By Farai Sibanda
Bulawayo, August 13, 2013 – President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party on Monday hijacked the government sponsored Heroes Day commemorations in Bulawayo and Matabeleland provinces and turned them into election victory celebration parties.
President Mugabe and Zanu PF defeated the two MDC formations in last month’s harmonised elections by 61 percent although the results are being contested in court by outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
In Bulawayo the commemorations were held at Nkulumane Heroes Acre and the place was painted green as hundreds of Zanu PF supporters clad in party regalia gathered at the venue even though the party lost all parliamentary and council seats in the country’s second largest city.
“Today is our day, under Zanu PF we liberated this country and we have also taken this opportunity to celebrate our win in elections,” war veteran Moses Mhlanga said during the celebrations.
Outgoing Bulawayo Governor Cain Mathema led the proceedings and read out Mugabe’s speech .The two MDCs formations boycotted the event just like they did in Harare.
“Celebrating Heroes Day must not and cannot be a measurement in terms of going to one of the districts, provincial or indeed national heroes’ shrine. In the MDC we celebrate, recognize and respect this day in the true spirit of patriots, we do this in various ways and at different locations,” said Nhlanhla Dube spokesperson for the Welshman Ncube-led MDC party.
In Matabeleland South, the celebrations were held at the provincial Heroes’ Acre in Gwanda with mostly Zanu PF supporters in party regalia in attendance. A huge number of police and army officers also attended the commemorations. For the first time since independence Zanu PF won all 13 parliamentary seats in Matabeleland South province. The province used to be PF Zapu and MDC’s stronghold.
In Matabeleland North, the government event was also turned into another Zanu PF rally. The party supporters started singing liberation songs and dancing at Lupane Business Centre in the morning. The commemorations were later held at the provincial Heroes’ Acre adjacent to the business centre with several army chiefs leading the proceedings. Matabeleland North Governor Thokozile Mathuthu also attended the annual event.
In his Heroes’ Day statement, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai bemoaned the death of democracy in the country.
“Zimbabwe, we commemorate Heroes Day and Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day at a time we are mourning the death of democracy in our country. I however want you to remain strong. Our heroes died for a cause and we will achieve that cause. Freedom, democracy and prosperity are our birthright and we will continue fighting,” said Tsvangirai, whose party officials boycotted attending the main commemorations held in Harare.
Meanwhile, Zipra war veterans, who held separate Heroes’ Day celebrations in Sizinda suburb in Bulawayo, said they were living like paupers because of government mistreatment although they fought to liberate the country.
“We are living like destitutes. The government respects the fallen heroes more than the living ones. We are hungry as war veterans. The money we are getting is peanuts. Most of us can’t work because we are now old. We need serious support from government,” said Lwazi Tsheza, the Bulawayo chairman of Zipra Veterans Trust.