National heroes: history is more stubborn than ZANU PF thinks

Veteran nationalist, Cabinet Minister and gender equality activist Thenjiwe Lesabe, will be buried this Saturday.

If there was any lingering doubt in the minds of the most ardent Zanu PF zealots that their party had utterly lost the plot on the conferment of national hero status and reduced the special honour to a mere party spectacle, Didymus Mutasa will have conclusively cleared that today. The Zanu PF secretary for administration was quoted by the Herald giving the lamest excuse for his party's refusal to recognise Thenjiwe Lesabe, who died a few days ago, as a national heroine.
Asked why the veteran nationalist and gender equality crusader Lesabe had not been recognised as a national heroine, Mutasa had this to say:

“We could not confer her the national heroine status, which was her rightful status because she was not consistent when she joined Zapu led by Dabengwa,” said Mutasa, referring to Lesabe's withdrawal from Zanu PF to relaunch the country's oldest national liberation party PF Zapu along with Dumiso Dabengwa.

“When you become a member of Zanu PF, a revolutionary party, you need to be consistent and by joining Zapu, that was deemed not to be consistent. Zapu members are still part and parcel of Zanu PF because of the agreement that we signed and nobody should go against that agreement” said Mutasa. “Ndabaningi Sithole was treated the same way even though he was at the core of setting up Zanu, so if we treat others differently, we would also fail to be consistent ourselves as the party.”

His argument seems to be no more than a defence of Zanu PF's original cock-up in monopolising the conferment of national hero status and reducing the criteria to party activism rather than national service. In short, what Mutasa is saying is that since Zanu PF decided to make national hero status a party affair, doing the right thing and making the process truly national would undermine Mugabe and Zanu PF's parochialism!

Mutasa has also inadvertently passed a verdict on the hero status of all the surviving nationalists who have since left Zanu PF, such as Dabengwa himself and Edgar Tekere, who left Zanu PF to form ZUM in the late 1980s. Of course, the most significant point out of all this is the total discrediting of the institution of national hero status. At this rate, it is not unthinkable that the families of those heroes who were buried at the national shrine but had in their lifetime come to loathe the corruption and personalisation of the institution of hero status by Mugabe and his Politburo, will claim the remains of their loved ones to rebury them elsewhere and avoid the infamy with which the National Heroes Acre is now seen by ordinary Zimbabweans.

Most profoundly, many Zimbabweans have now come to recognise heroism apart from Zanu PF pronouncements, and whatever Mugabe says of those with whom he does not agree politically, if people see them as heroes, then heroes they will forever be.

Of all the women who lie buried at the national shrine, none had independent political profiles apart from their husbands: Mugabe's first wife Sally, Edson Zvobgo's wife Julia, and Joshua Nkomo's wife Mama Mafuyana. Lesabe joined the struggle out of her own individual convictions and went on to lead an illustrious political career both during and after the struggle for independence.

Amos Ngwenya has written an epitah for Lesabe detailing her long political involvement in the leadership of the nationalist movement. She is a woman of many pioneering achievements, and her unwavering commitment to freedom and national development stayed with her till the end. She refused to remain a part of Mugabe's destructive ambition to hang on to power for life at the expense of national freedom and progress and decided to join other former PF Zapu cadres to revive Zimbabwe's oldest national liberation party.

It's pitiful that Mutasa, in dismissing her eligibility for national hero status, mentions without a hint of irony that Zanu PF is a revolutionary party, as if to suggest that Zapu, in contrast, is a counter-revolutionary one. Luckily, no one with at least half a brain is vulnerable to Zanu PF's attempts to re-write history to the tastes of Mugabe and his Zanu PF Politburo.

The struggle has many surviving witnesses. Some of their stories have since been committed to print, and many more will record their experiences and provide, for the benefit of anyone who cares to inquire, a wide source of information to feed the nation's historical memory. There is nothing that Mugabe and his Politburo can do to foist their version of history on the national consciousness. In fact, they are writing themselves into history as hapless control freaks who mistakenly thought that they had the power to create history by dint of official pronouncements.

Fortunately we live in the information society now, and there's no Brother big enough to stop the truth of Lesabe's heroism and that of many others from reaching the eager ears of posterity!