The younger sister of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Sabina Mugabe, died Thursday morning at the Avenues Clinic in Harare at the age of 75, state radio and television announced.
The cause of her death was not given by the family or the ZANU-PF party, of which she was a life-long member.
The ZANU-PF politburo met within a few hours of her death and declared her a national heroine, conferring upon her the honor of being buried at the National Heroes Acre memorial site on the outskirts of Harare.
She becomes the sixth woman to be interred at the national shrine following President Mugabe's first wife, Sally Mugabe, Joana Mafuyana, Julia Zvobgo, Ruth Chinamano and Sunny Takawira.
Sabina Mugabe served as legislator for Makonde East, Mashonaland West province, beginning in 1985 and represented the Zvimba South constituency, also in Mashonaland West, from 1990 to early 2008, when she retired from active politics for health reasons.
A ZANU-PF statement said she is survived by three children: Leo Mugabe, a former lawmaker, Robert Zhuwawo and his brother Patrick, who is a ZANU-PF member of parliament for Manyame constituency, Mashonaland West.
Burial arrangements had yet to be announced. But the extraordinarily rapid conferral of heroine status seemed certain to reopen the vexed question of how the honor should be bestowed - at present it is in ZANU-PF's gift alone.
Political analyst Mandlenkosi Gatsheni told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that he has no reservations about whether Sabina Mugabe had the credentials to be designated a heroine, but added that the question as to the process of naming national heroes should be seriously debated and definitively resolved.