Heroism corrupted

The Heroes holidays are for people to reflect on the sacrifices made by the sons and daughters of Zimbabwe in freeing this country, to re-dedicate ourselves to guarding against the erosion of our freedoms.

Mutasa
Mutasa

There is a long-standing outcry that some individuals who played a pivotal role in bringing independence to Zimbabwe have not been given due recognition, because Zanu (PF) deemed them politically incorrect.

That party is on record saying that only those who support them deserve to be given national hero status. This narrow-minded criteria means that many individuals who risked their lives for the independence of this country received very little or no recognition for their efforts.

Some examples

Thenjiwe Lesabe, who died in 2011 and was only given a state-assisted funeral with Zanu (PF) because she had defected together with Dumiso Dabengwa to revive Zapu, is a prime example. Zanu (PF) Secretary for Administration, Didymus Mutasa, said: “We could not give her national heroine status because she was not consistent when she joined Zapu led by Dabengwa”.

One of Zanu (PF)’s founding members, Ndabaningi Sithole, was buried at his farm in Chipinge after the party he helped form said he was unfit to be buried at the National Heroes Acre.

Another case is that of Masala Sibanda, who died in 2009 and was only accorded with national hero status after his burial at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo, with Zanu (PF) saying that communication problems had made it difficult for them to deliberate on time.

In the same year, the late Isaac Nyathi was bestowed with national hero status a few minutes before his burial in Bulawayo.There were delays by Zanu (PF) in deliberating over the hero status of Swazini Ndlovu, another proponent of the liberation struggle who was then buried at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo.

Unfit for hero status

The late Henry Hamadziripi is credited for recruiting heroes such as Josiah Tongogara and Vitalis Zvinavashe but was seen as unfit to be laid at the National Heroes’ Acre. The same is true again of the late MDC-T Senator, Patrick Kombayi, who was among the country’s first political prisoners and was arrested together with Joseph Msika, Jason Ziyapapa Moyo and other late nationalists.

Shebba Tavarwisa, who was the only woman to sit on Zanu’s Dare Rechimurenga, was deemed unfit for burial at the National Heroes Acre, even though she had an active political profile. Figures such as Sally Mugabe, Mama Mafuyana and Julia Zvobgo’s heroine status seems to have been influenced more by the roles played by their husbands during the war rather than their individual efforts.

As Zimbabwe celebrates 33 years of Independence, the names of these individuals are receiving little if any mention at all- because of decisions they made post-independence.

This can be traced back to sentiments by President Robert Mugabe at the burial of Zanu (PF) politburo member and former Mashonaland Central Governor, Ephraim Masawi, in late 2010 when he said the National Heroes’ Acre was reserved for Zanu (PF) members only.

A monopoly on heroes

Mugabe told mourners that there were a lot of people who did good things but did not deserve to be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre because they were not associated with Zanu (PF).

ZAPU Information Secretary, Mjobisa Noko, said: “Zanu (PF) thinks they have the monopoly to declare heroines or honour people who played a part during the war. They are forgetting that they are not the only ones who fought the liberation war.

“Zanu (PF) does not like people with a different opinion from them and they think that if you are not within their ranks, you should not be recognised for your efforts in bringing independence to Zimbabwe.” The deputy spokesperson of the MDC led by Welshman Ncube, Kurauone Chihwayi, said: “Mugabe has been very clear that the National Heroes’ Acre is for people loyal to Zanu (PF) and as a result some people who did not even go to war are now being laid there because they have been loyal to Mugabe.”

Political analyst, Blessing Vava, said: “Zanu (PF) has monopolised the conferment of national hero statuses as well as events such as Independence Day and Heroes Day. The problem is that Zanu (PF) believes that it is only people within the party who deserve to be recognised as having brought independence to Zimbabwe.”

Buried among theives

In 2010, there were tensions in Zanu (PF) over conferment of hero status on the late nationalist, Edgar Tekere, who some argued was not “consistent” while others said his role during the liberation of the country was unquestionable.

Tekere was expelled from Zanu (PF) in 1988 after he openly criticised corruption within the party and challenged Mugabe during presidential elections.

However, he was declared a national hero in what analysts said was a move by Mugabe to save Zanu (PF) from falling out of favour with the electorate in Manicaland.

Before his death, Tekere declared that he did not want to be buried “among thieves”- in reference to those interred at the National Heroes’ Acre.

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