Welshman Mabhena

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Weshman Mabhena

Welshman Hadane Mabhena who was also known as ‘The lion of Nkayi’ born on 26 June 1944 was a politician who succumbed to diabetes and high blood pressure on 6 October 2010. After the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987, he was the first Deputy Speaker of Parliament to come out from the former Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) which was led byJoshua Nkomo. He was labelled as a dissident during the Gukurahundi period and this led to his subsequent arrest and detention. He was a Christian and a member of the United Congregation Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA).[1] He was declared a national hero but his family snubbed this ‘offer’ and instead of being buried at the National Heroes Acre, he was buried at Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo. He was married to Rebecca and the two had three children.


Mabhena was born on 26 June 1944 in Zinyangeni in Inyathi.[2] For his primary education, Mabhena attended Zinyangeni Primary School and was enrolled at Inyathi Secondary School for his secondary education .[2] His family was forcibly evicted from Inyathi to pave way for the whites who wanted to settle in Inyathi and they were resettled in Nkayi District.[1] From Inyathi Mission School, Mabhena went to Tiger Kloof in South Africa to further his studies. Upon his return, he became a music teacher at Inyathi Mission School.[1]

Political career

Mabhena joined the nationalist movement championing the end of white minority rule in the country in the 1950s. He argued that the eviction of his family from Inyathi to Nkayi acted as an impetus which drove him to detest the Ian Smith’s led regime. According to Enos Nkala, Mabhena was a member of the African National Congress which was then being led by Joshua Nkomo. [3] He became a member of ZAPU.

Between 1962 and 1979, he was detained at Wha Wha and Salisbury prisons. [2] When they were squabbles within ZAPU, Nkala stated that Mabhena was transferred to Gonakudzingwa detention camp. [3] Whilst in detention, Mabhena completed his Advanced level studies and he obtained a certificate for bookkeeping from the Fellowship of the Association of Certified Bookkeepers of South Africa.[2]

When the country got its independence after the Second Chimurenga, Mabhena was elected to be the Chairman of Nkayi Rural District Council Secretary for ZAPU.[4] He was elected to the MP for Nkayi in 1985 defeating Samson Ndlovu of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). [1] He was subsequently appointed to be the Secretary General of ZAPU after his victory. [1]

In the Zimbabwe 1985 Parliamentary Election, Nkayi returned to Parliament:

He was however arrested and detained when the North Korean trained Fifth Bridgade army under the command of Perence Shiri was on a mission to clean the rot during the Gukuruhundi massacres. His mother’s grave was doused with petrol and was set alight and his homestead was also set alight. [1] Whilst in prison, Mabhena stated that he was severely tortured as he was given falanga, water board treatment, beaten and had bruises over his body. [5] He argued that he developed serious health problems during this period which later caused his death in 2010.

After the Gukurahundi massacres which came to a halt after the signing of the Unity Accord, Mabhena was elected to become the Deputy Speaker of Parliament. He was also appointed to become the Zanu PF chairman for Matabeleland North. [2] In 1990, he was became the Minister of State for Political Affairs as well as being the Secretary for Transport and Welfare in the Zanu PF politburo. [2]

In the 1990 Parliamentary Election (see A History of Zimbabwean Elections) Nkayi returned to Parliament:

  • Welshman Mabhena of Zanu PF with 16 313 votes,
  • Rogers Ndlovu of ZUM with 1 182 votes.

Turnout - 19 797 voters or 48.91 %

Mabhena continued to rise within Zanu PF ranks and he was appointed to be the Governor of Matabeleland North Province in the early 1990s, a post he held until November 2000. Mabhena had been re-elected in July 2000 but because of his condemnation of attempts by Zanu PF to sideline the development of Matebeleland as well as his stance towards some of Mugabe’s policies, he was labelled as a tribalist. [3] He was only told that he had been replaced by Obert Mpofu after he had travelled to Harare from Bulawayo for the swearing in ceremony. [3]

After this humiliation, Mabhena began to isolate himself from Zanu PF activities and they were speculations that he had joined Movement for Democratic Change. He resurfaced in 2006, dispelling this story. [2]

His Death

Mabhena died on 6 October in 2010 after succumbing to diabetes and high blood pressure, diseases he claimed afflicted him when he was detained during the Gukurahundi massacres which caused his health to deteriorate leading to his death. He was declared a national hero by the ZANU PF politburo but his family denied his burial at the National Heroes Acre which is also known as the National Shrine. It was reported that, they were sharp divisions within the politburo over the hero status of Mabhena who was labelled by some as someone who had betrayed the principles of ZANU PF.[6] Hence he was not fit to be buried at the National Shrine. Regardless of this, a hero status was conferred to him.

Mabhena was however buried at Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo as his family snubbed the ‘offer’ by the ZANU PF politburo to have him to be buried at the National Shrine. Mabhena’s brother, Norman stated that, the deceased had told his family that he detested being buried at the National Heroes Acre as Mugabe had announced that it was only meant for ZANU PF people only.[3] A delegation composed of senior ZANU PF officials was sent to negotiate with Mabhena’s family to have Mabhena being laid at the Heroes Acre but this was fruitless.[7] Chief Sivalo Mahlangu of Nkayi was the guest of honour at Mabhena’s funeral.[8] Norman later reviewed that, he received death threats from the Central Intelligence Organisation for humiliating Robert Mugabe as he failed to comply with the ruling of the politburo members.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE, Parliament of Zimbabwe, published:4 Jun 2011,retrieved:5 January 2015"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Nduduzo Tshuma, Welshman Mabhena dies, The Herald, published:6 October 2010,retrieved:5 January 2015"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Welshman Mabhena family decline Heroes Acre burial, ZimEye, published:7 Oct 2010,retrieved:5 January 2015"
  4. Welshman Mabhena dies, NewsDay, published:6 Oct 2010,retrieved:5 January 2015"
  5. STEVE, CIO tortured Mabhena - family, The Zimbabwean, published:12 Oct 2010,retrieved:5 January 2015"
  6. Welshman Mabhena declared national hero, Nehanda Radio, published:7 Oct 2010,retrieved:5 January 2015"
  7. 7.0 7.1 Welshman Mabhena family gets death threats, Zimbabwe Black Book News, published:13 Oct 2010,retrieved:"
  8. NATIONAL HERO Welshman Mabhena buried in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe African People's Unions, published:11 Oct 2010,retrieved:5 January 2015"