Nkomo said.
“This was Dabengwa, ever calm, gentle and yet illuminating a regal authority without imposing it.
I grew to know him better after he pulled out of Zanu PF, choosing to revive Zapu and to also focus on what he said was Umdala Nkomo’s unfinished agenda of completing the Zambezi project and the tomato canning factories as well as other development projects. One thing about Dabengwa which made him great was the fact that he was approachable, listened to advice, but at the same time was willing to advise the younger generation.”
Dabengwa summoned Nkomo to his office and narrated how the Zambezi Water Project had been stalled by the late former President Robert Mugabe and some ministers from Matabeleland.
“He said the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project Trust had developed a comprehensive plan to ensure that the project was self-sustaining and would not need external donor funding. Instead, they had applied for mining concessions which would enable them to self-fund the project which he projected would employ over 500 000 people directly or indirectly through downstream and upstream agro-industrial activities, but Mugabe refused to sign,” Nkomo said.
He said Dabengwa, who in the days just after the November 2017 coup continued to give strategic advice on issues of statecraft and civic military relations, was disappointed when a transitional government failed to materialise due to Zanu PF’s greed.
MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa hailed Dabengwa for encouraging democracy.
“This day (Saturday), we remember Dr Dumiso Dabengwa, an icon of our liberation struggle. You showed us the way and we are walking in it and we will get there! A man of principle, a mentor and a father. Rest in power champion of democracy and freedom,” Chamisa posted on his Facebook wall.
Dabengwa and his Zapu backed Chamisa in the 2018 presidential race.