By Lance Guma
Former guerrilla commander Wilfred Mhanda has told SW Radio Africa he does not believe in the concept of granting national hero status, arguing that ordinary people also played key roles in the liberation struggle.
Known as Dzinashe Machingura during the war, Mhanda told our Behind the Headlines series: “This conferment of hero status has been based on dispensing patronange.” Anyone who fell out with Mugabe, like ZANU founding figure Ndabaningi Sithole who went into opposition after independence, were sidelined.
Mhanda said he did not doubt that there were people who played ‘truly heroic roles like Chitepo, Tongogara, Mangena and others “the problem is, I know of the sacrifices made by rural folk, peasants in the countryside, the mujibhas and chimbwido’s and ordinary fighters.”
Mhanda said: “Memories of their sacrifices are not harboured anywhere and when you look at Harare and Bulawayo you find streets named after the nationalists, not even ordinary fighters, not even leading fighters like Josiah Tungamirai.”
Over the weekend the ZANU PF controlled Sunday Mail newspaper described the late nationalist Ndabaningi Sithole and Mhanda as ‘sellouts.’
Reacting to the report Mhanda said he could understand the vitriol directed at Sithole because Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had attended a memorial event at his farm last week and “maybe ZANU PF thought Morgan is trying to make political capital out of it.”
Mhanda however was at a loss to explain the attack on him without providing any evidence saying, “it had gone beyond what is reasonable”. He said the journalist behind the article, Munyaradzi Huni, was not even born when he (Mhanda) was fighting the war and yet he had “the audacity to use such strong language.”
Last year Mhanda released his book, “Dzino, Memories of a Freedom Fighter” in which he wrote about how Mugabe ruthlessly suppressed him and other commanders on his way to becoming the Prime Minister. He told SW Radio Africa the state media are still to challenge his version of the liberation war.
Contributing to the same debate on Behind the Headlines, political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said the National Heroes Acre had ‘national thugs’ like Chenjerai Hunzvi, Border Gezi and Elliot Manyika, who were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Zimbabweans as a result of political violence.
Ruhanya said many people played an important role in shaping Zimbabwe, like Sheba Tavarwisa, Ndabaningi Sithole, Enoch Dumbutshena, Welshman Mabhena, Captain Nleya, Dr Tichaona Mudzingwa and Patrick Kombayi. Many were sidelined from the national shrine because of tribalism or because they differed with Mugabe.
“You read ‘The Story of My Life’ by the late Joshua Nkomo, how Mugabe treated him, how he was called a sell-out. When we were in primary school in the 1980’s we used to compose and sing songs led by ZANU PF zealots, denouncing Nkomo. And it was for the sole reason that he differed with Mugabe.”
To listen to the full interview with former guerrilla commander Wilfred Mhanda and political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya on Behind the Headlines. CLICK HERE
To contact this journalist e-mail email@example.com or follow him on twitter @LanceGuma
To help maintain editorial independence Nehanda Radio relies on donations from readers like you. No donation is too small or too big. Help by donating to fund our operations.