Ubabazala: A hero among heroes

The following is a transcript of excerpts of President Mugabe’s address at the burial of National Hero Cde Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu at the National Heroes Acre in Harare yesterday.

This year has been quite a sad year, probably the saddest for our party and our nation, because we have gathered here in the same way as we are doing today, four times before, this now being our fifth. That was all to bury our National Heroes and may I, on behalf of the party and Government, my family and, indeed, on my own behalf, express my deepest condolences to the Ndlovu family, especially his wife, children, close relatives.

But I want to say to them, the man we are burying here today has not only been your family, relative whether as husband, brother or in the extended family where the various relationships made reference to. But he has equally been a member of our family, the Zapu family for a start, and when we got united (as the) Zanu-PF family.

How related to us was he?

An account of his education has been given us. Sure, humble start in those years, education, higher education was scarce but as we understand, he tried to educate himself. His father perhaps assisted him and he went to the highest echelons of the system at that time.

Those of us who went the highest in the system ended up at Standard Six or later Standard Seven on the academic side. With what we might call a diploma at that time, one either became a teacher or on the practical side, a builder, or a carpenter or an orderly in the medical service. And so you had to go to the institutions or institution that provided what was your choice. We understand that his vocational skills were derived from Tsholotsho. I don’t know whether this is accurate, but Tsholotsho gave birth to Umzingwane because Tsholotsho had hardships.

Some of the hardships that we still have: No regular rainfall seasons and because the courses were transferred, he might have gone to Umzingwane. And that made him in the family quite a provider of the needs of the family and wiser than perhaps the majority of the people in the country. But it is from that, aside from what I said now, that leaders were derived: Political, social, cultural. I am saying this because that is the area where I also saw myself established.

There were no secondary schools. Yet, if you wanted to go higher, you had to study by correspondence, mainly with South Africa if you were JC and if you wanted to go much further, matric. It was in very rare cases that persons of that level and who had tried to educate themselves to that level got bursaries or some formal systems to go to university in South Africa. I make reference to that because the leaders who provided the earlier political lead in either part of the country, Matabeleland or Mashonaland, were from these centres. So was he, as we are told and as we got to know.

But it is then that he started talking about the struggle, the struggle to redeem our nation from oppression, racial oppression to which they had been subjected by British colonialism. It is from them we had the likes of Joshua Nkomo, although Umdhala managed also after correspondence to go to South Africa and pursue the education that he later acquired. But his degree, as we all know, was through correspondence.

They provided the leadership, the leadership that founded the struggle that later matured from the political level, and the political level was just agitating for fairness, for a non-racial society, for better wages, for the vote. It was not yet an armed struggle. As the demand and call, political in nature for the Africans, to be given proper recognition as citizens deserving the right to vote and other rights, these were persistently denied and agitated for.

One course was left from them, for us, to follow. It was the course, now, of fighting the struggle; no longer politically only, but as an organisation which had to arm itself. We used to say, “It’s no longer the language of politics and the fight with words that the enemy needs.” So, the time had come that we arm ourselves for the enemy was fully armed against our own people.

The National Democratic Party was formed after the ANC; now there was re-awakening and fear on the part of the enemy, reawakening on the part of our people. But the enemy would not allow it. He would try as much as possible to prevent it. When I looked at the rest of our leaders, they were young, and I always called him Ubabazala Wanku. We would understand each other quite well.

We always liked to use our wits: How shall we train our people? First get them out, and we organised to go through all routes that were not suspected by our enemies. Several from Matabeleland went to Zambia through Botswana just as several from the Mashonaland side went through Nyanga. He had joined the party, the revolutionary party; suspected by the enemy, arrested and sent to detention camps HwaHwa and Gonakudzingwa, which was done to us.

I also went through HwaHwa and then later it was Sikombela. But we managed our way out; he managed to get out, too. Sometimes we used our own people, the intelligence to provide information that we sent to Mozambique and Zambia or Tanzania. They got information – these counter-revolutionaries – back to assist government; in some cases, details of the geography of the camps, the people in the camps. But as long as the enemy knew where the camps were set up, it did not matter that the people in the camps were refugees or children. They were dangerous places that to the enemy were breeding calamity for them. They had to be destroyed.

So we were bombed, bombed callously, indiscriminately, and we saw children, ordinary innocent old people who had run away – escaped the wrath of the enemy — we saw them die, few managed to escape, thank God, right up to the time we negotiated the freedom and Independence. So, although we lost a number of our comrades in the camps or even as diseases afflicted them, a good number of us managed to return home.

We returned home with those war veterans we had trained with. We had negotiated independence. But the institutions that ruled were still colonial as we returned, and we had to change these. Yes, there we were, and elections were held. And together, Zanu and Zapu won these elections with a resounding majority of 70, I think it was 77, and Muzorewa got three. The Constitution, as negotiated at the time, gave Africans 80 constituencies only and 20 were given to the whites.

(That) couldn’t be contested by anyone. But the whites had protection; it was for the white man. The open constituencies were, therefore, 80, so our parties fought for these because we had agreed that Zapu and ZANU would unite. We put our wings together and they amounted to 77 seats and Muzorewa only three.

Well, what did this mean?

Parliament now had to change in complexion, and we were a majority in Parliament. But Smith had to take 20 seats which had not been contested by Africans. We had won the election; there was local government, there was national Government. We had to find people sufficiently educated, but, preferably, with some background of the struggle, to appoint in Government as ministers or in local government as councillors.

So Cde Ndlovu was a ready choice to assist in local government, and there had never been black councillors, but now we had them. And, of course, local government had its system. We had mayors, we still have mayors. At the time he was appointed as mayor of Bulawayo and became the first black mayor in the City of Bulawayo. Change was now taking place and the Africans were happy. Change was taking place not only in urban areas, but in the rural areas too.

Lancaster had not been just a conference. It had been primarily a conference where we wanted to get entire freedom. And the land grievance was topical as we spoke and argued there. Other grievances, of course, (were) of the system of government, etcetera. But the major grievance was that of land. So, we told the British we wanted land reform accepted by them and said we cannot pay compensation to the farmer. The farmer had never bought land from our chiefs, from us and anyway, our people are poor, you can’t expect them now to put their hands in their pockets in order to get whatever little they have and pay the white British colonialist as compensation.

You, the British, have to do it. And the British, after some argument, agreed that they would do it, but they only agreed to some extent because they also didn’t have enough funds. They said, “No, we can’t just fully compensate,” and we were deadlocked on that issue. And the Americans who had heard of our deadlock chipped in and invited Nkomo and myself and the American ambassador and they said, “Ah, you are deadlocked. You agreed on every other aspect. Why should your conference fail on this aspect of compensation? The American government will give additional funds, but first, the American citizens themselves would not want to know that this was to compensate the white British persons in your country.

“But we will give it to you as money for land reform, agricultural reform. We will turn a blind eye to how you use it. You can compensate them, but we will say no this is assistance we are giving to the British for land reform.”

And this was the agreement. Well, there we were. It was after all this that we agreed and then the elections took place and the situation I’ve described as the outcome of these elections established itself. As time went on, well, we now had blacks, Zapu and ZANU, dominating in Parliament. We were able now to look at our people and see from amongst us which ones from the MPs we could appoint President of Senate and Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament.

In time, Ubabazala NK was appointed Deputy to the President of the Senate. A very humble person, one who listened to the views of others, to the views of Members of Parliament and even the party. Time, naturally, creates its own, what you might call vicissitudes. As we move in time, we are also moving as people in age.

Gradually, we get afflicted by illness and these might be sudden illnesses, but in some cases, there are illnesses that will have developed in us over time, we not being aware and becoming aware only when the disease has developed to a stage that threatens us. The pastor who led us in prayer made reference to our being common and equal – the rich and the poor, white or black, educated or uneducated.

Zvirwere hazvineyi nekuti iwe unechigaro chakadini chisina vamwe, iwe wakachenjera here kana kuti wakapusa, iwe uri mupfumi here kana kuti uri murombo, aiwa. It’s a visitor that afflicts everyone regardless of that state that you hold in life. Saka tose we get affected and we are forced to move charted road towards the destiny. All of us get ill, maybe cancer, maybe a headache; the road is the same now for us.

Death is our destiny, we all die. Ubabazala NK is gone. It’s the way for all of us, but we are human beings. We always have loved to live longer than the prescribed days for us on this earth. He who gives life is the One who takes it. That is what our Bible says. He is gone, our dear departed, but we should mourn. Why? He was one dear to our hearts, he has created a gap that cannot be filled in the family, in the party.

We mourn because he was a friend; we called him NK. That shall not be again. I called him Ubabazala. Now, I look at those that remain. None of them is fit for me to call Ubabazala; they are all youngsters. We, the two of us, were their elders. Well, I say you have gone, NK, we shall all follow. But then, as for us who are still alive, we will look at your deeds, your way of life, the chart that you have left us to walk and follow. And I say to those still alive, let’s try the best we can to be what he was: A loving personality, humble personality, hardworking personality, a family person, a true revolutionary.

That legacy, we should pass to our children in the same way he passed it on to all of us. That legacy is part of the life he has left for one generation to try and benefit from it. And so we would hope that those virtues that he has left us will be the virtues we all shall try to have; not just try to have, but we also pass on to the next generation.

So, generation after generation will be talking about uNK lo. We lay him here for that purpose. It is an honour, yes, but it is also an honour that will enable our people from one generation to another to say, “Here is a hero amongst heroes, that is why he is here.” And we say to the family whilst you mourn and mourn with us, wipe your tears off. He has left a legacy. He will be remembered alongside the heroes who lie here. With that, I want to say NK, you have played your part. Hamba kahle — go in peace.

Perhaps those who are at the gate of justice after life will recognise the good deeds you have done and will reward you with whatever is the content of what our pastors in the Bible call eternal life.

NK we shall miss you; we pray that God gives you eternal life. So, go in peace, son of the soil. Go in peace, revolutionary of revolutionaries. Go in peace, friend and ally of many of us.. Land is being divvied up for residential purposes when there is no capacity to build the supporting infrastructure, like roads, and provide the attendant services, like water. Does it not make sense to go upwards rather than outwards when it comes to housing development?

Hopefully, the responsible authorities will take heed and act accordingly. President Mugabe also spoke about land reform and farm sizes, making it clear that this is an issue that demands — and will get — continuous attention. Yes, people should farms they can manage. Unutilised and under-utilised land must be surrendered and allocated to any one of the millions of other Zimbabweans who are eager to get into farming. And let it not be construed as a reversal of the Land Reform Programme when Government takes land from the over-stretched or the clearly incapable farmer.

Rather, it is a logical next step in a revolutionary initiative. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the President spoke about principles and the need for all Zimbabweans, not just Zanu-PF members, to be informed by the values that brought about our Independence. There is a reason why the very first Chapter of our National Constitution speaks to values and principles. These founding values and principles, agreed on and adopted by an overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans in 2013, guide the nation – leaders and ordinary people alike – as we go about the business of rebuilding our economy creating a State we can all be proud of.

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