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Why Mugabe gave in on Tekere hero status

By Caiphas Chimhete

President Robert Mugabe relented on the late nationalist Edgar Tekere’s hero status to gain political mileage and save his heavily divided Zanu PF party from further disintegration, political analysts said last week. In the past, other towering nationalists were denied national hero status by Zanu PF because they were not “consistent.”

Edgar Tekere
Edgar Tekere

But an even more “inconsistent”, some would say, Tekere was accorded the right to be buried at the Heroes Acre today. Tekere, an arch-critic of Mugabe’s autocratic rule, died almost a pauper surviving largely on handouts from his sympathisers in Zanu PF. Analysts said failure to give the popular Tekere — also known as 2Boy — the hero status was likely to cost Mugabe the Manicaland province vote in the next elections.

Even some senior Zanu PF members, who financially and morally supported Tekere during his most difficult times, were likely to be infuriated by that decision. Dewa Mavhinga, the regional information and advocacy coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said Mugabe wanted to make political capital out of Tekere’s death.

He said the way national hero status for Tekere was decided showed it would be used by Mugabe and Zanu PF as cannon fodder in their political campaigns.

“It is shameful, conferring hero status on Tekere is hypocrisy of the worst kind by Zanu PF,” Mavhinga said. “Tekere was viewed as an outcast. “This gallant son of Zimbabwe who led Mugabe to Mozambique died a pauper and now Zanu PF has the audacity to declare him a national hero. This is an insult to Tekere and his family, he must be turning in his grave.”

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer John Makumbe said denying Tekere the hero status would have cost Zanu PF the Manicaland vote in the next elections. He said Zanu PF had already alienated itself from voters in the Matabeleland region by denying hero and heroine status to nationalists such as Thenjiwe Lesabe and the late trade unionist Gibson Sibanda.

“Mugabe wanted to save Zanu PF because it is on the verge of losing in Manicaland,” Makumbe said.

Why others were denied hero status

Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa has said his party denied Thenjiwe Lesabe and Zanu founder Ndabaningi Sithole hero status because they were not consistent after they joined other political parties. He said Lesabe had joined Zapu led by Dumiso Dabengwa while Sithole had formed Zanu Mwenje and therefore could not qualify as they were not consistent with the Zanu PF benchmarks.

Just like Tekere, Sithole was at the core of setting up Zanu but was buried at his farm in rural Chipinge district. Zimbabwe Standard