By Mugove Tafirenyika
For the first time since independence, former president Robert Mugabe was a no-show at events marking the Heroes and Defence Forces holidays. The 94-year-old teetotaller used to preside over all the major events, including the Heroes and Defence Forces commemorations, in his capacity as head of State and government.
His absence at the national shrine on Monday and at the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday did not come as a surprise though.
Mugabe, who ruled with an iron fist for 37 years before he was ousted by the military last November, has not made secret his loathe for his successor, President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa, who presided over both events.
He accuses Mnangagwa of grabbing power from him and this self-evident bitterness over his dethronement is likely to have contributed to his absence and that of his family.
It was also not clear if he had been invited to attend although many still believe that even if no invitation had been extended to him, Mugabe should still have shown up to demonstrate his sense of patriotism.
In April, Mugabe was clearly not amused after Mnangagwa did not invite him to attend the country’s 38th independence celebrations.
For that reason, he passed the commemorations.
“I definitely was not invited to it (independence celebrations),” Mugabe said in a statement, following claims by Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba that he had snubbed their invitation.
“I did not freeze myself out of the so-called Uhuru. I, definitely, was not invited to it. This should put paid to all the comments that Charamba had to make on this matter,” he said.
This was after Charamba had claimed that: “Every Zimbabwean was invited to the celebrations, including those in the opposition and former government.”
Charamba had insinuated that Mugabe had primed himself for the event prior to his medical trip to Singapore a few weeks before.
The presidential spokesperson was not taking calls to his mobile phone when the Daily News tried to seek his comment on the latest development.
Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu, who was the master of ceremonies at the Heroes Day event, could not say whether government had formally invited Mugabe to attend, in his capacity as former head of State as well as an icon of the liberation struggle.
“I am not the spokesperson for government functions so that information can only be obtained from the presidential spokesperson. You can talk to him about that,” Mpofu told the Daily News yesterday.
While still president, Mugabe would use the Heroes and Defence Forces events to pay tribute to those who contributed to the country’s independence and the role of the military in safeguarding Zimbabwe’s territorial integrity.
It was also his trademark to take pot-shots at opposition parties, especially the main MDC party, whose leaders consistently boycotted the events in protest over Mugabe’s politics of exclusion.
Mugabe would emphasise the point that in spite of their differences, opposition leaders should join Zanu PF in commemorating these national events.
The national shrine occupies a special place in the hearts of the Mugabes.
It is at the National Heroes Acre where Mugabe’s first wife, Sally was buried as well as his late sister, Sabina.
Their graves used to be the centre of attraction during the annual Heroes Day commemorations, as invited guests would make a beeline to lay wreaths in order to curry favour with the Mugabes.
On Monday, no single relative, Zanu PF official or ruling party faithful could be seen besides these graves.
Also, the large flower bouquets that the former first family used to bring along — as government officials fell over each other to show their solidarity with them — were nowhere to be seen.
Just like the just-ended harmonised elections, this year’s celebrations will go down in history as the first since independence in 1980 to be presided over by someone who is not the fallen despot.
Perhaps it is a piece of history not sitting well with the former head of state. And because it is a piece of history he cannot erase from the archives, he would rather not be part of the events. – DailyNews