Ibbo Mandaza wants Tekere Hero burial

EDGAR Tekere’s biographer Dr Ibbo Mandaza has called on the government to honour him by declaring him a national hero and lay him at the National Heroes’ Acre – against his expressed wishes before his death.

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Liberation war hero Tekere died aged 74 on Tuesday after a battle with cancer.

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Despite sharing trenches with President Robert Mugabe, the two men crossed swords repeatedly after independence and Tekere was eventually dropped from government.

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He challenged Mugabe in the 1990 presidential election, further driving a wedge between the two.

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And in anger at his treatment by his former comrades, Tekere – described as almost destitute at the time of his death by Mandaza – declared he would rather not be buried at the Heroes Acre in Harare.

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But Mandaza, author of his official biography, A Lifetime of Struggle, insisted that such a decision could not be left to his personal wishes because of his illustrious history in nation building.

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“I think it’s not his decision, this is a decision to be made by the people of Zimbabwe. National hero status is a national issue, it goes beyond family it goes beyond individuals, that’s how I see it,” Mandaza told the Voice of America’s Sandra Nyaira from Harare.

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He added: “One hopes that the nation honours this man, like it has honoured some. It would be a travesty of history if the nation denies him a seat which he earned, a seat which was denied James Chikerema, Ndabaningi Sithole and many others like them.

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“Tekere fits into that category of founding nationalists of this country. It is important for the history of this country and nation building that we are seen to acknowledge without bias where a person has made his mark, or her mark.

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“We hope that the nation will honour him, the National Heroes’ Acre should be a national institution.”

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Bestowing national hero status has been the sole preserve of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party since 1980.

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After the controversy of a refusal to bestow the status on the MDC’s founding deputy president, Gibson Sibanda, President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba revealed that only individuals who fought in the liberation war qualified for the honour, but they had to be “consistent” – read as meaning that they should be Zanu PF members at the time of death.

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A little known formula for selecting heroes, said to have been devised by the late Edison Zvobgo, reportedly states: “The accent on the selection of heroes must fall on those persons to have pursued and promoted the ideals of the liberation struggle consistently and persistently, without deviating from the same, right through to the bitter end.”

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Tekere’s dalliance with opposition politics, although he rejoined Zanu PF in 2006, would appear to exclude him under that criteria.

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Said Mandaza: “If he is not honoured, we will honour him in our own way — those of us who have lived with him and looked after him all these years since he left government, and had no livelihood.

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“He is lucky he had many friends who were able to look after him as we are doing now to the very end.

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“All he had was a meagre pension, not even enough to meet his day-to-day expenses.

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“Many of us had to assist with medical bills and school fees for his daughter Maidei. This was brought to the attention of those who shared the trenches with him, many times, but sadly the party of liberation has been a sad failure with respect to how they care for their own people.

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“It’s a sad indictment of the party of liberation that to this day, there is no institution which cares for its veterans except selectively. Others have got fat on the benefits of the State, and yet others have been left behind.”

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Mandaza told how Tekere’s last days were a lonely battle with aggressive cancer which saw him being hospitalised several times.

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He revealed: “We brought him to hospital in Harare last October and he had began some chemotherapy which was too heavy for him and it was stopped. They gave him alternative medication.

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“As time went by, he just deteriorated until last week he went into hospital for four days. On Monday this week, we had to rush him to hospital and he succumbed this afternoon at 1.30PM.

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“It’s a loss, but at the same time he had suffered from this illness.”

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