By Ransom Mandhlazi
ZANU PF Politburo member Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube has described the late National Hero, Cde Stanley Nleya as a selfless freedom fighter who spent the most part of his life emancipating Zimbabwe people.
Cde Nleya (72) died at the United Bulawayo Hospitals of a heart ailment.
The National Hero was one of the ZIPRA commanders during the liberation struggle, using the Chimurenga name of Cde Elish Gagisa.
“Cde Nleya was a selfless freedom fighter among the pioneering crop of cadres who volunteered and received early military training. His contribution to the national struggle is well recorded and he will be remembered and celebrated beyond his untimely departure,” said Cde Dube.
“He was a principled man and as Zimbabweans, let us work hard to push the eternal dream of economic development. We cannot delegate the duty of developing our country to anybody. Let’s take charge as Zimbabweans and lead from the front.”
Cde Nleya was born on 26 September in 1947 in Masendu area in Bulilima District. He did his Primary education in the same district before proceeding to Hope Fountain Mission for his Secondary education. He also attended Inyathi Mission in Bubi District before abandoning school in March 1968 to join the armed struggle in Zambia via Botswana.
He received military training at Morogoro in Tanzania in 1969 and his group of 100 recruits was the third to be trained there. Some of the people in his group include national heroes like the late Retired Colonel Masala Sibanda and Major-General Jevan Maseko as well as Retired Brigadier-General Abel Mazinyane, Rtd Brigadier-General Tshile Nleya and the late Eddie Sigoge.
After completing training Cde Nleya together with Maj-Gen Maseko, Rtd Brig-Gen Tshile Nleya, Eddie Sigoge and Elias Ndlovu were named the most five outstanding recruits and therefore were elevated to be instructors. During the formation of the Zimbabwe People’s Army (Zipa), an amalgamation of Zipra and Zanla, Cde Nleya was chosen as the Chief of Staff at Mgagao in Tanzania where he worked closely with the now Minister of Agriculture and former commander of the Airforce, Retired Chief Air Marshal Perrance Shiri.
As an instructor some of the people who went through his hands are decorated freedom fighters such as the current Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, General Philip Valerio Sibanda, Todd Mpisi, Rodwell Nyika (Retired Brigadier-General Collins Moyo), former St Paul’s Assembly Point commander and frontal commander for NF1 and 2, Cde Nicholas Nkomo (Gilbert Khumalo).
In 1974 Cde Nleya was sent to Lebanon and led that group of five that had himself, Gen Sibanda, late Assaf Ndinda, Elias Ndou and Joel Dambudzo for a commando training course after which they were deployed along Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) guerillas.
As the armed struggle intensified, Cde Nleya was later promoted to the rank of deputy chief of operations, deputising Maj-Gen Maseko together with Cdes Richard Mataure (Ngwenya) and the late Mike Reynolds and he started getting into operational areas especially in Mashonaland West Province. He covered areas such as Hurungwe and Karoi.
At independence he led the demobilisation process before being integrated into the Zimbabwe National Army where he served as one of the senior commanders.
When he left the army, Cde Nleya worked for Hwange Colliery Company as a buyer. At the time of his death he was working for a liquor franchise run by his nephew and Highlanders Football Club treasurer, Donald Ndebele.