ZAPU leader Dumiso Dabengwa yesterday accused Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and army commander General Constantine Chiwenga of blocking efforts to have former Zipra commissar retired Colonel Richard Dube declared a nation hero.
Dube was buried at Lady Stanely Cemetery in Bulawayo yesterday amid an outpouring of anger by his former Zipra colleagues who charged that he should have been buried at the National Heroes’ Acre in Harare.
The illustrious fighter whose liberation war name was Gedi Ndlovu succumbed to vascular problems on October 11.
Dabengwa told an emotionally charged burial service for Dube that was attended by war veterans and members of different political parties at the Brethren in Christ Church along Masotsha Ndlovu Avenue that Sekeramayi and Chiwenga ordered Zimbabwe National Army Commander Lieutenant-General Valerio Sibanda only to organise tents and chairs and a parade of honour for the departed veteran.
“We don’t doubt that he was a national hero and was meant to be honoured by the country for the work that he did,” the Zapu president said.
“Last Sunday (Zanu PF politburo member) Sikhanyiso Ndlovu came to the funeral wake and asked us to hurry with Gedi’s obituary so that when they (politburo) sit in Harare they would discuss the matter.
“I said to him judging from past experiences with what we had seen in the case of Thenjiwe Lesabe, Swazini Ndlovu and earlier Lookout Masuku, it was a waste of time. Ndlovu said we should just hurry and leave everything else to him.”
Dabengwa said he told Ndlovu, who was present at yesterday’s funeral service that the army had hinted the hero status would not be granted after they were given Dube’s biography.
“He said the army might have it, but if the party (Zanu PF) politburo did not have it then nothing would happen.
“We heard that Chiwenga and Sekeramayi told Sibanda to do whatever the people wanted and that was all they would do,” he said.
“Ndlovu called me during the week saying the matter was not discussed despite Bulawayo province having had agreed that Gedi be declared a national hero.
“The army did not submit their thoughts on the matter.
“It reminded me that after Morgan Tsvangirai won (in 2008), the army is the one that said (President Robert) Mugabe, you are not going.
“This country is now run by the army. If they say no, they mean no.”
Dabengwa said what was shocking was that everyone knew Dube’s contributions to the liberation struggle.
Sekeremayi and Chiwengwa were not available for comment, but Ndlovu accused Dabengwa of politicking.
“It is sad that we were not included in the programme to be able to respond,” he said.
“It is not true that all the people in that church are Zapu. Three quarters of Zapu is still in unity.”
“Some who were speaking were not there when the Unity Accord was signed.
“Dabengwa is a beneficiary of the Unity Accord. He served as minister afterwards and in the politburo, so he knows the processes.”
An emotional Zipra Veterans’ Trust chairman Buster Magwizi said the history of Zimbabwe would not be complete without names of people such as Dube.
He said Dube helped set up Zipra, “which became the vanguard of the liberation struggle”.
Dube’s son Brian described his father as a loving parent and pledged to carry on with the decorated soldier’s legacy.
Born on August 8 1943 in Matobo district, Dube joined the Zapu youth wing in 1962 while he was still at school.
He taught at Wanezi Secondary School in 1967 and Silobini Primary School in 1968.
In December 1968, Dube left then Rhodesia for Zambia to join the armed struggle under Zapu.
He was selected for military training at Morogoro in Tanzania along with the late Jevan Maseko and Abel Mziyane under the instruction of the late Alfred Nikita Mngena, Ambrose Mutinhiri and Gordon Munyanyi.
After guerrilla training, Dube was sent to the then USSR to specialise in military engineering at Simferopol Military Academy.
He returned to Zambia mid-1973 and was appointed commander of the Chawenga Base.
In the same year, Dube was appointed instructor at Morogoro in Tanzania.
He returned to Zambia in 1976 and was deployed at CTT before setting up a training camp in CGT.
In the same year, Dube was appointed Zipra deputy political commissar and served under Lookout Masuku in the high command structure.
In 1980, Dube was deployed to HQ1 Brigade as a senior liaison officer and worked with Mike Reynolds of the British Common Wealth Monitoring Force to enforce the ceasefire.
He was attested into the regular army as a lieutenant colonel and later commissioned as a full colonel.
Dube was the first black commandant of the Mbalabala School of Infantry in 1984 and was later posted as commandant of Inyanga Battalion Battle School until 1987 before retiring in 1990.
In 1993-1994 Dube worked as a peace mission consultant for the Zimbabwe Demobilisation Advisory Team in Somaliland.
He is survived by wife Assah, five children and three grandchildren. President Robert Mugabe has in the past insisted that the National Heroes’ Acre is reserved for Zanu PF members.