Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara along with their respective formations of the Movement for Democratic Change on Thursday boycotted the National Heroes Acre burial of the late Deputy Political Commissar Ephraim Masawi of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
But ZANU-PF carried on with the ceremony at the interment site for national liberation fighters on the outskirts of Harare, Mr. Mugabe declaring that Heroes Acre is only for those who participated in the 1970s struggle leading to the establishment of black majority rule, the end of colonial Rhodesia and the birth of Zimbabwe in 1980.
VOA Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Heroes Acre on the controversy.
Ordinary Zimbabweans interviewed in Harare were critical of ZANU-PF for unilaterally declaring yet another national hero without consulting its MDC partners in the fragile unity government, reported Thomas Chiripasi.
Masawi's designation as a hero revived a long-running debated over how the honor should be conferred.
The last time this question arose, the Movement for Democratic Change was pressing for a hero’s acre burial for the late Gibson Sibanda, deputy president of the Mutambara MDC grouping, which ZANU-PF denied.
To examine the evolution of this unity government sticking point, reporter Patience Rusere turned Zimbabwe Youth Council Director Livingstone Dzikira and Solomon Chikowero, chairman of the MDC Veterans Activist Association.
Dzikira argued that ZANU-PF has the right to unilaterally award hero status as there is no clause in the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing stipulating that all parties must consult on such decisions.