Sibanda hero status debacle exposes GNU
By Edwin Dube
Since February 2009, Zimbabweans have been under the illusion that the country was run under a tripartite arrangement where power was shared by three principals, namely President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara.
Although there have been signs of friction in the tripartite arrangement, the outburst this week by Mutambara after Mugabe’s Zanu PF politburo declined to declare his party deputy president, the late Gibson Sibanda, a national hero shows without any doubt that this is a marriage of convenience where Zanu PF pursues partisan interests.
In fact, the outburst further exposes the extent to which Mutambara and Tsvangirai have become passengers in an arrangement that has been deceptively touted as “inclusive”.
Mutambara was quoted in the media as saying: “We communicated to President Mugabe before cabinet and we wrote to him formally after cabinet in the afternoon. Our colleagues from MDC-T have also supported our recommendation by writing to the president saying the same thing that … Gibson Sibanda must be accorded national hero status.”
“We have since received communication … that the Zanu PF politburo has decided that Gibson Sibanda is not worthy of being declared a national hero, instead they have taken a position where he has been accorded a state assisted funeral by the Zanu PF politburo.”
It is strange that Mutambara expected the Zanu PF politburo to honour an arch foe who “humiliated” the party into accepting a power sharing agreement. Under the National Heroes Act, declaration of a hero is the prerogative of the president who “considers that any deceased person who was a citizen of Zimbabwe and has deserved well of his country on account of his outstanding, distinctive and distinguished service to Zimbabwe, he may, by notice in the Gazette designate such person as a national, provincial or district hero of Zimbabwe”.
However, it is instructive to note that under the GPA implementation matrix, the GNU principals gave the Cabinet Committee on Honours and Awards –– together with Cabinet –– two months to expedite the adoption of non-partisan and inclusive principles and framework on the designation of national heroes.
This would have been a perfect opportunity for the parties in the government of national unity to show their unity by speaking with one voice on the death of one of their own. The impression given by Mutambara in his statements is that Mugabe is bulldozing his way around the unity government. Although the two-month mandate given to the cabinet committee has not lapsed, one would have expected Mugabe to at least communicate with his partners in the unity government before the decision was announced.
In the absence of a frank discussion with his colleagues, Mugabe has exposed himself to criticism, with MDC-T’s Nelson Chamisa insisting “any meaning of hero — either a dictionary meaning or a political interpretation — would fit Sibanda. There is no debate at all.”
Sibanda’s colleagues in MDC-M weighed in with charges that Sibanda’s death provided an opportunity “for Zanu PF to come out and tell the country that the taxpayer has been funding what is essentially a misnamed Zanu PF honorary club and burial society”.
Although Zimbabweans have accepted that they have to make to do with a coalition government, they expect better from their leaders.