Gono conferred national heroe status

The Central Bank Governor died on Wednesday in a car crash on his way to Chiredzi. Details of his death have remained sketchy and it has been a closed State classified secret amid reports of a high profile murder investigation underway.

Today, the State newspaper, The Herald and his website, newzimbabwe.com have gone on a spin spree with an alleged Gono interview claiming that he is alive and well.

The announcement of Mr Gono’s death has been delayed due to the absence of President Robert Mugabe who is attending Mozambique’s 25th Independence anniversary.

Meanwhile, mourners have gathered at Gono’s Donnington Farm in Norton, and last night Senior Zanu PF and MDC officials were barred by security agents from visiting the farm or speaking to the media about as tensions boiled.

When The Zimbabwe Mail reporter called Police Spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena for more details, he was told by his secretary that he had gone to Beit Bridge and he would be back on Saturday.

Mr Gono was related to Robert Mugabe’s wife and he was the First Family’s banker.

Gono was never involved in the Zimbabwe war of liberation, but he was one the first members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) who infiltrated white businesses masquerading as tea-boys, messengers and office cleaners, in the years soon after independence.

When Zimbabwe gained independence, Robert Mugabe identified strategic businesses to take over and hence the country’s sole National Breweries was targeted, Gono was then assigned by the CIO Director-General Ken Flower to spy on the Natbrew management who were largely white.

From Natbrew, he was moved to Saltrama Plastics as Finance Manager, and from there he joined the government’s Zimbabwe Development Bank and he was later transfered to terrorist linked Bank of Credit and Commerce Zimbabwe (BCCZ) and when its parent company BCC International was liquidated due international money laundering charges, Zimbabwe government acquired its assets and formed CBZ, headed Gideon Gono.

In Zimbabwe, the Zanu PF politburo is currently the only body that accords the title of "national hero" – almost exclusively given to dead veterans of the 1970s bush war for independence. National heroes are buried at the National Heroes Acre – a shrine on the outskirts of Harare – and their spouses get state support.

The granting of hero status has been a contentious issue in Zimbabwe. Hero status is the highest honour that an individual can be accorded in recognition of his or her contribution to the struggle and success of a nation, whatever field it may be.

Since independence in 1980 more than 80 heroes and heroines have been interred at the country’s national shrine, situated just outside Harare’s city centre.

But the national hero’s status bestowed on some of the men and women buried at the shrine has reignited debate about what constitutes heroism and the relevance of the National Heroes Act, which gives the President, in this case Robert Mugabe, exclusive authority to designate national heroes.

Some Zimbabweans argue that Zanu (PF) has usurped the Act and reduced patriotism to party loyalty, allegiance and service. Presently, the Zanu (PF) politburo, the party’s supreme decision-making organ confers the hero status.

Since 1980 not even one member of the opposition has been buried at the national shrine, vindicating critics who argue the honour is a preserve for Zanu (PF) members.

Besides Sithole, James Chikerema, another veteran of the protracted liberation struggle and a relative of Mugabe was laid to rest in Zvimba, his rural home, after "differing with the ZANU-PF party in a major way."

Early this year, ZANU- Ndonga has petitioned Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to review the hero status of their party’s late leader Ndabaningi Sithole.

Sithole, who distinguished himself in the liberation struggle,died in 2000 and was buried at his rural home in Chipinge despite protests from several Zimbabweans who were convinced that he deserved to be honoured as a national hero.

But in a letter written to Tsvangirai, ZANU-Ndonga petitioned the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader to take a leading role in convincing the two leaders of the coalition government to appraise the hero status of Sithole.

At the time of his death Sithole was facing charges of plotting to kill President Robert Mugabe, charges which he denied.

"As you already know Honourable Prime Minister, ZANU Ndonga’s position is that the treatment that the late Reverend Sithole got when he passed on, was not reflective of the role that he played in the struggle for the liberation of this country.

The fact that Reverend Sithole played a significant role is not an overstatement as you also echoed similar statements at his burial at Freedom Farm in Mount Selinda Chipinge on the 18th of December 2000. We would therefore be grateful if you were to give us feedback on this issue and kindly request you to pursue the subject if nothing has been done to date," read part of the letter written by ZANU-Ndonga national chairman Reketayi Mushiwokufa Semwayo.