Freedom Heroine Burial Rekindles Debate Over National Status

By Sij Ncube

MHANGURA, July 13, 2015– SCORES of people from across the country’s political divide on Saturday paid homage to the late armed struggle heroine, Freedom Nyamubaya with speaker after speaker describing her as an undisputed heroine of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation who deserved national heroine status.

She joined the liberation struggle as a shy teenager in 1975 after finishing her Form Two in Mutoko, before proceeding to make her mark in the battle front.

But when Nyamubaya breathed her last on Sunday last week at Chinhoyi Hospital after complaining of hypertension, the Zanu (PF) leadership refused her national heroine status despite her being one of the liberation party’s outstanding female cadres, rekindling debate on the criteria used to determine hero status of citizens.

However, this did not stop both friend and foe from thronging Freedom Farm, her last resting place, deep inside Mhangura, to pay homage to the controversial struggle heroine who had no qualms during her lifetime in taking head-on the Zanu (PF) elite in public or even in her poetic works.

In one interview she famously said: “When we came back (from war), the men were heroes, but the women were not heroines. We were called prostitutes and mischievous people.”

Speakers at the funeral expressed loss of words why the Zanu (PF) leadership failed to accord her a national hero status considering that she was one of few cadres that carried arms and fought the colonial regime. Why, is it because of her outspokenness or controversial character?

Former Attorney General Sobusa Gula Ndebele, set the ball-rolling when he intimated to mourners it is a travesty of justice to deny her national heroine status, pointing out she outshined most so-called war veterans of the liberation struggle. Nyamubaya, a writer and poet of repute, has not been given the respect she deserved as a heroine, he said.  

“We are burying  a national heroine. She fought gallantly and is one of few female cadres that were in the battle front-line fighting the colonial regime,” said Gula Ndebele.

“It is shocking and embarrassing (that she has been denied what she deserves) but all genuine war veterans know her credentials and heroics during the struggle. She does not need anyone to declare her a hero of Zimbabwe’s struggle. Her actions spoke on their own,” said Gula, much to the applause of scores of people who flocked to her burial.

Gula, who resigned as AG a few years ago after a fall-out with President Robert Mugabe’s administration, fought alongside Nyamubaya during the war of liberation which culminated to independence from colonial Britain in 1980.

She fought under to command of the late army general Solomon Mujuru and Air Marshal Parence Shiri, among other male ex-combatants that nurtured her to be a fearless freedom fighter she was during the war of liberation.

She was also at one time under the tutelage of the late Wilfred Mhanda, aka Dzinashe Machingura.

Chris Mutsvangwa, the minister of War Veterans, was also at pains to explain why she was given provincial status.

On his part Mutsvangwa chronicled her heroics in the battle field, saying she fought alongside her together with other cadres, adding that it was a miracle she survived some of the incursions of the Rhodesian forces.

“She is our hero and nobody doubts that,” he said.

Not only was she a dedicated female heroine who shrugged it off in the push against the settler regime, she was a published English poet who used her literal works to shed light on the goings-on in the struggle and Zanu(PF).

Some claim she was denied a top status as she was perceived a rebel alongside the likes of Mhanda.

One speaker revealed how she embarrassed the Zanu (PF) government less than 10 years into independence when she undertook a one-person demonstration demanding land reform.

 “She removed her clothes at the offices of the then ministry responsible for land demanding that she be allocated a farm,” Wilfred Sadomba, a war veteran and University of Zimbabwe lecturer, who closely worked with Freedom before and after independence, told mourners.  “She did not get this farm after the land reform but staged a one-woman protest.”

The government, embarrassed by her nude protest, was forced to give her a farm she later named Freedom Farm. It is at this piece of land where her body was interred on Saturday.  

Others claimed she was regarded as an enemy due to her links with the Zimbabwe Liberators Forum led by the late Mhanda as well as her consorting with Simba Makoni’s Mavambo. She was known to be close to academicians Ibbo Mandaza and Fay Chung.

Apart from Gula Ndebele, Mandaza and Chung, other prominent people that thronged her burial included senior civil servants, former Zanu (PF) national political commissar Webster Shamu and his wife and legislator Kindness Paradza, all of who were expelled from Zanu PF for allegedly being allies to former vice president Joice Mujuru, opposition politicians.

A number of white commercial farmers were also in attendance and former MDC national spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi, civil society activists, lawyers and journalists.