By Fungi Kwaramba
Future Zimbabwean governments should exhume undeserving persons buried at the National Heroes Acre to pave way for the likes of Simpson Mutambanengwe who was denied the honour by Zanu PF, former ruling party spokesperson and liberation war icon Rugare Gumbo has said.
Mutambanengwe — one of the pioneers of the liberation struggle — joins the ever growing list of bona fide war veterans who have been denied the highest honour because they differed with President Robert Mugabe “in a major way”.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo was not available for comment as his mobile phone was unreachable.
Mutambanengwe was buried at his rural home in Mutare on Saturday.
Zanu PF has not even considered granting him provincial hero status, top party officials told the Daily News on Sunday.
Gumbo, who is now an elder in the opposition Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) having been kicked out of Zanu PF in 2014 on charges of plotting to topple Mugabe, told the Daily News on Sunday that if he was to die under the current status quo, he feared he will also not be interred at the national shrine.
“I strongly believe that he (Mutambanengwe) deserves to be declared a hero. There are so many people who are there who do not deserve to be there and hopefully future governments will exhume them and bury those who truly deserve that status,” Gumbo told the Daily News on Sunday.
Narrating the role that Mutambanengwe — a former judge and brief chairperson of the troubled Zimbabwe Electoral Commission — played during the liberation war that resulted in a negotiated settlement at Lancaster House in London, Gumbo said a few in the present Zanu PF match the late judge’s exploits.
“He founded Zanu PF and he was the secretary for foreign affairs. In 1966, he and other trained cadres reconstituted the Revolutionary Council when it was dissolved in 1971. He was to become a member of Dare ReChimurenga (War Council). Although he lost his position in 1973, he was a pioneer of the revolutionary struggle.
“After the death of (Zanu chairman Herbert) Chitepo, Zanu had no leader and Mugabe came and took leadership. He tried to marginalise the people who started Chimurenga, the people who mattered were left behind. Mugabe did not want to do anything with the guys from Dare, Mukudzei Mudzi is still alive but not feeling well and he did not forgive and does not forget.
“There are some people who were tortured during the war and those people have been forgotten, the people who started the struggle are denied hero status and as for myself, I don’t see myself being buried at the Heroes Acre and I don’t care. I am not worried about that because the place is now infested with questionable characters. In the end, while there are real heroes there, the place is now losing its meaning,” Gumbo said.
Last month, the Midlands Province shocked all and sundry when it recommended a convicted thug Kizito Chivamba to be declared a national hero.
Although Chivamba was only awarded with liberation hero status, his co-accused, the late Central Intelligence Organisation chief Elias Kanengoni — accused of shooting Patrick Kombayi at close range in 1990 while campaigning for the late vice president Simon Muzenda, was buried at the National Heroes Acre.
Mugabe and Zanu PF have consistently rejected calls by the opposition for non-partisan selection of national heroes, saying they must find their own shrine.
Academic Pedzisai Ruhanya said Zimbabweans should not expect Zanu PF to do the reasonable thing because “there is a difference between a Zanu PF hero and a national hero”.
“A Zanu PF hero is partisan and a national hero is a man or woman who serves the country on non-partisan grounds, just like Joshua Nkomo and Josiah Tongogara,” he said. Daily News