By David Mwanza

The conferment of National Hero status on the late, Cde Stanley Nleya was a befitting recognition of a man who dedicated his youth to join the liberation struggle in pursuit of the restoration of the dignity of black Zimbabweans, Zimbabwe Commander Defence Forces, General Phillip Valerio Sibanda has said.

Speaking on the eve of the burial of the Cde Nleya, Gen Sibanda described the late National Hero as humble, hardworking patriot who dedicated his life for the liberation of his country.

“This is a befitting recognition of what Gagisa did during his time on earth. Yes he did not join the Army after the independence, he was demobilized and went on to do other things. He played his part. What the Government and Party has done is very welcome,” Gen Sibanda said.

He added: “A very good instructor. A very humble somebody you could work with and relate to. After my initial training I went elsewhere for further training came back and became one of the instructors working under the same team that was already there and I got to know him much better.

“This persisted up to 1976 when I left Morogoro for Zambia and from that time we were no longer working together. He was now elevated into the ZIPRA High Command and he held many positions in the Command up to about the time of our independence.”

Gen Sibanda disclosed that he first met Cde Nleya in 1974 at Morogoro Training Center in Tanzania.

“I met the late Gagisa in 1974 when we arrived at Morogoro in Tanzania. I think it was end February beginning of March. We had been transported from Zambia overnight in fact we spent two nights on the road. We got to Morogoro and there was this group of instructors at Morogoro Training Center and Gagisa one was one of them. Others were Brigadier General (Rtd) Nleya was another, and Sigoge, Major General Maseko both late. The Camp was under the command of the late Sam Fakhazi. Gagisa was responsible for physical training and also tactics,” recalled Gen Sibanda.

Gen Sibanda also took time to reflect on his training days at Morogoro Training Centre under the watchful eye of the late Cde Nleya.

“Well one, for starters Stanley was a hard worker. Very hard working person. As an instructor I recall he would wake us up at 3 or 4 in the morning for our physical runs during that time and proceed for the actual physical exercises around six. The running was to warm us. Stanley could wake up at any time and do what needed to be done. From being an instructor to being a member of the High Command he remained hard working.”

Gen Sibanda went on in detail reflecting on the reasons why most youths of his generation joined the liberation struggle.

“Well the first thing that we have tried to do is to remain focused on why we went to the liberation struggle. Why we participated in the liberation struggle. And remember this was an issue of one man one vote where black Zimbabweans were not allowed to vote by the colonial regime. Number two, we wanted our land back.

“Some may be aware that we had a lot of black Zimbabweans who had been displaced from their ancestral lands to other lands within the country because the whites wanted that fertile land. There were these issues surrounding land, very emotional. We wanted that position reversed and so that we could get our land back,” Gen Sibanda explained.

Most importantly, Gen Sibanda explained that the youths of his generation were propelled into the armed struggle by the hunger to restore the lost dignity of black Zimbabweans.

“Also we went to war in order to restore the dignity of the black person. During colonial Rhodesia there was no dignity for black a person in this country, you could not walk in First Street you have heard that before its true. You could not walk into town, you needed a letter from some DA somewhere saying you were allowed to come into town because you worked there. So there was no dignity for the black man so we needed that stopped. These are some of the reasons why we went to war,” he said.

Gen Sibanda denounced corruption.

“When we were out there we were taught and this remained the position until up to some time at independence when some of us became wayward. We were taught to share.  Whatever was available was shared equally.

“I remember the Rhodesian ran a campaign trying to demonise the guerrilla leaders. There were some leaflets that they drew where they put a guerrilla leader seated there with a big plate of food and a subordinate seated with nothing. That was intended to destroy that value of sharing that was being cultivated in us.

“It is unfortunate that after independence some of us went wayward and we started amassing wealth getting involved in corruption and so on. But we were taught to share. And it’s a value that a lot of us retain to this day,” he said.

Gen Sibanda called for the adoption of a robust national service strategy to inculcate values of patriotism into its citizens, particularly the youths.

“Well, we need to come up with strategies to educate our youth. I think we made some big mistakes from 1980. For example if we had undertaken a proper national service strategy in this country our youth would have been properly educated and they would have been given the good virtues of being citizens of this country and leaders of tomorrow. “We lost an opportunity there. The educational system in my view was good it produced a lot of academics and a lot of people who can speak good English but I don’t think they were educated to be patriotic. We lost another opportunities there. We were not educated to be self-reliant, we were educated to become employees of other people and not employers.”

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