Snr Writer & Researcher
(Zimpapers Knowledge Centre)
SOME of the greatest wars in history were not only won through the competency of soldiers on the battlefield, but through the astute leadership of the men and women engaged in the fighting.
This is equally true for Zimbabwe’s war of liberation, which was waged on two fronts with Zanu fighting from the eastern front from Mozambique, through its military wing the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) that was led by the revered chief of defence, General Josiah Magama Tongogara.
On the other hand, Zapu launched an offensive from the north, mainly Zambia, through its military wing, the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), which was initially led by General Alfred Nikita Mangena, and then his successor Lieutenant-General Lookout “Mafela” Khalisabantu Vumindaba Masuku.
Lt-Gen Masuku was a freedom fighter par excellence, army commander and a member of the Joint Operations Command.
He was born on April 7, 1940 in Gwanda and died at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals on April 5, 1986 from cryptococcal meningitis.
Lt-Gen Masuku was declared a national hero on June 10, 1994 together with 11 other national heroes that included Cdes Nikita Mangena, Artwell Bokwa, Amon Jirira, Jini Ntuta, Edison Sithole, Benjamin Burombo and Dr Samuel Tichafa Parirenyatwa.
He was buried at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo.
In his eulogy, Father Zimbabwe and former Vice President Dr Joshua Nkomo, described Lt-Gen Masuku as an exceptional and illustrious patriot, who had distinguished himself on the battlefield.
“His death has robbed us of one of our liberation war heroes and we mourn his passing with a sense of terrible loss . . . He established a reputation as a fearless fighter and became an instructor at Morogoro camp in Tanzania,” Dr Nkomo said.
Lt-Gen Masuku’s colourful military career started when he became a full-time political activist in Beitbridge in 1962. He then left the country the following year, and underwent military training, which he completed in 1964.
After his training, he earned a reputation of being a fearless fighter and was appointed an instructor at Morogoro training camp in Tanzania.
He was later appointed Zipra Commissar and deputy Commander, which Dr Nkomo said he held with distinction in the field. In June 1978, Lt-Gen Masuku became Zipra commander after the death of Cde Nikita Mangena.
He represented Zipra on the Ceasefire Commission and on the Joint Operations Command, where he played a pivotal role in securing and implementing the ceasefire agreement under the Lancaster House Agreement.
Lt-Gen Masuku led the first group of guerrillas who returned home after the declaration of ceasefire. His promotion to Lieutenant-General of the integrated Zimbabwe National Army was gazetted in 1981 and he was appointed deputy commander to Rex Nhongo (Gen Solomon Mujuru).
During his time in the army, Lt-Gen Masuku advocated for a united army.
He emphasised this at one of his official duties at a passout parade of the A Squadron, Grey Scouts, at Umguza Barracks.
“We have passed the stage of being separate and need a new look, determined by the independent, sovereign and free State of Zimbabwe,” said Lt Gen Masuku.
Lt-Gen Masuku held the post until March of the following year when he and another national hero Cde Dumiso Dabengwa and others, were arrested in connection with arms caches found at Zapu-owned farms.
Lt-Gen Masuku was released in March 1986. On November 18, 2017 Government renamed Llewellin Barracks on the outskirts of Bulawayo to Lookout Masuku Barracks in honour of the late national hero.
The Cabinet of the Second Republic in 2019 approved the renaming of some streets in Bulawayo in honour of national heroes and Colenbrander Avenue was changed to Lookout Masuku Avenue.
Lt-General Masuku left behind his wife Gift and three children, two daughters and a son.