By Fungi Kwaramba
HARARE – War veteran Margaret Dongo, has blasted Zanu PF for its failure to honour genuine war heroes like the late Wilfred Mhanda, whose burial passed unnoticed by the ruling elite.
Mhanda, an indisputable national hero who fought tenaciously to free this country, died of colon cancer last week on Wednesday at the State-run Parirenyatwa Hospital.
The ruling party flatly refused to entertain recognition of the distinguished former Zanla commander, whose nom de guerre was Dzinashe Machingura, with the party’s top brass ruling out the honour for the ex-war commander who turned into a staunch critic of the ruling Zanu PF.
Margaret Dongo, an ex-combatant, told the Daily News yesterday that most of the persons buried at the Heroes Acre do not deserve the status.
“That was a serious betrayal. Most of the heroes, the fighters are not being buried at the Heroes Acre and only nationalists, who were enjoying life in foreign countries receiving education are getting that privilege, while the likes of Dzino who were fighting have been forgotten,” said Dongo.
The former legislator for Harare South, who co-founded the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association to secure the rights of marginalised war veterans in 1989, said her heart bled whenever she came face to face with forgotten heroes.
“War veterans were young during the war, they are not at the Heroes Acre, now I think enough is enough we should have a voice.
“The problem with Zanu PF is they take grudges to the graveyards, they don’t forgive. It is unfortunate that those who brought about this independence are not buried at the so-called National Heroes Acre,” said Dongo.
Notwithstanding their glowing contribution to the liberation struggle the likes of Zanu founder Ndabaningi Sithole, veteran nationalist Thenjiwe Lesabe and Lookout Masuku were denied hero status by Mugabe, who last year declared that the “national shrine” is only for Zanu PF cadres.
Speaking at the burial of Kumbirai Kangai, Mugabe said in Shona and English: “Inga takati zvuru zvakawanda. Ngavatsvagewo zvavo zvuru. Isu takatsvaga chedu, tikabhadhara paida kubhadharwa kuti tivige magamba edu.”
“(We told them that there are many places they can choose to bury their own heroes. This is ours and we chose it and paid for it),” Mugabe famously declared.
Dongo told the Daily News that it was time that war veterans came together and corrected historical distortions authored by Zanu PF.
“It is high time that war veterans come together and challenge the politburo monopoly. How can you call something national when you abandon some deserving heroes simply because they differed with you?”
Dongo said the banishing of heroes like Mhanda will ultimately backfire on Zanu PF.
“The history of this country has been distorted. One thing that is embarrassing is that (Rugare) Gumbo was part of the Mhanda Vashandi Rebellion team so was (Police commissioner general Augustine) Chihuri who came back from the war through the back door,” said Dongo. Daily News