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‘Our dad is a national hero’

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The late MDC-M vice- president Gibson Sibanda’s daughter, Thandiwe, yesterday said her father deserved to be accorded national hero status given his contribution to the country before and after Independence.

Sibanda, who was also former state minister for national healing, died of cancer on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara’s call to President Robert Mugabe to confer Sibanda with national hero status was snubbed.

The President’s Office on Tuesday announced that Sibanda would be accorded a state-assisted funeral. But the family insisted that Sibanda deserved more fitting recognition.

“As a family, we feel he deserves national hero status as proposed because he contributed a lot to what Zimbabwe is at the moment and even before the attainment of Independence,” Thandiwe said.

She, however, said plans were already underway to bury him next to his wife in Silalatshani in Filabusi.
The failure to confer national hero status on Sibanda has drawn sharp criticism from the two formations of the MDC.

Tsvangirai is expected to issue a full statement on the party’s position today.

Yesterday Mutambara called a press conference at which he attacked President Mugabe’s decision to deny Sibanda national hero status.

It also emerged that President Mugabe refused to see Tsvangirai and Mutambara, who had requested an audience with him over the issue.

Mutambara declared that Sibanda would be declared a national hero “in the fullness of time”.

Sibanda was the interim president of a then united MDC at its formation in 1999, before becoming vice-president at the party’s congress later that year.

A bitter Mutambara yesterday revealed that Sibanda’s status was decided by Zanu PF without consultation with other parties in the inclusive government.

Ironically, the three principals to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) reached common ground on the issue of conferment of hero status and had agreed on the need for an independent body to accord the status, but they are yet to implement the decision.

The issue of conferment of hero status was one of the 24 outstanding issues the three principals agreed to before the Sadc summit in Windhoek, two weeks ago.

“As a party, we are saying Gibson Sibanda deserves to be accorded national hero status,” declared Mutambara.

“Our position is clear. First and foremost, we do not recognise Zanu PF as the sole determiner of who goes to the Heroes’ Acre. We reject lock, stock, and barrel the decision to deny Sibanda hero status. We are saying the Zanu PF politburo is not worthy of deciding who should go to the Heroes’ Acre or not.

“Robert Mugabe has no locus standi (legal right) to determine who is a hero or not a hero.”

Mutambara said his party had written to the President requesting that Sibanda be declared a national hero while the MDC-T also wanted him to be buried at the national shrine.

Mutambara said he and Tsvangirai sought audience with President Mugabe over the issue but were turned down.

“We tried doing it privately, but it did not work. We were told thanks but no thanks,” Mutambara said.

MDC-T national spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said Sibanda was by all definition a national hero as he was a patriot who worked tirelessly for the emancipation of all the people in the country.

Chamisa said his party would advocate for the establishment of an independent body to confer national hero/heroine status so as to liberate the process from Zanu PF’s parochial partisanship.

“Zanu PF should not think that they are bigger than Zimbabwe. We will not go on bended knee to Zanu PF to have people declared as national heroes,” said Chamisa. “Looking at Sibanda’s contribution, he stands out as a true hero”.

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