The late former Matabeleland North provincial governor, Welshman Mabhena, has been declared a national hero.
Zanu PF national spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed the development in an interview on Wednesday night soon after an all-day Zanu PF politburo meeting where the decision was made.
“Yes we have declared him a national hero because of his immense contribution to the struggle for independence and for the important role he played in post-independent Zimbabwe,” Gumbo said.
“Mabhena was a solid nationalist figure and a strong contributor to the nationalist movement.
He held various important positions including the governorship of Matabeleland North.”
Gumbo said although Mabhena had ceased to be an active Zanu PF member in the past few years, the politburo had agreed he was still a member.
“He may have not been so active in his last years because he was an old and ailing man.
But all the same, it has been agreed he was still a member and he has accordingly been conferred with the hero status.”
Sources said there were sharp divisions within Zanu PF’s Matabeleland region leadership over Mabhena’s hero status.
The party’s politburo was locked in a lengthy meeting debating the issue. The meeting took all day, ending well after 9 pm.
Mabhena was a fierce critic of President Robert Mugabe.
Sources in the party said known camps in Zanu PF clashed soon after news broke out that the late former executive secretary of PF Zapu, Mabhena, had died.
The sources said a serious turf war broke out between the camps battling to outdo each other in convincing the party’s top decision-making body outside congress, the politburo, to buy into their positions.
Mabhena had fiercely opposed Zanu PF’s moves to sideline Matabeleland in national development projects.
President Mugabe said one had to have fought the war of liberation, served the nation after independence and remained consistent if they were to be buried at the Heroes’ Acre.
Mabhena, as secretary general, was the third most senior Zapu member prior to the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987 after Joshua Nkomo (President) and Joseph Msika (Vice President).
“Those who wanted Mabhena to be buried at the Heroes’ Acre argue that he was a very senior member of Zapu, who went to the liberation war and served the country after independence.
As secretary-general of Zapu, during the unity negotiations, he played a critical role and can therefore be credited with promoting unity,” said a source.
“The argument is that he was more senior than any of the surviving former Zapu members who are in Zanu PF meaning that if he was not declared a national hero, then none of the surviving members, including VP Nkomo, would qualify to be declared heroes.”