State-assisted funeral for the widow of a national hero accused of treason three years after independence in Zimbabwe
Shattered, Zodwa Dabengwa and friends after hearing on April 27, 1983 that although he was found ‘not guilty’ of treason, her legendary husband , Dumiso, was to be re-detained on the orders of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe (Picture: Trevor Grundy)
By Trevor Grundy
Over the weekend, Zodwa Dabengwa the widow of one of Zimbabwe’s most acclaimed heroes, Dumiso Dabengwa, was granted a state-assisted funeral following her death in Britain last month.
She was 76, the mother of five children and a woman who endured years of pain and suffering after her husband was arrested and charged with treason in March 1982 slightly less than two years after the Zimbabwe he helped bring to birth as a leading figure and fighter in the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU).
Mrs Dabengwa, nee Kumalo, watched with tears in her eyes the following April 1983 when her husband, after being acquitted of a treason charge by a High Court judge, Hilary Squires, was re-detained under laws passed by the illegal white minority government of Ian Smith and then imprisoned for years.
She died in London after a protracted battle with an un-disclosed illness.
A sea of mourners heard the Reverend Paul Bathe Damasane, the Deputy Chief Secretary for Social Services Sector, say that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and members of the Zimbabwe Government had provided assistance in repatriating her body from the UK and how they had assisted with the funeral arrangements.
He said this was a testament to the immense respect and gratitude Zodwa Dabengwa had garnered throughout her life.
Mrs Josephine Ginya, a member of the church choir, said Mrs Dabengwa was “a beacon of unwavering faith and a motherly figure to us all.”
Mrs Christinan Phiri spoke about the deceased’s “unwavering commitment” to the Christian religion. “She dedicated herself to the church and to God,“ said Mrs Phiri.
The late, and some day great, Dumiso Dabengwa
In March 1982 the then Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, ordered the arrest of leading members of ZAPU.
It came shortly after a horrendous remark by Mugabe and was just one of his many chilling utterances to describe political rivals.
Referring to Joshua Nkomo the leader of ZAPU, the monomaniac waiting to happen said: “The only way to deal with a snake is to strike and destroy its s head.” On February 17th, 1982 he sacked Nkomo (appointed to the Cabinet to placate the departing Governor of southern Rhodesia, Lord Soames). A few weeks later on March 11, Mugabe ordered the arrest of Dumiso Dabengwa, Lt-Colonel Lookout Masuku and several other key ZAPU leaders.
They were accused of treason which carried the death sentence.
On April 27, 1983, Dabengwa and Masuku were released and then immediately re-detained, watched by his devastated wife and a handful of ZAPU supporters.
Lt-Colonel Lookout Masuku of ZAPU (Picture:Trevor Grundy)
Dumiso Dabengwa died in Kenya in May 2019 on his way home after receiving medical treatment in India.
He remains a hero to millions of people in Zimbabwe and not just in his home area, Matabeleland.
Mrs Dabengwa was a scion of the once mighty Kumalo clan of the Ndebele nation long before Independence. She was the daughter if Loncanda Samson Khumalo and Janet Ndiweni of Plumtree,
Left behind are five children who carry the legendary name of Dabengwa. Two reside in the UK, while the others are dispersed across the USA, South Africa and Botswana.
Before saying goodbye to a woman of great courage and integrity, Mr Sijabuliso Dabengwa, a spokesperson for the Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation, told mourners: ”When Dumiso Dabengwa departed, Mrs Dabengwa stood by our side for nearly half a year before seeking solace in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, she was unable to return.’’
Overwhelmed by sorrow, he added – ”Mrs Dabengwa possessed a heart of gold brimming with boundless love. Her untimely passing is an immense loss for us all.”