Robert Mugabe has reportedly relented to pressure from his inner cabal and Zimbabweans at large over the national hero status of the late veteran nationalist Edgar Tekere.
The decision comes amid reports that Zimbabwe’s hero’s status row has been brought to the attention of the Zimbabwe mediator, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma.
Minutes of a meeting held on June 02 by negotiators from the three parties in the coalition government revealed that the negotiators had reached a deadlock on the issue. The issue is under Article VIII of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which addresses the “respect of national institutions and events”.
“The parties restated the continued absence of consensus on which organ should determine national hero status on deceased persons,” read part of the minutes of the meeting, which were a confirmation of a May 5, 2011 inter-party talks in Cape Town, South Africa.
“The parties referred the matter to the facilitator to engage the principals with a view to finding an appropriate solution to the dispute.”
The report, a copy of which is in possession of this reporter, was compiled and signed by all the six negotiators from Zanu (PF) and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions.
Coalition partners in government have accused Zanu (PF) of monopolising the process of declaring national hero status on outstanding citizens and are calling for an all inclusive process that is not dominated by politicians. The MDC wants the highest honour bestowed on outstanding citizens to be extended to other facets such as sports, arts and business.
President Robert Mugabe and his party’s Politburo continue to use the process to spite perceived enemies of the party especially those who withdrew their loyalty to the ageing leader citing different reasons. Mugabe is adamant the national shrine is for those who fought in the country’s liberation struggle and has derisively told those who believe they deserve a place there to “look for their own mountain”.
However, the party’s Secretary for Administration, Didymus Mutasa on Thursday announced that Tekere had been declared a national hero and that burial arrangements will be known later.
Tekere’s family had already made arrangements for his burial in keeping with his wish not be buried “among thieves and killers”. The family had planned to hold a send-off church service at his Mutare home on Friday morning and later bury him at the Yeoville Cemetery in his home town in Mutare before they were asked by Zanu (PF) to put their plans on hold.
Ibbo Mandaza, the Tekere family spokesperson confirmed Zanu (PF) had promised to give them a decision on Thursday.
Despite the maverick politician’s estranged relationship with Zanu (PF) Tekere was much loved by multitudes of Zimbabweans especially for his stand on corruption, opposition to one party state and his opposition to Mugabe’s excesses.
Yesterday, Manicaland province sent party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa to plead with President Mugabe to forgive Tekere and accord him hero status as doing otherwise could prove detrimental to the President’s political career.
He replied: “That is why I am here. I want to meet the President over the issue.”
Meanwhile, a high-powered delegation from Manicaland led by chairman Mike Madiro, descended on Harare to mobilise support from politburo members.
“The chairman is in Harare where he is running around to see to it that Cde Tekere is buried at the National Heroes’ Acre. We have reached a unanimous decision as a party because he fought for the freedom that we are enjoying right now,” said Zanu PF central committee member Esau Mupfumi.
Last night, Mutasa said all politburo members were not against Tekere being accorded hero status, but had to consult the family first.
Asked if the President had problems granting Tekere the status, he said: “Why should the President have a problem with that decision, when he worked with him so tightly and hard? We need to get the family’s acceptance first. I’m going to meet the family tomorrow, talk to them and hear their views. I am not going to make an announcement today (yesterday), but tomorrow (today),” said Mutasa.
This he said amid speculation that Zanu PF was avoiding the same embarrassment they suffered last year when they accorded the late Welshman Mabhena hero status only for his family to refuse to have him buried at the national shrine.
Zanu founder member and former Defence minister Enos Nkala said: “No one in the current party’s politburo qualifies to deliberate on the heroism of the late nationalist Edgar Tekere. Tekere is just a hero because he is a hero. We do not have to go to the Zanu PF politburo.
Who is (President) Mugabe to declare Tekere a hero? We started Zanu PF in my house and invited him (President Mugabe) from Ghana to join us. He has destroyed Zanu PF, a massive party.
Whether they declare him (Tekere) hero or not, they are a funny crowd of looters. They are servants of (President) Mugabe.”
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said: “In terms of heroism, this is as good as it gets. There is no Zimbabwean hero, dead or alive, who has a higher rank of heroism than Edgar Tekere. He is heroism personified.
“No one can carry out a discussion about the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe without invoking the name Edgar Tekere.”
The MDC led by Welshman Ncube described Tekere as a stalwart of the liberation struggle who truly deserved national hero status.
“He is one of the luminaries of the struggle for independence, who have earned their hero status. He is indeed an undisputable national hero,” said the party spokesman, Nhlanhla Dube.
The MDC-T described Tekere as a fearless fighter.
“Zimbabweans will remember Tekere as a leader who left Zanu PF and government soon after the country attained independence due to his disillusionment with the betrayal of the ideals of the liberation struggle.
“He could not tolerate massive corruption, looting and harassment, persecution and murder of political opponents by the establishment,” said the party.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai failed to address mourners at Tekere’s house in Mutare after Zanu PF supporters burst into song when he tried to speak and only stopped after he had left.