Veteran Zimbabwean nationalist Dumiso Dabengwa, jailed by Robert Mugabe on treason charges during army massacres rights groups say killed thousands in the 1980s, died aged 79, a state-owned newspaper said.
Dabengwa was head of intelligence ofthe armed wing of the ZAPU liberation movement, led by the late Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe’s then political rival, in a struggle against white minority rule in the then Rhodesia.
The Herald said Dabengwa died in Kenya on his way to Zimbabwe from India where he sought medical treatment.
Nicknamed the “Black Russian” because of his military training in Russia, Dabengwa was accused of hiding arms, the pretext for an army crackdown in western Zimbabwe rights groups say killed 20,000 mostlu minority Ndebele.
In 1983 Dabengwa was charged with treason by Mugabe’s government. He was acquitted but remained in detention until his release in 1986.
Dabengwa would later say ZAPU’s armed wing included members from South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), fighting the apartheid government and some cached arms belonged to ANC’s military wing.
The 1982 to 1987 massacres continue to haunt President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was Mugabe’s security minister during the period. Mnangagwa last month said Zimbabweans should openly talk about the massacres, known as “Gukurahundi”, as part of a national healing process.
Dabengwa was a government minister for eight years up to 2000 after ZAPU merged with the ruling ZANU-PF. After leaving government, Dabengwa became critical of Mugabe and ZANU-PF policies until his death.
In the run-up to the July 2018 presidential and parliamentary vote, Dabengwa supported opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.