THE Zanu PF Politburo has posthumously declared the late former High Court Judge Advocate Siwanda Kennedy Mbuso Sibanda a national hero.
Adv Sibanda, a legal icon of the liberation struggle, died on December 22 at Morningside MediClinic in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the age of 89.
He was one of the few lawyers that dedicated their lives to defending political prisoners during the days of the liberation war.
Adv Sibanda participated in the formation of a special committee for the defence of political prisoners in Zimbabwe and in apartheid South Africa.
During that time, he was instrumental in tracing and finding arrested political “offenders” and guerrillas and providing them with legal services.
His hero status was announced yesterday by Zanu PF Secretary for Information and Publicity Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa after a Politburo meeting.
“We have a new national hero, Advocate Sibanda. He died in South where his family is based. He was a nationalist. He was part of the Lancaster House Agreement in United Kingdom in 1979,” said Ambassador Mutsvangwa.
The national hero, Ambassador Mutsvangwa said, was a legal advisor to the ZAPU delegation and was involved in nationalist politics with the late National Hero Cde Edson Sithole.
“His pedigree is sterling and the President knew him because he was part of the legal advisors of the Patriotic Front,” said Ambassador Mutsvangwa.
He was unanimously declared a national hero at the request of Bulawayo province.
At a time when the white minority regime was using the law as a tool to oppress African people, Adv Sibanda was instrumental in helping the people to access and relate to the prescripts of the law and at the same time translated the grievances of the people into the law, thus, using the law as a tool and a weapon against injustice and oppression.
He was instrumental in changing the post-independence legal landscape continuing to grow his legal practice while opening doors for many other lawyers who would go on to establish their own careers and firms
Adv Sibanda’s practice survives him and continues to be the mainstay of Bulawayo’s legal fraternity. He was one of the first black advocates of the High Court of Rhodesia in the early 1970s and went on to set up his own legal practice in Bulawayo.
Adv SKM Sibanda as he was affectionately known was a highly skilled legal practitioner with vast experience in the practice of law, having completed his studies at the University of Natal in the 1960s.
Widely regarded as an outstanding defence counsel, Adv Sibanda used his legal skills and acumen to actively contribute to the liberation of Zimbabwe, defending freedom fighters captured by the regime, saving many from the gallows.
Further, his commitment to liberation and specialised knowledge in constitutional law saw him contributing to the nation’s liberation as one of the drafters of the Lancaster House Constitution in 1979, paving the way to the country’s independence from white minority rule in 1980.
Post-independence, Adv Sibanda continued to build his legal practice, while continuing to dedicate his life and energy to the development of the country.
He did this through his involvement in politics, business, sport and various Government commissions.
In 1997, Adv Sibanda was called to the bench, serving as a judge of the High Court in Bulawayo where he significantly contributed to the shaping of the country’s laws.
Upon retirement in 2002, he returned to private practice where he continued to mentor young lawyers in his firm.
Born on 19 April 1932, he grew up in Somnene, Bulilima District in Matabeleland South. Adv Sibanda was the son of successful farmers, Jack Mbuso Sibanda and Volo Sibanda (nee Gumbo)
As the eldest of six children, he was raised to be responsible not just for himself but for his siblings as well.
Adv Sibanda attended Tshabanda School in the then Nata Territorial Tribal Lands, now Bulilima, in 1945.
In 1948 he went to study at Solusi Mission where he completed his Junior Certificate in 1955 and the following year, he went to South Africa intending to sit his Matric at Adam’s College.
In 1957 he entered Kilnerton Institute in Pretoria and matriculated in 1958 and that same year, he met friends that made him aim higher than Matric.
He enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Natal in 1958 but lost the whole year due to illness and was enrolled again in 1960 and finished his studies in 1962 after which he enrolled for a law degree.
His law studies were interrupted by a series of illnesses in 1963, 66 and 68.
Against the advice of his doctor, Adv Sibanda finished his studies. His determination paid off and when his health improved, he transferred his registration to Maritzburg where he finished his law studies in 1970.
In order to raise his university fees, he had to study during the day and work at night. After finishing his law degree in South Africa, he worked with a firm of attorneys to complete his articles.
He returned to then Rhodesia in March 1971 and was successful in Rhodesian examinations to be an advocate. Adv Sibanda abhorred injustice and inequality.
He joined the Pan African Congress of Azania and worked alongside Steve Biko and Griffiths Mxenge in the student movement that would resist the racist policies of the South African government.
His political involvement continued after his return home, fighting against the Rhodesian white minority government.
Adv Sibanda joined Zapu and rose to the position of being one of the legal advisers of the party. It was in this capacity that he served as one of the drafters of the Lancaster House Constitution, which paved the way to Zimbabwe’s independence from white minority rule in 1980.