Obituary Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
One of Zimbabwe’s well known political activists, Sikhanyiso “Duke” Ndlovu, is gone as a result of two highly dangerous diseases, asthma and a stroke. He left a vacuum in the Zanu-PF political leadership of which he was a politburo member. Ndlovu was rightly honoured by being buried among his peers at the National Heroes Acre in Harare on September 19, 2015.
Sikhanyiso belonged to a generation of Zimbabweans who breathed and lived Zimbabwe’s national politics, having been an integral part of the revolution that liberated the country for some 55 or so years. He became an activist in the early 1960s when it took a great deal of courage to support the nationalist cause at the head of which was Joshua Nkomo.
The Rev Thompson Douglas Samkange had led the predominantly African political organisation, the African National Congress of Southern Rhodesia (ANC-SR) since its inception in 1934. The actual brain behind the launch of the ANC (SR) was a black small-scale farmer, Aaron Jacha Rusike, whose farm was near Makwiro.
It was decided to have the ANC (SR) led by Rev Samkange so that the Southern Rhodesia administration would not suspect it of being subversive. With a clergyman as its president, the ANC (SR) the government treated the ANC (SR) as if it was some form of non-denominational church organisation. Rusike did, however, become an ANC (SR) president occasionally during which the movement presented some memoranda to the white settler government through the office of the Sinoia (Chinhoyi) district native commissioner.
Before Joshua Nkomo became the ANC (SR) president in about 1950 or 1951, the Rev Samkange had been its head, and was based in Bulawayo where he was a Methodist church African pastor.
Following its proscription in February 1959, the National Democratic Party was formed and with it began a gallant revolutionary campaign one of whose national features was the historic “zhi” attacks on local government facilities in several urban areas. Cde Sikhanyiso was a part of the Bulawayo based youths who carried out the party’s programme to make the country ungovernable.
Notable activists who operated with him were Dumiso Dabengwa, Ethan Dube, Norman Mabhena, Patrick Wiri Ndlovu, Edward Danger Ngozi Zengeni Sibanda, Luke Nene Mhlanga, Willie Mgqibelo Ncube, Violet Ndlovu, Luke Macebo, Moffat Velempini, Gordon Butshe, Swithin Mbambo, Amos “Jack” Ngwenya, Thomas “Menu” Ngwenya, Issac Nyathi, Rhodes Madondo, Stanley Sakupwanya, Edward Mhambi, Fletcher Dulini and Akim Matthew Ndlovu.
Some of these most courageous patriots, such as Dr Stanley Sakupwanya and Akim Mathew Ndlovu, died before Sikhanyiso Duke Ndlovu and were also buried at the National Heroes Acre. Others such as Gordon Butshe, Isaac Nyathi and Luke Nene Mhlanga are buried at Bulawayo’s Lady Stanley Cemetery, a place reserved for senior and honourable citizens of the city.
The group and other like-minded individuals made Bulawayo virtually ungovernable, a situation obtained in other urban centres such as Gweru, Kadoma, Harare, Mutare and Kwekwe. The beginning of that campaign occurred when the black people were popularising a new name they had given their country, Zimbabwe.
The Rhodesian white settler regime decided to ban the NDP and round up all activists. Undaunted, the African people formed the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, ZAPU, with Joshua Nkomo still at the head.
Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu was also still there as one of the youths but that time in a deliberately secret group known as “izhanda”. Its duty was to attack suspected and known black and other collaborators of the Southern Rhodesian government.
The “zhanda” used stones and petrol bombs as its standard weapons. Its targets were the Southern Rhodesian police whose official collective name was the British South Africa Police (BSAP). Other targets were members of the police reserve, a BSAP auxiliary segment, members of the Southern Rhodeisan governing political party, the United Federal Party, UFP, municipal and government buildings such as post offices and local superintendents’ offices, goods trains, dip tanks and any government vehicle, property and, of course, farms most of which were owned by white settlers. It was as commanders of that “zhanda” that people like Sikhanyiso and the late Enos Chikowore would telephone the print media and identify themselves as “General Hokoyo”.
General Hokoyo would deliberately distort his voice over the telephone and tell the Print media: “A bomb has been planted in the post office and will explode after one hour. Hokoyo!” and then hang up.
The BSAP would urgently rush to the place concerned, cordon it off, evacuate everybody from there and search it, turning it inside out, as it were, with a toothcomb. “General Hokoyo” made his calls from isolated telephone booths, and his calls caused a great deal of fear, alarm and despondency among the country’s white community as it was mostly white people who worked in post offices, even in remote places such as Antelope Mine, south of Kezi.
While he was actively taking part in the liberation struggle through the clandestine “zhanda” arson, sabotage, quasi-military and open political operations, Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu continued with his academic studies in order to obtain a matric certificate.
In the early 1960s, only a few black people had gone as far as matric with their education, let alone as far as university degree level. As a matter of historical fact, in 1960, there were only about three black women university graduates in Southern Rhodesia, Angeline Daniel Makhulela Dube, Theodora Malaba and Iwani Motholi (Ndebele). Sarah Chavunduka became the fourth a year or so later, to be joined by Dr Vaidah Mungwira in 1962.
The situation was slightly better among black men where the number of university graduates had risen to almost 30 from a paltry eight or nine in 1955.
Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu attached vital importance to education as did the entire African nationalist leadership. Even during the ANC (SR) era, Rev Samkange repeatedly and passionately told meetings that education was vitally essential to people’s lives in that it enabled them “to design and forge keys that could unlock the earth’s otherwise inaccessible wealth”.
Other Sikhanyiso Ndlovu characteristics were his unquestionable loyalty to the successive political organisaitons, and his unstinting respect for Joshua Nkomo’s leadership. To him, the party was where his political soul lay and Joshua Nkomo was the source of this political motivation and guidance. He believed in the party’s supremacy and in Joshua Nkomo’s political wisdom. Zimbabwe could perpetuate Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu legacy by establishing either a university or a scholarship in his name. He and his wife, Dr Rose Ndlovu, had, in fact, already mooted the university idea before his death. The idea should be taken to its next logical stage by an appropriate national body comprising a team of adequately qualified educationists.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist and former freedom fighter. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. [email protected]