The Sunday News
My contact with the late Dumiso Dabengwa was in 1977 when I arrived in Zambia having worked for the Rhodesian regime as a police officer for quite some time.
Meeting DD, as Dabengwa was affectionately known, for the first time was under very tense conditions, as on my arrival in Botswana en-route to Zambia I was immediately detained for two days by members of the Zipra Military Intelligence, who were obviously suspicious about my joining the armed struggle considering my background. Then instructions came directly from him as the chief of intelligence that I should be brought to Zambia and I went straight to Nampundwe Transit Camp.
After a day a vehicle was sent to collect me to be taken to the Zimbabwe House (ZH), which was the Zapu headquarters in Lusaka.
Immediately I was interviewed or interrogated on a number of issues, as I had been working for the regime. That was when DD struck me as a serious, gifted and talented intelligence officer who was also endowed with wisdom.
He calmly asked me a number of things, I knew all the structures of the army and the police. Then he took me to a house in Chilenje, which was rented by Zapu. He continued with the interview and then ordered that I should in writing spell out the structures of the security services of the Rhodesian forces, particularly the police and the army. I told him about the activities of PATU, which after independence was transformed into the Support Unit, Selous Scouts, SAS, I did not leave out anything.
I was very open and brave enough to also tell him that he was in the file at Mbembesi, as I had worked there in the ground coverage unit, which is now code named PISI. I also mentioned that we had kept his family under surveillance, I knew his uncles, brothers, one of them, Zenzo who used to play for the Highlanders first team as a defender, their house in Mpopoma and so on.
While all this was happening the man won me over as he struck me as a man of impeccable integrity, endowed with patience, intelligence and an unassuming character who did not give anything away easily.
Brilliant and talented intelligence operatives are an enigmatic lot by nature, so was DD.
Remember he had left all these people around 1962 for Zambia, but he did not show any emotion. Armed with a pistol he just kept a Poker face.
After the interrogation or interview, days later I was surprised that I was to join a group of 28 other recruits going to the Soviet to be trained as intelligence officers at the Intelligence Academy for nine months.
My being sent to the Soviet Union was not by chance, DD had studied how captured and turned guerillas had worked with devastating effect for the Rhodesian regime, not beating my chest he had realised that having worked for the Rhodesian police and becoming an operative in the Special Branch, I could be useful as an operative in the National Security Order (NSO), the Zapu intelligence unit, which he was the director.
Whether he made the right decision is not for me to judge, it is for those who worked closely with me who can judge.
My group led by Cde Joel Sijiye to the Soviet Union had within its ranks talented intelligence officers and military men, some of whom distinguished themselves by serving our State with aplomb. I am talking about the late Colonel Ngoni Dutsa, who once commanded the Bulawayo District, Col Madida, Arthur, Shantili, Mbizvo and others.
On our return from the Soviet Union, I was briefly sent to Eamgojini and then deployed to the NSO where I worked in the Department of Public Security under the late Cde Noah Mvenge, who was the elder brother to the former Mutare Central Member of Parliament, Moses Mvenge. Later on I was promoted to deputise him. Our department was responsible for the public security and rehabilitation. All the camps were under us.
We were also responsible for those who were trained in police duties, customs and immigration officers.
Since I was now closer to the goings-on in the department and would at times attend meetings DD held with his directors for different desks, that is the now late national hero, Cde Swazini Ndlovu (finance and administration), Victor Mlambo, Gordon Butshe (counter intelligence), Nephat Madlela (training) and my immediate boss Mvenge (public security) and the late Brigadier-General Patrick Nhamo Mhandu (military intelligence) that I saw how dedicated DD was for the cause of the liberation struggle.
DD had vision and foresight, he organised the NSO into a modern intelligence unit as exhibited by its structures and desks manned by full time directors. If one is to have the chance and study the modern States intelligence structures, he or she would find that they are close if not the same that we had in the 1970s.
DD led the NSO with distinction and was brave enough to bring changes to the department. He made it clear that intelligence officers should be recruited from the cream of the society. That was in sync with all modern States, a country worth its salt draws its intelligence officers from the best brains available in society. As the NSO was being transformed it was no surprise that it recruited boys and girls who had attained a certain level of education. We had people with high and university education, a case in point being Swazini Ndlovu who was a trained economist.
Dabengwa also wanted sophisticated officers in the department because there was no time to leave everything to chance, as we were dealing with a highly sophisticated enemy.
After the war of independence operatives that served under him also excelled working for our Government. Those that quickly come into mind are intelligence officers like Steven Mbizo, Golden Dube, Shumba, Zenzo “Maphekapheka” Ntuliki, the national hero and now Member of Parliament for Beitbridge East, Albert Nguluvhe.
I cannot say much about State Vice-President Cde Kembo Mohadi, his works are all out for everyone to see, it is in the public knowledge that he worked with DD before some of us had even joined the armed struggle. He has been an excellent politician.
On a personal note, I really enjoyed working with Dabengwa because he was somebody who believed that once you have a problem you go directly to him. He would always actually advise you on what to do. He was well focused and was a man who came with up brilliant ideas.
After Independence DD realised that there was a need for the guerrillas just coming from the bush to be trained in self-sustaining projects such as in agriculture, carpentry and so forth as not all would be absorbed in the security services.
He came up with an operation called SEEDS (Soldiers Economic Employment Development). All the guys in all our APs were supposed to clear the bushes and start being trained in those practical fields.
However, the British, who were monitoring the ceasefire would not have it as they felt it was a way of trying to keep ourselves together, they preferred demobilisation. They left, keeping us together was a dangerous thing.
He then came up with the idea to form Nitram Private Limited Company, I was involved in the collection of subscriptions from Zipra guerillas and we bought properties that included farms, a hotel and buildings.
Again the project did not go far as there was the issue of the arms caches, which led to DD’s arrest and Lookout Masuku where the Mugabe regime arrested him and I was arrested and thrown into prison.
I was taken to Chikurubi where I was with DD, Masuku, Swazini, Nicholas Gilbert Nkomo, Tshaka Moyo and other colleagues.
That is where DD also came in, not sure about our fate he kept us going. The man had that genetic superiority, he was not easily frightened, even during the war I never saw him in panicky. He did not show any fear, I am not sure whether he ever felt frightened in his life.
During our time in detention he told us that there was nothing to fear, that it would soon pass. He brought calm to all of us and him being around made one feel safe. I developed a thick skin because of him and the end of the day I never got worried, he always gave us courage that one day we will be out.
He was just a mentor and would do anything to make sure that our stay there was without problems.
DD was a sociable man, very humble and you could not tell he was somebody who had a very high position, somebody who was there in the early stages of the revolution. He was very simple and you could not doubt even when he gave you instructions.
However, when you crossed his line, which as subordinates you were bound to do he would try not to show that he was angry. When angry, which he seldom showed, you could detect it by that fake smile, infact a sneer and fixed look.
DD like any human being would also indulge in the wise waters, on a number of occasions when relaxing he would have his Russian vodka accompanied by a bit of meat.
He enjoyed the company of veteran nationalist Abraham Nkiwane, uBra Nkie and the late Colonel Harold Chirenda, uElliot Masengo who was buried at the National Heroes Acre, a few years back.
Although DD has departed from this world, his foot prints are everywhere. His contribution to the war of independence and post-independence would always be appreciated by all peace and patriotic Zimbabweans. On a personal note it was a privilege to serve under him.
-Cde Zephaniah Moyo served as an operative under the NSO under the pseudonym Jeckonia Zulu.