By Professor Matodzi
Harare, August 31, 2013 –President Robert Mugabe on Saturday declared that his Zanu PF party will permanently enjoy the unilateral right to determine and confer hero status on Zimbabweans despite calls for an overhaul of the criteria employed.
Mugabe defended the conferment of hero status to his loyalists and reiterated that there will be no opportunity to honour those outside his cabal, for his Zanu PF party cadres fought for the liberation of the country from colonialists.
Speaking at the burial of the late Zanu PF politburo member, Kumbirai Kangai, one of his liberation war strategists, Mugabe said his party will exclusively continue to determine the conferment of national hero status.
“Hero status will only be conferred on Zanu PF dedicated cadres committed to the country’s cause.
Those who claim to want to be conferred hero’s status must construct their own shrines to bury their own heroes,” said Mugabe, who addressed mourners at the National Heroes Shrine located on the outskirts of the capital, Harare.
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party has on several occasions demanded an overhaul of the criteria for conferring national hero status and proposed an inclusive approach marked with distinct benchmarks to determine the qualification.
Zanu PF’s highest decision making body, the Politburo has for several years determined who qualifies to be a national hero, a status which is usually conferred on dead veterans of the liberation war. The declared heroes enjoy the benefits of a state funeral, burial at the national shrine and assistance to the surviving family members.
The conferment has been criticised in the past for sidelining liberation war veterans such as James Chikerema, Lookout Masuku and Ndabaningi Sithole, who were disregarded for the honour after differing with Mugabe over party policies and governance of the country.
Meanwhile, Mugabe took mourners through a history lesson on the tribulations suffered by former freedom fighters during the liberation war.
He criticised Zimbabweans who have failed to condemn western governments that have imposed targeted sanctions on some of his lieutenants.
The Zanu PF leader pledged to be tolerant to some of his political foes and spoke against the seizure of the country’s natural resources including mines by his cronies.
“We are emerging from a difficult period. So we need to rebuild and grow the economy. We must not endorse the grabbing of natural resources such as seizing gold mines in provinces…..We will live in harmony with our domestic political opponents, Mugabe said in a eulogy punctuated by biblical orations.