For years Zimbabweans have been debating why national heroes are only selected from President Robert Mugabe’s party.
On Monday, Mr. Mugabe made it clear that only those who participated in the liberation struggle and continue to show their allegiance to him and his Zanu PF party will be conferred hero status when they die; their history apparently does not matter.
Addressing the thousands who turned out to remember the country’s liberation heroes at the national shrine in Harare today, some of them perched on tree tops so they could see and hear everything, President Mugabe said those who leave Zanu PF and go into opposition should not expect to be granted hero status at the end of their lives.
He said there were some “misguided elements” in society whom he accused of denigrating the country’s heroes and the national shrine, adding some went as far as suggesting how national heroes should be selected saying this his and Zanu Pf’s prerogative only.
For years Zimbabweans have complained why liberation fighters like James Chirema, Ndabaningi Sithole, Sheba Tavariswa, Henry Hamadziripi, Lookout Masuku, Freedom Nyamubaya and Dzinashe Machingura, among others had been totally ignored or given lesser status when they died. Some, who played critical roles in the liberation war and remained in Zanu PF were ignored when they were alive.
But Mr. Mugabe did not mince his words today. He said, “Heroes proved to be heroes as they fought and lived for the independence. They never abandoned struggles, they never were rebels or selfish or what we now call sellouts”.
The late Jairosi Jiri is one person who many Zimbabweans think should have been given national hero status for his work with the country’s disabled community even though he did not join the liberation struggle.
Mr. Mugabe also talked about the skulls of some of Zimbabwe’s traditional leaders killed during the First Chimurenga and were taken to museums in the United Kingdom.
The President said his government is prioritizing the improvement of the education sector, teacher capacity development and early childhood development.
He said Zimbabwe remains highly ranked in terms of literacy but said the country is pushing forward in making sure its youth mastered Information and Communication Technologies or ICTs. On the social services side, he promised to deliver some 300,000 houses to the country’s poor by December 2018.
Besides the thousands who walked to the heroes’ acre, diplomats, members of the judiciary led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, cabinet ministers, church ministers and others were also in attendance.
Maud Muzenda, the wife of the late deputy president Simon Muzenda, was among the family members of the heroes that paid tribute to the heroes. She sat on her husband’s grave and eulogized.