Scores of people from all corners of Zimbabwe thronged the Mabhikwa homestead in Jotsholo, Lupane, Saturday to bid farewell to Chief Mabhikwa.
The youthful traditional leader died Monday after succumbing to injuries he sustained after his vehicle was involved in a head-on collision Sunday night with a haulage truck along the Victoria Falls-Bulawayo highway.
Chief Mabhikwa (28), born Vusumuzi Nichodemus Khumalo ascended to the Mabhikwa chieftaincy of the Khumalo clan at a young age of 19 on May 11, 2012, following the death of his father, Nicholas Edwin Khumalo.
The late Chief Mabhikwa, whose funeral was state-assisted, attracted senior government officials including Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who was the chief mourner, chiefs from Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and the Midlands, and people from across Lupane and beyond.
“I want to say the gathering here speaks loudly to all the testimonies that we have heard this morning that this man was good; this chief was good,” said the president of the Chiefs Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira.
“Look at the number of people here. We attend funerals of chiefs and of leaders; other than at the [National] Heroes Acre you don’t get such a gathering. Only the National Heroes Acre comes close to this otherwise elsewhere else you don’t get such a number. This is testimony that he was a good man. The number of chiefs that are here today is something again that we don’t see whenever we attend chiefs’ funerals.”
Chief Charumbira who described Chief Mabhikwa as someone who “was cool, very composed, and very calculative,” said they were devastated by his demise
“We woke up to get the call that chief Mabhikwa is no more and we are in shock and we remain in shock,” said Chief Charumbira.
“It is indeed a catastrophe. We felt devastated because this man was a good chief. He was cool, very composed, and very calculative. Few leaders are of that characteristic. He remained sober. He was someone who consulted a lot; he was not big-headed.”
ZANU-PF secretary for administration, Dr Obert Mpofu said the crowd showed that the chief was a man of the people.
“Your coming here shows us what kind of person the Chief was,” said Mpofu.
“Very few people can do what you have done. I believe all chiefs that are here are asking themselves what would happen when they are gone. We are talking about a young chief; he reigned for a few years but he has attracted people from all over the country including the Vice President to emaguswini (the bushes) in Matabeleland North to comfort the Khumalo family.”
He added: “I don’t think some chiefs can attract such a crowd. I did not see any bus here, people came here out of their own will. Such gatherings are not common, even at the National Heroes Acre where we would have mixed with many people, having invited everyone to come, having invited soldiers, police and everybody.”
Speaker after speaker described the departed Chief Mabhikwa as a larger than life character whose untimely death robbed the nation of a great leader.
“I stand before you all to mourn the departure from amongst us of a gallant young and fearless custodian and protector of our culture and heritage, Chief Mabhikwa,” said Vice President Chiwenga while addressing mourners.
“The ultimate death of our chief dealt us a heavy blow. As the information of his demise filtered our offices on the 23rd of May, it was not only Lupane District which felt the grief and sorrow but the whole nation at large and country. This is because we all loved him and continue to do so even after his untimely passing on.”
He said he left a void that would be difficult to fill.
“I wish to point out to you that Lupane District, the traditional leadership institution and the country is poorer without him,” said Chiwenga.
“As government we share and empathise with you at this dark hour of bereavement and join the clan, relatives and friends in mourning the chief who was a well-respected person whose life was well-lived. It is saddening ladies and gentlemen to note that chief Mabhikwa was one of the youngest, brightest and dedicated serving members of the traditional leadership institution whose life has been cut short. To the Mabhikwa people and his clan in particular I say this is not a loss for you alone.”
The Vice President added: “As government, we share and feel for you at this dark hour of bereavement. He served his community and nation with distinction. As we depart, I want to urge the Mabhikwa clan to remain united. Furthermore, I want to say, ‘go well, Chief Mabhikwa. Bayethe wena wendlovu, Bayethe!”
Chief Siansali of Binga said Chief Mabhikwa related very well with all chiefs in the province and consulted widely.
“If you come across a chief who says he was not in good books with Chief Mabhikwa he will be lying,” said Chief Siansali.
Some of the chiefs that attended the funeral included among others Ntabeni and Ngungumbane, Nkalakatha, Tshugulu, Nekatande, Nelukoba, Sikhobokhobo, Hwange, Mvuthu, Sivalo, Nyangazonke, Mathema, Masendu and Hobodo.
After the funeral speeches, the late chief was then accompanied to his final resting place by his family members and close relatives and buried in line with the Khumalo tradition and culture.
Born to Nicholas Edwin Khumalo and Sibonginkosi Khumalo (nee Sithole) on 23 September 1993 in Jotsholo, the departed Chief Mabhikwa went to Jotsholo Primary School and Fatima High School for his primary and secondary education respectively.
Chief Mabhikwa, who sat on the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) board, holds a Diploma in Information Communication Technology from Boston College, South Africa.
He is survived by a seven-year-old son, Makhosemvelo Khumalo.
The Khumalo clan were also a victim of the Gukurahundi atrocities. Chief Mabhikwa senior (Vusumuzi’s grandfather) and a group of elders were intercepted by the 5th Brigade on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road. They were frog-marched into the bush and killed. They were on their way to Bulawayo from Jotsholo to bring home the body of Chief Menyezwa Gumude for burial when they met their death.