By Desire Tshuma
The legacy of the late founding member of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) Insiza District, Richard Petros Mabhena who was laid to rest early this month at his plot in Insiza North in Filabusi has been described as an illustrious and motivating one.
Scores of people from all ages and diaspora gathered at the late Provincial hero’s homestead at Plot Number 124 in Gwatemba to celebrate and bid farewell to the hero ”Khulu” Mabhena.
Petros Richard Mabhena played a critical role in liberating Zimbabwe. For this, he became a political detainee under the colonial Ian Smith regime for supporting the armed struggle that led to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
The government declared him a provincial hero but his family requested that it wanted him to be buried at his plot next to his wife Mamlotshwa. The request was granted. The Guest of Honour at the hero’s burial was the Minister of State for Matabeleland South Hon Abednico Ncube who was accompanied by Insiza North Member of the House of Assembly Hon Farai Taruvinga and Insiza South Member of the House of Assembly, Hon Spare Sithole. The late hero was given full military honours and a state-assisted burial.
This reporter managed to talk to the Mabhena family through their family spokesperson Thandanani Mabhena.
”Our father has been unwell for seventeen years. We took him to different medical experts each time when he was complaining of body pains but the doctors could not ascertain the actual health problem though they could give him some painkillers,” said Thandanani. He encouraged the nation not to mourn but rather celebrate the late heor’s life that was dedicated to the liberation of the country.
The late Provincial hero Mabhena passed on 24 April 2021 after a long illness and was laid to rest on 30 April 2021. His political history started in the 1960s when the late Father Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Nyongolo Mqabuko Nkomo visited him at his plot in Gwatemba with a huge delegation. Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo stayed at Mabhena’s homestead with his delegation for seven days. The purpose of the visit by Joshua Nkomo was to map out strategies on how they could mobilsze and strengthen structures for ZAPU.
During the days when Joshua Nkomo was at Mabhena homestead, the Ian Smith regime wanted to arrest Nkomo. The Rhodesian police invaded the Mabhena homestead after they had got wind that he was staying there. Nkomo was reportedly on the verandah but it is said that he miraculously disappeared and later reappeared after the police were gone.
The late ”Khulu” Mabhena has a long history in Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence. He and his wife were tormented by the Ian Smith government for harbouring and feeding ZIPRA forces. During the heat of the war he and other brave sons of Gwatemba namely Masase Jubane, Bhodo Jubane, and Danisa to mention a few, crafted a plan to destroy dip tanks so as to trigger the wrath of the Smith government and provoke it into a war. They were arrested for that and they spent some years in prison. While in prison that’s when he met political prisoners including the now Matabeleland South Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Hon Abednico Ncube.
”Khulu” Mabhena as he was popularly known, was born on 2 January 1928. He was married to his now late wife Seyiwana Mlotshwa and they were blessed with their firstborn child in 1953. In 1957 he wedded his wife under the Brethren in Christ Church. Mabhena leaves behind 12 children and 129 grandchildren