Bongani Ndlovu Bulawayo Bureau
VICE PRESIDENT Constantino Chiwenga is today expected to preside over the burial of Chief Mabhikwa of Lupane at his rural home in Jotsholo, Matabeleland North.
President Mnangagwa yesterday accorded Chief Mabhikwa (28) a State-assisted funeral, and deployed VP Chiwenga to represent him during the burial.
VP Chiwenga also donated US$5 000 towards funeral expenses.
Chief Mabhikwa, born Vusumuzi Khumalo, died at the St Luke’s Hospital on Monday after he was involved in a road accident along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway on Sunday.
Mourners yesterday gathered at Chief Mabhikwa’s family home in Bulawayo’s North End suburb for a brief memorial service before proceeding to Jotsholo ahead of today’s burial.
Among those who attended the memorial service were Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube, Prince Zwide Khumalo, Chief Matupula and business people.
The funeral procession left Bulawayo for Jotsholo shortly after 2pm.
In a statement yesterday, the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, said President Mnangagwa had assigned VP Chiwenga to represent him at the late chief’s burial.
Family spokesperson, Mr Donald Khumalo, said VP Chiwenga gave an assurance that he would attend the burial. “At the homestead in Jotsholo, we shall give everyone the chance in the morning to eulogise and mourn their chief. This will be done before the official programme, which is expected to start at around 10am with Vice President Chiwenga presiding over the ceremony,” he said.
Several chiefs are also expected to attend the burial. Mr Khumalo said the family was grateful for the gesture shown by VP Chiwenga when he contributed US$5 000 for the funeral.
“We were assisted by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Local Government and the Vice President Dr Chiwenga in his own capacity, who contributed US$5 000,” said Mr Khumalo.
He said they are expecting between 2 500 to 3 000 people to come and bid farewell to Chief Mabhikwa.
Dr Sibanda described Chief Mabhikwa as someone who was dedicated and committed to national duty.
“Following the untimely passing on of the late Chief Vusumuzi Khumalo Mabhikwa arising from a fatal road accident on Sunday 22, May 2022, His Excellency the President Dr E D Mnangagwa has directed that the late Chief Mabhikwa be granted State-assisted funeral. This is in recognition of his dedication and commitment to national duty as a traditional leader and public servant,” he said.
Citing post mortem results, the late Chief Mabhikwa’s family said he lost a lot of blood and that led to his death.
The late chief was installed on May 11, 2012 at the age of 18 and had served the traditional leadership institution for a decade.
Chief Mabhikwa was born on September 24, 1993 and attended Jotsholo Primary and Fatima High schools.
At the age of 19, he attended the Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology and also obtained a Diploma in Information and Communication Technology at Boston City College in South Africa in 2012. He is survived by a son.
In 2019, President Mnangagwa appointed Chief Mabhikwa as part of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe board, after he was nominated by the Council of Chiefs.
On Tuesday the community expressed grief following his death saying he was a cultured leader who united the community.
His uncle Mr Leonard Khumalo who served as acting Chief Mabhikwa before the youthful chief reached 18 said the deceased had served with dignity.
“I became acting Chief following the death of his father Nicholas. And when he was mature enough to be installed as chief, I stepped down and he took over. He served us with dignity and respect. Although he was young, ubengubaba wethu, umthunzi wethu susithele,” said Mr Khumalo.
He said both the young and old respected him and he was a role model to most young people because of his calm character.
“We are at a serious loss. We expected that he would continue serving the community in the dignified manner he had been doing. We don’t know how we will even handle his succession as he was so young and we didn’t even think we would lose him so suddenly. His area of jurisdiction was so wide but never at any point would he fail to attend to anyone who sought his counsel. As a family we are proud of the way he represented us,” he said.
A village head in Jotsholo, Mr Jabulani Nyathi said Chief Mabhikwa consulted on every decision he made.
He said Chief Mabhikwa was pro-development and assigned traditional leadership structures to communicate to villagers proposed projects before they were implemented.
“After sending us to communicate the proposed developmental projects, he would also request that people provide feedback. That is the type of a leader he was, never imposing on the people but always consulting us and the whole community on developmental issues. He did not want us to lag behind as Lupane,” he said.
A villager and close neighbour to Chief Mabhikwa, Mr Phunyuka Luphahla said it was a marvel to watch Chief Mabhikwa grow as he was a well-groomed child who respected his elders. Mr Luphahla said leadership qualities were inherent in him.
“Even at Fatima High School where I used to work, he was referred to as a chief. This was before he was installed as a chief. This was mainly because others realised the leadership qualities in him. I could vouch for him on any day as he is someone that we trusted as he epitomised respect.
“Yes, we will have someone replacing him as a chief but we will never have a chief like him. We have lost a leader who was understood by the community and he understood the community as well,” said Mr Luphahla.