By Mugove Tafirenyika and Ndakaziva Majaka
HARARE – Former Vice President Joice Mujuru, ex-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and scores of liberation war stalwarts who were brutally purged from the warring post-congress Zanu PF and government yesterday snubbed Heroes Day commemorations around the country.This is the first time she had done so since Independence.
It had been suggested in the days leading to yesterday that Mujuru would attend the commemorations at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, not least because her decorated late liberation struggle icon husband, General Solomon Mujuru, is buried there.
Had she attended the function, this would have seen her come face to face with President Robert Mugabe — their first meeting since the former VP and her close allies were brutally purged from the post-congress Zanu PF and government late last year on murky allegations of plotting to oust and kill the frail nonagenarian.
The spokesperson of the “original” Zanu PF formation that uses the slogan People First, Rugare Gumbo — who also speaks on behalf of Mujuru — said Mugabe’s former second-in-command had chosen to commemorate the life of her husband elsewhere, rather than at the national shrine.
“She did not think it was necessary for her to be there as she could still, like any other Zimbabwean, remember our heroes anywhere she likes,” Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday.
Addressing people gathered at Heroes Acre, Mugabe took the opportunity to yet again castigate Mujuru and her allies, warning that by taking him on, they were all forfeiting their right to be buried at the shrine.
In apparent response to recent charges by fiery former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda that some people who are buried at Heroes Acre were undeserving of their hero status and would thus one day be removed from the shrine, the embattled nonagenarian described the utterances as “absurd”.
“Heroes were, and are, consistently loyal to the liberation cause, have their patriotism, selflessness, courage, determination, never questionable, or in any doubt, at any point in time.
“Heroes do not become heroes after they are dead! They proved to be heroes as they fought, lived for, and died for the liberation of Zimbabwe. They never abandoned battle! They never were rebels. They never were weak-hearted. They never were selfish, or sell-outs…” Mugabe thundered.
“You do not become a hero by being a member of the MDC or any other Western-sponsored party. Yes, there are some who are doing that and you have all heard it in MDC discussions. The same people would want to be declared heroes but can we accord them that status simply because they were once in politics,” he added.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News on the eve of Heroes Day, Sibanda bemoaned the fact that liberation struggle icons like General Mujuru, whose badly charred remains were found after a mysterious fire at his Beatrice farm in 2011, and whose funeral attracted the biggest crowd ever witnessed at the Heroes Acre, had had their names dragged in the mud as the warring ruling party’s mindless factional and succession bloodletting continues unabated.
He also argued that many other gallant freedom fighters such as the late former Zipra commander Lookout Masuku and Shebba Takavarwisa, a former Zanla cadre — who were both denied hero status — were more deserving than many who had been interred at the national shrine.
The Heroes commemorations came at a time that Mujuru has been under the spotlight after firebrand war veteran, Margaret Dongo, launched a new political party last week to challenge Mugabe and Zanu PF, noting bluntly that arrogant and corrupt ruling party bigwigs were fomenting Zimbabwe’s mounting political and economic woes.
The new party, the Movement for People First — which is different from the “original” Zanu PF formation fronted by liberation struggle stalwarts — will contest the much-anticipated 2018 national elections.
Dongo said the new party had “a great team of patriots driven by a very strong conviction that there is need, given this country’s prevailing political, social and economic circumstances to come up with a truly and practically people-centred, patriotic political formation whose premise is the people themselves”.
Analysts told the Daily News last week that Dongo’s move would put immense pressure on the seemingly hesitant Mujuru, who has been touted as the leader of the People First movement, although she is still to publicly pronounce her association with the rival Zanu PF formation herself.
“Therefore, for all those persons who have been enjoying it on the fence, claiming they are out of Zanu PF, we say this is the occasion for them to show where they really stand, whether they like it or not. The enemy has been provoked, it is time to engage,” Dongo said in remarks that were interpreted as targeted at Mujuru.
She added that in launching the new party, she was “guided by the liberation war tactic of provoking the enemy in order to engage the coward and fence-sitters among us into battle”.
The analysts who spoke to the Daily News said Dongo, 55 — a former Zanu PF legislator and founder of the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats — could make a significant impact on the political scene given Zanu PF’s deadly infighting and the fact that she enjoyed the respect of many war veterans and ordinary Zimbabweans for her principled political stand.
Her re-entry into the congested political fray also means that she would be among a stellar cast of candidates that include indefatigable opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 63, who will take Mugabe head-on in the 2018 presidential elections — if the long-ruling and frail nonagenarian will still be the post-congress Zanu PF’s candidate in those polls.
Dongo, who says she was mentored into politics by Mugabe’s first wife Sally, recently received death threats, allegedly from government spooks, because of her political work.
She has regularly challenged Mugabe and Zanu PF on their failings and misrule. Daily News