Matabeleland civic society organisations (CSOs) and political parties have applauded the family of the late former Matabeleland North governor Welshman Mabhena for snubbing the Heroes’ Acre, saying this gesture showed that the national shrine has become an ordinary cemetery.
Mabhena was buried on Saturday at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo after unsuccessful attempts by Vice-President John Nkomo to persuade the Mabhena family to release his body for burial at the Heroes’ Acre in Harare.
“What the Mabhena family did has proven that the so-called National Heroes’ Acre does not matter anymore and is of no value. Zanu PF politics has cheapened the national shrine by burying dubious heroes . . . It has become just like any other cemetery,” said Methuseli Moyo, Zapu’s spokesperson.
Moyo said the plea to have Mabhena buried at Heroes’ Acre was a way for Zanu PF to save face.
“It does not mean that they suddenly realised who is a hero and who is not. The Mabhena family decision also deprived Zanu-PF, and especially President Robert Mugabe the opportunity and platform to say something to the people of Matabeleland and we are happy about that,” he said.
MDC-M deputy national spokesperson Nhlanhla Dube said a hero does not cease to be one even if they were not buried at the national shrine.
“A hero is not created but becomes one because of his works, so whether a group of people meet and decide who is/is not is inconsequential. Mabhena remains a hero even if he was buried at Lady Stanley and even if he was buried anywhere else,” he said.
Dube added that the Mabhena family should also be respected for following the wishes of the late Mabhena before his departure.
The CSOs were unanimous in that the Mabhena family had set a trend, especially in Matabeleland and it would not be the last family to snub Heroes’ Acre.
President Mugabe two weeks ago declared that Heroes’ Acre was solely for the burial of Zanu PF members who participated in the liberation war.