By Thabani Zwelibanzi
The late national hero, Misheck Velaphi Ncube was laid to rest at the Heroes Acre in Harare on Thursday, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa describing him as “one of the pioneers of the struggle, who was dedicated to the liberation of the country”.
In a prepared speech, Mnangagwa chronicled Velaphi’s history in the struggle, detailing a number of cases where the late hero was arrested.
“He committed several acts of sabotage against the colonial regime with other youths in the National Democratic Party,” Mnangagwa told mourners.
“After independence, he was instrumental in the unity of PF Zapu and Zanu in 1987 that led to the formation of Zanu-PF.”
But, despite the eulogies, observers say Mnangagwa had the perfect opportunity to lead the Gukurahundi debate, but he missed the opportunity.
Mnangagwa has said he is opening the Gukurahundi issue to debate, but he failed to address the issue at the funeral of Velaphi, who together with the late former ZPRA commander, Lookout Masuku and intelligence head, Dumiso Dabengwa, was one of the high profile detainees of the period.
In addition, Mnangagwa said Velaphi, who was born in 1937, was instrumental in the unity of PF Zapu and Zanu — which signed the Unity Accord in 1987 — however, the late national hero was in prison at the time, having been arrested in 1982.
Velaphi, who died at the end of April, was born in Kezi, where he also went to school up to Standard 6.
He then left for Howard Institute in Mazoe to train as a teacher. He was to teach for four years after completing his studies.
In 1961, together with 12 others, he went to Egypt where he received military training for six months.
Between 1962 and 1963, he was in and out of the country on operations, leading to his arrest in 1963 after he was found in possession of explosives.
The Bulawayo High Court sentenced him to seven years in prison, a sentence he served until 1968 at Khami Prison.
But he hardly tasted freedom, as he was immediately arrested and sent to Gwelo Prison where he was to remain until 1972.
He was then sent to Gonakudzingwa in 1974, before being transferred to the then Salisbury Prison, before he was released later that year.
In 1977, he travelled to Zambia, but on his return, he was re-arrested and sent to Wha Wha Prison and was only released in 1979.
After independence, he was assigned to work with former ZPRA combatants.
In one case, some ZPRA combatants, who were staying in camps in Tsholotsho and Lupane rebelled and Velaphi was one of the senior officials assigned to persuade them to return to the cantonment areas.
He was arrested in 1982 after arms caches were found on ZPRA properties.
He was jailed for three years for his role in helping to transport arms to farms owned by ZPRA and Zapu.
To add insult to injury, Velaphi’s farm in Kezi, which he had bought for $27 000, was taken over by the government in April 1983.
“He was a humble person despite his liberation war credentials,” Mnangagwa said in his eulogy.