Dr Dabengwa affectionately known as "The Black Russian" died in Nairobi, Kenya last Thursday enroute to Zimbabwe from India where he had gone to receive medical treatment.
He was 79.
In an interview with Chronicle, Minister Dlodlo, a veteran of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), revealed how they used to sing about Dr Dabengwa and other leaders of the liberation struggle as motivation in the fight to end apartheid rule.
"I know ubaba uDabengwa. I was not in his generation, I did not come from the Luthuli detachment that fought alongside Zipra, (but) I was generations later in the 80s. In Umkhonto we Sizwe, we used to sing about ubaba Dabengwa, Joshua Nkomo, Samora Machel and other leaders of the struggle," said Minister Dlodlo, who joined the liberation struggle at the age of 17.
"I'm not confused about his contribution towards the liberation of both Zimbabwe and South Africa. He stands out in the top of the list of the prominent liberators in our region."
Minister Dlodlo, who, like Dr Dabengwa, also received training in Moscow, Russsia, recalled the collaboration between Zipra and MK and the famous Wankie and Sipolilo operations of 1967 and 1968 respectively.
"The Luthuli detachment fought alongside Zipra in the Wankie and Sipolilo battles, some of the famous battles in the war to liberate both countries. The umbilical cord between Zipra and MK is very strong and it is difficult for some of us to shake off that umbilical cord," she said.
A Zapu report to the Central Committee to the party's 1984 congress, the late liberation founding father Dr Joshua Nkomo said of the two campaigns: "One of the most important experiences of the armed struggle was contained in the Wankie/SipoliloCampaigns of 1967 and 1968. Using the experiences of the 1960s these became the first large scale operations ever launched in Zimbabwe, which involved several men. These campaigns were planned and jointly led by ZPRA and MK commanders.
"Their full history is yet to be told like so much of our rich history of the liberation struggle. But we would like to mention two important aspects of these campaigns. In the first place, because of the scale of the fighting and the outstanding courage of our fighters, these battles had a profound effect on the people of Zimbabwe," said Dr Nkomo then.
"They showed that it was possible to tackle the enemy on our own soil with modern weapons and inflict serious damage on the regime. They showed that the racists were not as invincible as they claimed."
Minister Dlodlo said she got to know Dr Dabengwa in the 1980s as the MK had a safe house opposite the Zipra intelligence supremo's farm.
"I got to know him later in life; we had a safe house in Bulawayo opposite his farm. When he was arrested in the 1980s, our safe house was raided too, but I had travelled to Harare to get some money. It was at that time that I got to know more about Dabengwa," she said.
On a personal note, Minister Dlodlo said over the years, she and the Dabengwa family established a strong relationship.
"When I got to South Africa I made it a point to get to know him and we eventually met later when he visited the country. We developed a friendship and I also got to meet his family, including his wife (Zodwa) and his children," said Minister Dlodlo.
She said because of the friendship with the family, she personally assisted the family when the body of Dr Dabengwa arrived in South Africa from Kenya in arranging logistics that it be flown to Zimbabwe.
Minister Dlodlo was one of the first high profile people to send condolence messages following the death of Dr Dabengwa on Thursday last week.
About Article Author