Address by His Excellency, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde E.D. Mnangagwa, at the burial of the late Cde Mishack Ntundu Velaphi, National Heroes’ Acre, May 9, 2019
Today we gather at our sacred National Shrine in sorrow and deep grief as we lay to rest our National Hero, Cde Misheck Ntundu Velaphi, who passed on, on April 30, 2019 after succumbing to diabetes. We mourn and celebrate the life of our departed veteran nationalist, gallant freedom fighter and son of the soil. This is indeed a befitting send-off to one of the pioneers of our liberation struggle, a true comrade and patriot who dedicated his life to serving others and his country.
On behalf of our party, Zanu-PF, the Government and people of Zimbabwe, and indeed on my own behalf, I want to convey my heartfelt condolences to uMama u Mrs Margaret Velaphi, the children and entire Velaphi family for their sad loss. The loss of a loved one leaves a deep gap in the family. However, in these dark moments, may you find comfort in that the nation is mourning with you; your loss is our loss.
The late National Hero we lay to rest today was a selfless cadre, whose record is beyond reproach, in relation to both the struggle for National Liberation and the defence of our sovereignty during the post-independence years. It is that rich record, his unflinching persistency, consistency, commitment and loyalty, which has earned him a place in our hearts and informed our decision to lay him to rest at this great shrine of honour, the National Heroes’ Arce, alongside many other revolutionaries gone before him.
The late Cde Velaphi was born on July 25, 1937 in Seula in Matobo District, Matabeleland South Province. He trained as a teacher at Howard Institute in 1955 and then undertook bookkeeping studies, which he completed with distinctions. He later studied accounting and law with the University of London.
His political consciousness was ignited from a very young age as he witnessed persistence humiliation, oppression and the tyranny of the racist white colonial regime on the African natives. His political career began while he was still at Howard Institute. A visit to Howard Institute by the late Cdes James Chikerema and George Nyandoro further helped to shape the political future and career of the late Cde Velaphi.
Two years after his graduation, he abandoned the teaching profession for full-time politics. He went on to join the Youth Wing of the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC) in 1957, in the then Salisbury at Mai Musodzi Hall.
Following the ban of the SRANC, Cde Velaphi went on to join the National Democratic Party, which was formed in 1960. Our hero immersed himself in political activities focusing mostly on undermining the authority of the colonial administration through acts of sabotage to make it difficult for the British South Africa Police (BSAP) to patrol the rural areas. Cde Velaphi’s span of operation extended to areas such as Bulilima, Matobo, Seula and Gwanda.
He distinguished himself by his militancy and worked closely with other brave and courageous NDP youths as they intensified their daring acts of rebellion against the colonial administration.
His peers included the likes of Comrades Ackim Ndlovu, Ethan Dube, Abel Siwela, Thomas Ngwenya, Clark Mpofu and Dumiso Dabengwa, among others.
The late Cde Velaphi left Southern Rhodesia for military training in Zambia and was among the pioneering cadres to undergo military training in Egypt, under the auspices of ZAPU. Upon return, Cde Velaphi’s duties included the distribution of weapons to guerrillas and recruiting more cadres to join the liberation struggle.
His clandestine activities did not go unnoticed by the colonial regime, leading to his arrest and trial at the Bulawayo High Court in 1963 for possessing weapons of war, including explosives. He was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment which he served at Khami Prison, where we met. As a result of a case of mistaken identity, Cde Velaphi was eventually released from prison.
Thereafter, he experienced long periods of detention, between 1968 and 1974, in the then Gwelo and Salisbury prisons as well as restriction at Gonakudzingwa. In the mid-seventies, during short-lived freedom, he served as an undercover intelligence officer for ZIPRA. In 1977, our late hero was again detained at Wha Wha Detention Centre until his release in 1979, in time to become the point man for PF-ZAPU in Bulawayo during the ceasefire in December of the same year.
He was instrumental in persuading the ZIPRA forces operating in the Plumtree, Tsholotsho and Lupane areas to observe the ceasefire and move to designated assembly points. He also participated in the PF-ZAPU electoral directorate in preparation for the 1980 elections.
After the Unity Accord between PF-ZAPU and ZANU-PF, Cde Velaphi became actively involved in the building of party structures for the re-constituted ZANU-PF party. In spite of undertaking high-level party assignments, our National Hero was humble cadre who had high regard for the party’s constitution, regulations, procedures and norms. He steadily rose through the ranks of the party from the cell, district, to the province. He was appointed into the Central Committee and served as a member of the National Consultative Assembly (NCA) until the time of his death.
In his lifetime, the late Cde Velaphi served as a teacher, accountant, housing officer, director of companies, chairman of Tendene Charity Trust and as acting chairman of the Welfare Society of Bulawayo.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades and Friends;
Our National Hero leaves behind a legacy of humility, servant leadership and patriotism. I challenge us to thrive to exhibit the traits and values we learnt from this departed Son of the Soil; who in spite of his liberation credentials remained very modest, selfless and forthright.
Further inspired by our National Hero’s contributions, let us continuously inculcate the culture of loyalty, hard work, integrity and honesty in all our dealings. I urge us to also remain vigilant and alert in upholding peace and considering our national interest in all that we do.
As we move forward on the path towards growth and prosperity, our country needs men and women like the late National Hero we lay to rest today. Like many living and departed heroes, who made the ultimate sacrifices to liberate our country, let us as a people and as a nation pledge ourselves to put the interests of our beloved country above our own personal interests.
We must resolutely oppose, shun and expose tribalism, regionalism, nepotism, corruption and all other divisive and retrogressive practices. Let us preach and live in peace, love and harmony.
We are a united people, from Zambezi to Limpopo and from Plumtree to Mutare. We are one. Sibanye.
Cde Velaphi was a strong believer in unity. This spirit of unity must be our culture as a nation. In this regard, I once again applaud the patriotism and compassion exhibited by Zimbabwean individuals, families, corporates, civil society organisations and churches among many others, from across the country, who gave generously towards mitigating the suffering experienced by the communities affected by Cyclone Idai. We are equally grateful for the support we continue to receive from the region and beyond.
My administration’s quest to further entrench the culture of peace, love and unity has seen us engage in a political dialogue with those political parties who are progressive and patriotic to our great country. The culture of dialogue will remain in a hallmark of the Second Republic.
Comrades and friends;
Let us dream and think Zimbabwe. We must as the generation of today, play our own role in the struggle of today; that of economic prosperity, modernisation and industrialisation — for the betterment of the lives of all our peoples. Our land and all our natural resources must be fully utilised and exploited for the accelerated equitable development of our country and benefit all our citizens.
Yes, we are currently facing various economic challenges in our country such as the foreign currency and fuel shortages. However, I assure the nation that my administration will resolve these issues without fail. Meanwhile, our business people at every level must be ethical in their conduct.
The rebuilding of our economy is everyone’s responsibility. We owe this to the cadres such as the late Cde Velaphi and many unsung heroes who fought for our liberation. We owe this to future generations. To the late Cde Mishack Ntundu Velaphi, we say, Go well son of the Soil, Hambe kahle. Go well our nationalist, fighter, symbol of patriotism and principled cadre.
Rest in eternal peace Comrade. Lala ngokuthula, qhawe lama qhawe. Rara murugare gamba remagamba.
God Bless you all!
God Bless Zimbabwe!
I thank you.