Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Deputy MDC-M leader Gibson Sibanda dies

BULAWAYO – The deputy leader of one of Zimbabwe’s three governing parties, Gibson Sibanda (pictured far right), has died. He was 66. Sibanda, who was vice-president of Deputy Primer Minister Arthur Mutambara’s MDC-M party, passed away earlier in the morning today after a long battle with cancer, a party official said.

The MDC-M’s spokesman for Bulawayo, Edwin Ndlovu, said Sibanda died at his home in the city’s up-market suburb of Ilanda. “Sibanda is no more. He has been battling with cancer for some time. He had been to South Africa several times where he was receiving treatment for cancer,” Ndlovu told ZimOnline.

Sibanda, who was also a member of the government’s Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation, first became prominent as an opponent to President Robert Mugabe’s controversial rule during his days at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) that he led together with Morgan Tsvangirai, who was secretary general of the union.

Born in Filabusi district, Matebeleland South province, Sibanda served the ZCTU as its first vice-president from 1988 until he was elected the labour movement’s president in 1989. Then one of Tsvangirai’s closest allies, Sibanda was a leading member of the initiative for the ZCTU to establish the MDC in 2000, being unanimously elected as vice-president of the opposition party at its formation in 1999.

But Sibanda later fell out with Tsvangirai and together with Welshman Ncube, who is the MDC-M’s secretary general, led the 2005 revolt against his old comrade that gave birth to the Mutambara-led MDC-M and the Tsvangirai-led MDC-T. The MDC-T is the bigger one of the two formations and is widely seen as the real threat to Mugabe and his ZANU PF party’s continued grip on power.

A rather reserved but friendly and good natured gentleman, Sibanda, who began politics with the revered late freedom fighter Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU party, had many admirers in both MDC camps and his death is certain to ignite new calls for a review of the process of bestowing national hero status.

On paper, all Zimbabweans from different walks of life can be declared national heroes for outstanding contribution to the cause, well-being and interest of the country. However small a group of men and women from ZANU PF’s Soviet-style politburo cabinet has monopolised the right to say on who is bestowed national hero or heroine status.

This is despite the fact that the National Heroes Act stipulates that the conferment of hero status should be the prerogative of Cabinet, a provision which if followed would allow all three ruling parties to have a say on the matter.

Currently a person is either conferred hero status or not depending on their perceived support for Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle – often a proxy for their support of Mugabe.

The national Heroes Acre shrine in Harare has turned into an exclusive burial ground for Mugabe’s loyal supporters, some of them with questionable histories and even criminal records. Anyone who – like Sibanda — has ever crossed paths with the veteran leader is almost certain to never be declared national hero or heroine.

The MDC-T last month called for a new system of determining national heroes and heroines that the party said should recognise that heroes and heroines are born every day and should not be confined only to those who actively participated in the country’s war of independence or have links to ZANU PF. – ZimOnline.