Family rebuffs Mugabe on Mabhena’s national hero status

NATIONAL hero Welshman Mabhena’s family yesterday rejected the honour of having the former PF-Zapu secretary-general buried at the national shrine, accusing President Robert Mugabe of shedding crocodile tears.

Mabhena’s brother, Norman, a former central committee member in both PF-Zapu and Zanu PF, told the Zimbabwe Independent that his brother told his family before he died that he did not want to be buried at the National Heroes Acre if the honour was extended to him because he had nothing anymore to do with Zanu PF and Mugabe.

This would come as a serious public snub to Mugabe and his Zanu PF politburo.

Mugabe yesterday sent former Zapu chairman Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu to negotiate with the Mabhena family the need to bury the late nationalist at the Heroes Acre.

This followed a message sent to the family by Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo on Wednesday night informing them of the politburo decision to declare Mabhena a national hero. Moyo confirmed that he had informed the family that Mabhena had been declared a national hero.

However, the family rejected the honour, saying that Mabhena had clearly indicated that he did not want to be buried at the Heroes Acre if proclaimed a national hero, but in Bulawayo at Lady Stanley Cemetery.

Mugabe then dispatched Ndlovu to the Mabhena family to negotiate with them to accept the honour, but they declined, in a direct snub of Mugabe and his politburo.

Norman Mabhena said the family made it clear to Ndlovu, who is currently Senate deputy president, that they did not recognise the national hero status conferred on the former Matabeleland North governor.

He said the family was going ahead to bury Mabhena at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo tomorrow.

“Ndlovu came to the family house to discuss the issue and I told him to go back to tell Mugabe to leave us in peace, not in pieces,” Norman said. “Zanu PF should stop wasting our time because my brother had nothing to do with that party anymore. We are not accepting the national hero status because Mabhena said he didn’t want to be buried at a Zanu PF shrine (National Heroes Acre).”

Ndlovu confirmed that he met the family between 9am and 10am yesterday where he was told in no uncertain terms that the Mabhena family was rejecting the honour.
“I met the family and they told me of their decision (to reject the hero status) which we respect,” he said.

Mabhena died on Tuesday at his Bulawayo home and was declared a national hero following a lengthy politburo meeting on Wednesday.

Mabhena was a fierce Mugabe critic. Mugabe fired Mabhena as governor in 2000 after the latter accused him of sabotaging development in Matabeleland.

Norman Mabhena said it was sad that Zanu PF wanted his brother to be buried at the National Heroes acre when they neglected him from 2000 until the time of his death.

He said Mugabe declared that the national shrine was a Zanu PF burial place and that disqualified Mabhena who was no longer a member of any party.

“Mabhena was no longer a Zanu PF member or any party and thus he can’t be decorated by Mugabe as a national hero because his record speaks for itself,” Norman Mabhena said. “My brother told the family before he died that he didn’t want Mugabe to declare him a national hero after being victimised and abused for complaining about underdevelopment in the region.

“Zanu PF is trying to play politics,” Norman Mabhena said. “They are now declaring our brother a national hero when he has been suffering in the last 10 years due to neglect by the same government he served. Mabhena fought the struggle and worked hard for this country but was treated badly after that. Zanu PF should not pretend to love him now that he has died.”

Mabhena took part in the liberation struggle and was detained by the Ian Smith regime at Whawha and Salisbury prisons for several years. He was the PF Zapu secretary-general before the Unity Accord in 1987 and became a member of the Zanu PF central committee before rising to the politburo. He was also a minister before becoming a provincial governor.

Mabhena was instrumental in the negotiation of the Unity Accord which ended the massacres of civilians by the Fifth Brigade between 1982 and 1987.

At the height of tensions between Zanu and Zapu, Mabhena, alongside Joshua Nkomo, who was forced to flee the country after surviving an assassination attempt by government security forces, was one of the senior Zapu officials dismissed by Mugabe from government under the pretext of the discovery of an arms cache on Zapu properties.

Mabhena was arrested and detained by the Mugabe government alongside other senior Zapu officials and former Zipra commanders in the early 1980s for about two years, including Dumiso Dabengwa, Edward Ndlovu and Lookout Masuku, who died in 1986 soon after his release from atrocious prison conditions.

There was controversy over the former Zipra commander’s hero status, which resulted in him being buried at Lady Stanley Cemetery where Mabhena will be buried tomorrow.

Brian Chitemba