Hard-line Zimbabwe generals salute Tsvangirai

HARARE – In Zimbabwe there is wanning pockets of resistence as beleaguered generals known as hard-line supporters of Robert Mugabe have saluted former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

During presidential campaigning last year, generals vowed never to salute Tsvangirai, saying their loyalty was to Mugabe. That makes the mark of respect they showed Tuesday significant.

Tsvangirai was attending his first Armed Forces Day as prime minister.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the presidential first round, then pulled out of a run-off because of state-sponsored violence. Tsvangirai and Mugabe entered a coalition in February.

Most of the country’s generals are veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war, which the 57-year-old Tsvangirai is too young to have fought. Mugabe, who is 85, has been in power since independence in 1980.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday said Zimbabweans who have fought for the unity government should also be regarded as heroes.

Zimbabwe commemorated Heroes holiday on Monday in which those who contributed to the war of liberation that brought Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 are remembered.

"It is important that, on this our nation’s Heroes Day, we recognise the contribution of these unique Zimbabweans who, like our liberation heroes, were guided by a vision of a country whose inhabitants could live and prosper in a free, open and democratic society."

"As a society we have been blessed with the presence of extraordinary individuals from all walks of life, from all races, tribal backgrounds and religions who have put the interest and welfare of their fellow individuals above their own needs.

" …we acknowledge that heroes can arise in all periods of a nation’s  development, in peace and prosperity as well as in times of war.  Just as Zimbabwe today is governed by an inclusive agreement, so the definition of our nations’ heroes must also be inclusive. No one group has the right to dictate to the nation who should be deemed a hero for this undermines the integrity of such an institution."

"It is also on this day that we must consider what it is that makes a hero. Just as a country’s history dictates its substance, so the heroes that that country chooses to recognise dictate the character of the nation," he said.

"Such is the turbulent history of our nation, from its birth out of civil war towards maturity as a democratic state, that many of our heroes rose to prominence in times of conflict and strife. Their sacrifices must be recognised and praised."