Zanu PF on Tuesday declared Masawi, former Mashonaland Central governor who died on Saturday, a national hero, attracting a barrage of criticism from the two MDC formations.
Addressing mourners at the Heroes Acre, Mugabe said the shrine was reserved for his Zanu PF cronies who participated in the liberation struggle and not workers’ leaders — in an apparent reference to former trade unionist Gibson Sibanda and premier in the inclusive government, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe said: “The Heroes’ Acre is a place for those who fought for the liberation of the country. It’s not a place for everyone; there are a lot of people who did good things, including pastors but they can’t be buried here.
“Those who lead others be it at workplaces, cannot be buried at the Heroes’ Acre; we can look for another shrine for them. Those who were buried here were involved in the war to liberate Zimbabwe.”
But the MDC-T fired a broadside at Mugabe, saying the shrine had lost its national status.
The party spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Zanu PF was monopolising the discussion of who is accorded hero status.
“It’s a Zanu PF heroes acre, it’s no longer a national shrine and Zanu PF must be ashamed,” said Chamisa.
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said they were not concerned by the MDC formations’ boycott of Masawi’s burial, saying the selection of national heroes was not an inclusive government issue and remained a prerogative of Zanu PF.
“Why should they (MDC-T and MDC-M) be consulted on the heroes’ status of our cadres? Most of them were students in 1980 (when Zimbabwe gained Independence),” he said.
“The conferment of heroes’ status is done by the party and not the inclusive government. The criterion is that those who fought in the liberation struggle deserve to be buried here.”
Gumbo accused the MDC formations of failing to understand the meaning of a hero.
MDC-M spokesman Edwin Mushoriwa said his party boycotted the Masawi burial because they did not believe the former Zanu PF deputy spokesman deserved to be buried at the national shrine.
“We strongly dispute how Mugabe and his club choose heroes,” Mushoriwa said. “There are people like Gibson Sibanda (the late MDC-M vice-president) and Zanu Ndonga president Ndabaningi Sithole who were denied a chance to be at the Heroes’ Acre. Therefore, the boycott was a protest against Mugabe and Zanu PF’s monopoly over state issues.”
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara last month attacked Mugabe for refusing to accord hero’s status to the late Sibanda.
The issue of national heroes is one of the 24 agreed matters in the Global Political Agreement (GPA). According to the implementation matrix by the three principals, a cabinet committee on honours and awards is supposed to be set up within two months from August 5.
The committee will be tasked with deciding who should be accorded national hero status.
A report by the negotiators to the Sadc facilitation team noted MDC-T and MDC-M were worried about Zanu PF’s monopoly over the selection of national heroes.
“MDC-T and MDC-M made the point that national heroes are currently determined by only one political party without a legal regulatory framework,” read the negotiators’ report. “They raised the need for a statutory body, perhaps chaired by a vice-president to set the criteria for the selection of national, provincial and district heroes and to determine who qualifies in terms of the criteria.”
German Ambassador Albrecht Conze and US envoy Charles Ray, who walked out at Mugabe’s sister, Sabina’s burial in August, also boycotted yesterday’s event.
The diplomats left the shrine after Mugabe attacked Western nations saying they should go to hell for interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
MDC-T, MDC-M and Zanu PF, under the GPA, formed an inclusive government last year to end a decade-long political and economic crisis.
Zanu PF is blamed for the economic recession as a result of policy inconsistencies and massive corruption.
Mugabe yesterday reiterated that Western investors should stay away if they do not want to cede a controlling stake to Zimbabweans.
There has been swelling criticism over the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which economists warn could scare away potential investors.
The indigenisation policy seeks to give 51%shareholding to locals in existing businesses, with the owners given a five-year period to comply.
The 86-year-old leader insisted that those willing to invest in Zimbabwe should come as partners in a way defined by the indigenisation regulations.
“Our resources are ours; they belong to sons and daughters of Zimbabwe. Those who want to share resources must get permission. Zimbabweans should be major shareholders and the investors must accept it,” said Mugabe.
He defended the indigenisation laws, saying no investors should be scared.
“If they don’t agree with our terms they should stay out. They want to find a way to control us but we say no. Let them stay away from our resources. Zimbabwe will never be a colony again,” said Mugabe.