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BETHANY – As dawn burst out of the night and lit up the sky, bringing a warm Saturday morning, a statesman was laid to rest in a funeral in full military honours.

Excited expectation was noted among those of us who were gathered at Bethany-Mbanana Army Barracks as we awaited the arrival of the remains of Brigadier General Roy Gideon Fonono Dube at the graveyard where army heroes are buried.

 This was because for the first time, many of us present at the solemn ceremony witnessed a piece of history as the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force buried its second commander to ever lead the army in the country.
As we drove towards the grave yard, hundreds of neatly dressed members of the army in combat uniform, armed with rifles, lined the roadside, humming softly as they waited for the body of their former army leader.
We were ushered into specified parking areas and advised to find a spot where we would be able to watch the solemn proceedings as the army marched for about a kilometre on foot with Dube’s casket to where he was to be laid to rest.
Baffled family members and members of the public huddled together, all wondering how the burial would be carried out.

The last time such a ceremony was carried out by the army was in 1979,  when Major General Prince Maphevu and the first Commander of the USDF was buried at Mbanana Army Barracks.
For a moment, we all seemed to forget the seriousness of the unfolding event. All we could do was marvel at the uniform precision of the army officers as they marched sharply and briskly while the casket was carried by an army hearse.
Flags which bore importance to the USDF were also on display and officers partaking in the activities paid close attention to all instructions issued.

Lieutenant General Lenford Dlamini explained that the burial of Dube was with military honours. He said Dube’s rank of Brigadier and the fact that he was an army commander demanded that he be buried in such a manner.
He explained that this is the second funeral of an army commander and he pointed out that Dube was being laid next to Prince Maphevu.
“He retired from the force but we still called him Brigadier Dube and he was still considered a General. We are here to bury a general and army commander.”

 Many at that moment forgot that they had come to mourn the death of a loved one, all eyes were drawn to the splendid display by the army as they lovingly bade farewell to a man who was characterised by strong discipline and love.
As if to remind all those who were present why they were gathered at Mbanana Army Barracks, a man only identified as Mr. Mavuso wept hysterically after paying his last respects  to the late Brigadier Dube.

 It was later established that Mavuso had been a close ally of the late former army commander as he had been his driver for a number of years.
The inconsolable man forgot about the hundreds of mourners present and cried feverishly like a baby while his children tried to calm him down but in vain.

 he Didn’t’ belong to family

Seated on one of the roots of one of the trees surrounding Mbanana Army Barracks, senior members of the Dube family begrudgingly admitted that the late Brigadier Fonono Dube had never really belonged to them.
“How will we perform traditional rituals to him,” they whispered as they watched the army walk towards the graveyard with the late former army commander’s remains in a casket.

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