The death this week of Zimbabwean opposition founder Gibson Sibanda reopened the debate over the institution of National Hero and whether President Robert Mugabe's former ruling ZANU-PF party should retain its monopoly on according the nation's highest honor.
President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF declined to honor Sibanda as a national hero despite his role as a liberation activist jailed by the Rhodesian government of the 1970s, a trade union leader and co-founder of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, now in government.
Sibanda was welfare secretary for the Popular Front-Zimbabwe African People's Union - PF-ZAPU - in the western Matabeleland region during the conflict that led to independence in 1980.
In contrast, Mr. Mugabe’s sister Sabina was made a hero within 24 hours of her death July 29.
For now at least the institution is in the hands of ZANU-PF which has shown no inclination to open the process of designating national heroes (who qualify to be buried at National Heroes Acre in Harare) to its MDC governing partners or the relatively recently reconstituted ZAPU.
Analysts say that so long as ZANU-PF has control, members of the former opposition parties won’t get a fair hearing upon their deaths as to their qualifications for national hero status.
In a round-table discussion, University of Zimbabwe political lecturers John Makumbe and Joseph Kurebwa told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that the hero issue should have been addressed in the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing.
Makumbe said Sibanda deserves to named a hero in light of his liberation activities and his key roles as post-liberation union leader and MDC founder.
But some participants in the VOA Studio 7 LiveTalk program on Thursday said that the institution may have become too politicized by ZANU-PF at this point to be democratized, and that the emphasis in any case should be shifted to serving the nation to help it meet present challenges.