The Zanu (PF) politburo met in Harare on Wednesday and agreed to give Mabhena a national hero status, but his family would have none of it.
Family spokesman Norman Mabhena said the deceased told the family when he was still alive that he did not want to be buried at the National shrine.
He also said he did not want to be buried at the national shrine because President Robert Mugabe last week said the heroes acre was meant for ‘Zanu PF people only’.
He also complained that the party victimised his brother for championing the cause of development in Matabeleland.
“That is their own declaration, my brother is a national hero whether he is declared or not.
He was humiliated and labelled a tribalist when he talked about issues of Matabeleland. He declared that when he dies no one should touch his body and take him to the National Heroes Acre.
As a family we are going ahead with the burial at Lady Stanley Cemetery because that is what Welshman said.”
In 2000, Mabhena was humiliated when he was re-appointed Matabeleland North governor only to be told that he had been dropped after travelling to Harare for the swearing in ceremony.
He was replaced by Obert Mpofu who is now Minister of Mines and Mining Development.
Speaking to ZBC Newsnet on Wednesday night, Zanu (PF) Secretary for Information and Publicity Rugare Gumbo said the party’s Politburo had unanimously declared Mabhena a National Hero.
“We have consulted with the family. The date of the burial would be announced later but the truth of the matter is that he has been declared a national hero because he was a solid fighter, patriot who went into retirement.”
“Most of the people who knew him and worked closely with him said he had not left the party,” said Gumbo. “He might have been disappointed because he had not been appointed governor in 2000 but those things do happen.”
Mabhena (86) died at his Four Winds home on Tuesday morning. He had for long been fighting diabetes and high blood pressure.
Former Zanu (PF) cabinet minister Enos Nkala described Mabhena as a principled politician who never acted like a chameleon.
“I met him before he joined politics and we became friends and met in politics in the ANC of 1953 which was later led by the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo. We met again at the UNDP as well as Zapu,” said Nkala.
“He was one of the solid fighters for independence. After the split of Zapu, Mabhena was detained at Gonakudzingwa while we from the Zanu side went to Sikombela.”
“He never joined any party until after the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987 when he briefly served as Minister for Political Affairs and we worked closely together until I left Government in 1989,” said Nkala.
He said Mabhena was made unpopular by his desire to have the region developed and that angered the party leadership.
A veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, Mabhena strongly advocated for an autonomous Matebeleland State saying the region had been marginalised for years.
Mugabe, who does not take kindly to any criticism against his rule, let alone from a member of his party, has adamantly blocked the burial of his critics at the national shrine, defying strong national sentiment.
Political observers say Mugabe and his party would have ignited a backlash from its narrowing support base in the politically restive Matebeleland region if he had done the same on Mabhena, whose war credentials were seen as impeccable as those of the late Nkomo.
Critics say Mabhena who was one of the most respected political leaders in Matebeleland and a close ally to the late Nkomo, had a great chance to become one of Zimbabwe’s two Vice Presidents if he had not rubbished Mugabe’s rule.
During his post independence political career, Mabhena, a shoemaker by profession, served as PF Zapu legislator for Nkayi.
At that time, he was the secretary general of the party and in 1987 after the united Zanu (PF) was born, Mabhena became the new Matabeleland North provincial chairman.
In 1990, Mabhena, who was the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, was appointed Minister of State for Political Affairs.
He was later appointed Governor, a post he held until he was dropped by Mugabe in July 2000.
Mabhena is survived by three children, 12 grandchildren and two great grand children.
Mourners are gathered at Number 12 Amatja Road in Four Winds.