Sibanda was born in 1944 in Filabusi Matebeleland North. He attended Mzinyathini Primary School in Esigodini and for his secondary education; he was enrolled at Tengwane Secondary School. In 1965, he was employed by the Rhodesian Railways, working as a fitter and a train driver. When the country gained independence, Sibanda became part of the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) working as a fitter and a driver. In 1969, he married Ntombizodwa who died in 2003 after a long battle with cancer.
Sibanda joined nationalist politics in 1965 after Ian Smith had announced the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). He was a member of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) whose leader was Joshua Nkomo. He rose through the party ranks and was elected to be the party’s Secretary for Welfare.
Sibanda was jailed from 1976 up to 1979 for supporting the nationalist struggle, the Second Chimurenga. He was detained at Wha Wha and Marondera Camps and whilst in prison, he completed his Advanced level studies. Between 1982 and 1988, Sibanda became the President of the Railways Association of Engine-men as well as the President of the Amalgamated Railways Union. During this period, ZCTU was under the patronage of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF).
In 1984, Sibanda was also elected as the president of five amalgamated railway trade unions. In 1988, Sibanda was elected to be the vice president of ZCTU and in 1989 he became the president of ZCTU until 1999 when he mooted the idea of the formation of a political party to challenge the hegemony of ZANU PF. This led to the formation of MDC. When MDC was formed, Sibanda led the party for six months up to the party’s first congress which was held in February 2000 when Morgan Tsvangirai, who was the then Secretary General of ZCTU assumed the leadership of the party.
During his reign as the President of the ZCTU, Sibanda became a prominent opponent of Mugabe’s rule. He expanded his linkages as he was involved in structures such as the International Labour Organisation, the International Confederation of Trade Unions and the Commonwealth Trade Union Congress. This necessitated the formation of MDC.
In 2000, Sibanda was elected to be the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nkulumane, defeating Dumiso Dabengwa. In 2005, they was the split of MDC over the participation of the party in the senatorial elections introduced in 2005. Sibanda was amongst those who advocated for the party’s participation which the party had earlier on opposed. He was suspended by Tsvangirai together with Ncube.
In 2008, he lost his seat to Thomas Mahlanga from the Tsvangirai, Movement for Democratic Change led faction. During the same year, he was supported by the two MDC factions to contest for the post of being the President of the Senate. He was defeated by Edna Madzongwe. During the existence of GNU, he was appointed to be the a member of the National Healing and Reconciliation team as well as being the Minister of State in the office of the Deputy Prime Minister who was Mutambara.
Allegations and Assaults
Sibanda was arrested at a rally at White City Stadium in 2001 for inciting violence under the Law and Order Maintenance Act. He was however acquitted in January 2003. During the same year, an attempt was made on his life as a gun man opened fire in Bulawayo at the MDC’s offices. Paul Themba, who was the then MDC’s Elections Director, Ncube who was the then Secretary General of MDC as well as Fletcher Dulini Ncube who was also the Treasurer of the party, escaped death as they were with Sibanda.
During the election campaigns of the 2002 elections, Sibanda’s convoy was attacked by ZANU PF youths in Kuwadzana. The following year, he was arrested on charges of seeking to overthrow Mugabe. He was granted bail after he was detained in police custody for a week. In February 2004, these charges were withdrawn.
Sibanda died on 23 August 2010 after a long battle with cancer. He was buried in his home town, Silalatshani Village in Filabusi. The two MDC factions recognised Sibanda a hero who deserved to be buried at the National Heroes Acre. They appealed to ZANU PF but the ZANU PF politburo declined to confer a hero status to Sibanda. It only agreed to accord a state assisted funeral. This was despite the fact that they was the existence of the tripartite arrangement which brought in the Government of National Unity (GNU) in which ZANU PF was not obliged to pursue partisan interests.
Some people however felt that, ZANU PF had by default made the correct decision not to formally designate Sibanda a hero status. It was reported that it was prudent for Sibanda not to be declared a national hero by an evil institution like ZANU PF and that Mugabe was not fit to preside over Sibanda’s burial as the National Heroes Acre is a burial place for Mugabe’s sycophants.
Sibanda;s son, Mbuso did not attend his father’s funeral. He did not invite Ncube to grace his father’s memorial service which was held in 2010. Mbuso argued that, guests to the memorial service were invited not by the roles they played in politics but in their individual capacities as people who had a relationship with his father. This further compounded allegations levelled against Ncube who was said to have been on a mission to usurp power from Sibanda when he was bed ridden.
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- Brian Raftopoulos, Gibson Jama Sibanda 1944 – 2010, Solidarity Peace Trust, published:26 Aug 2010,retrieved:2 Jan 2015"
- MDC announces Gibson Sibanda's death, New Zimbabwe, published:24 Aug 2010,retrieved:2 January 2015"
- Madzongwe wins Senate presidency, New Zimbabwe, published:11 Dec 2009,retrieved:2 January 2015"
- MDC co-founder Gibson Sibanda dies in Bulawayo, The ZimDiaspora, published:30 Aug 2010,retrieved:2 January 2015"
- Edwin Dube, Sibanda hero status debacle exposes GNU, Nehanda Radio, published:27 Aug 2010,retrieved:2 January 2015"
- Tsanga Tutankhamen Shanga, Mugabe hero snub of Sibanda was correct, Nehanda Radio, published:22 Sep 2010,retrieved:2 January 2015"
- Gugugu Magorira, Gibson Sibanda’s son betrays father by flirting with MDC-T, The Standard, published:1 Oct 2011,retrieved:2 January 2015"
- Gibson Sibanda family snubs Welshman Ncube for memorial, Taliyana, published:2010,retrieved:2 January 2014"
- Sehlulizithi Ncube, Stop lying about Gibson Sibanda - Ncube, Bulawayo 24 News, published:11 Feb 2012,retrieved:2 January 2015"