Fallen national hero Dumiso Dabengwa, 79, knew his time on earth was up and wanted to die at home, according to a family source.
Dabengwa, president of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu), passed away in Kenya on Wednesday while he was on his way back to Zimbabwe from India, where he had undergone three weeks of specialist treatment for a liver tumour.
This week, the family member said doctors in India had told Dabengwa his was a risky case.
“He accepted his fate and wanted to return home for his last days. He tried booking a plane but was too fragile. The only option was chartering a plane with medical staff on it,” the source said.
It is a trying time for the family, as Dabengwa’s wife, Zodwa, lost her mother while her husband was in India.
A fierce critic of the Emmerson Mnangagwa administration, Dabengwa openly supported the MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa for the top job at last year’s July 30 polls.
But in their time of need, Dabengwa’s family turned to the state for medical assistance. “The government helped send him to India and is also assisting with the repatriation of his body,” the source said.
Dabengwa’s dying wish was to be buried next to his parents in Ntabazinduna.
“He openly despised the National Heroes’ Acre in Harare,” said Zapu national chair Isaac Mabuka.
Dabengwa and five others went on trial for treason in 1983, accused of wanting to overthrow the government.
Robert Mugabe’s government accused Dabengwa, also known as the Black Russian, of plotting with the Soviet secret service, the KGB, to undermine his rule. The main evidence was a letter Dabengwa had written to the KGB in 1980, accusing Mugabe of being a Western lackey and asking Russia “to render us further assistance in our next struggle against imperialist intrigues”.
Immediately after being acquitted, Dabengwa was rearrested on charges of arming “dissidents”. He was detained with- out trial for four years.
Dabengwa was only released ahead of the 1987 signing of the Unity Accord between Zapu and Zanu.
Years later, as home affairs minister, he unsuccessfully tried to dismantle the security laws under which he had been detained under both former prime minister Ian Smith and Mugabe.
After some time in government, however, Dabengwa apparently abandoned the liberties he had stood for. In 1998, after riots hit parts of Harare over food prices, the army
was deployed to the streets.
“They will not hesitate to shoot,” Dabengwa angrily warned at a press conference. At least eight people were killed in the crackdown that followed.
He lost a 2000 parliamentary election in Bulawayo’s Nkulumane constituency to the MDC. In a stinging rebuke, he said he had lost only because Zanu-PF had become so unpopular that “even if they [the opposition] had put up a donkey as a candidate, it would have won”.
In 2008, his frustration with Mugabe boiled over and he backed Simba Makoni, the former finance minister who had left the ruling party to challenge Mugabe, while still a member of Zanu-PF’s top Politburo.
This got him expelled from the party, and a year later, in 2009, he formed Zapu. He stood for president in 2013, winning only 0.74% of the vote.
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