Both formations of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change closed ranks Wednesday in objection to President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to endorse liberation participant, labor leader and MDC co-founder Gibson Sibanda as a national hero following his death on Monday.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara wrote to Mr Mugabe asking him to grant Sibanda national hero status which would allow him to be interred at National Heroes Acre on the outskirts of Harare along with prominent liberation figures.
But sources in Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party said he consulted just a few party officials and sent word to Mutambara that Sibanda would only be accorded a so-called state-assisted funeral, not a hero’s burial. His family said he will be buried in his rural home of Filabusi, Matebeleland South.
But MDC sources said they believed the decision was taken by the ZANU-PF politburo, though party sources said that body had not met on Tuesday before Mr. Mugabe's decision became public.
The ZANU-PF leaning Herald newspaper reported Mr. Mugabe’s refusal Tuesday, but Mutambara told VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he only received official word Wednesday.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said he was not in Harare on Tuesday and said he did not think that the politburo had in fact met, referring questions on the matter to ZANU-PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa, a top security aide to Mr. Mugabe.
Mutasa told VOA that he was not involved in the decision.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation blasted President Mugabe calling his decision to snub Sibanda "shocking."
Political analyst Trevor Maisiri said Mr. Mugabe is reaffirming his dominant political position in denying hero status to a co-founder of the former opposition party which is now in government.