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Heroes Acre: Members Only Club


Enough is enough!

It may have taken a while, 30 years to be precise, but it’s finally out. Heroes’ Acre is for Zanu PF-those who fought for the liberation of the country.

And, any wannabes had better get that straight, and find themselves another hill.

This time around, the President was bold, blunt, unequivocal and shot from the hip.

It took the interment of the late Ephraim Masawi at the Heroes’ Acre, and the reaction thereto, of the two MDC formations, in spurning the burial proceedings as a Zanu PF charade, to finally smoke the fox out.

Melodrama at funerals, particularly, at Heroes’Acre are a trademark aside in President Robert Mugabe’s inventory.

And why not, with freebie, captive, sitting-duck, audiences which would otherwise be quite a challenge to muster?

At one time, buoyed by illusions of invincibility, in a feat of momentary arrogance, the old man dared disgruntled Trade Unions to form their own party, if they wanted speedier change.

Things didn’t go so well for the veteran nationalist.

The unions took him literally, and did just that-formed the MDC.

If ever presidents have nightmares, the MDC is surely the worst, for the ageing veteran, for he certainly has not rested since, holding on to office became a real rodeo ride.

I bet he has lived to rue the bravado from the day he challenged them.

It is said that both folly and wisdom come upon us with age.

The jury is still out on what the ultimate impact of the President’s present indiscretion about the exclusivity of Heroes’ Acre will be but, I fear he may have ventured into yet another maze.

The criteria used to determine hero status has been deliberately left illusive in Zimbabwe, for good measure.

That way it’s easy to manipulate.

But the move is returning to bite its inventors.

While it may be perfectly easy for rulers in a communist-style one party state to make the call as to who is a hero, on behalf of such people, such latitude should not be available, in a democratic dispensation.

It requires broader and impartial national consultation and consensus, through an entirely separate people’s representative institution, if it is to gain the credence of a cross-section of popular support, approval and respectability.

A single political formation cannot expect to be the be-all-and end-all, to people’s aspirations, however popular it may deem itself to be.

Our 14 million or so, population is not monolithically structured along uniform socio-political ideologies as such.

The majority of our people simply Zimbabweans intent on getting on with their lives but reserving their right to self-determination.

Accordingly, therefore, for anything to be called ‘national’ it must transcend the party-political divide and include the broader sentiment of this critical mass.

A national shrine must reflect the wider, eclectic character and value of this diversity, if it is going to live up to the true creed and essence of ‘national dynamism’.

That is the ideal.

But as we have seen in the case of the prevailing political environment, ‘national’, has not in any way entailed or encompassed that conventional ethos and meaning.

Selfish, instinctive, subjective, self-preservation predatory tendencies have prevailed and taken the ground where rationale should lie.

Take the public media, as a case in point!

It operates much like a party organ though under the illusive guise of “public media and national broadcaster”.

It is Zanu PF that dictates policy and that hires and fires staff, ownership of the media notwithstanding.

The supposed trustees, are nowhere in sight, having been upstaged a long time ago.

In fact, to call the ‘public media’ as such is a misnomer and mere cliché.

And yet the people are forced to pay television and radio licences so that, a particular political formation can continue to air its propaganda.

The Hero’s Acre is a Zanu PF institution.

It has always been, and anyone who gets buried there, is buried there at the pleasure of Zanu PF.

The Zanu PF politburo meets and decides on who, according to it, is a ‘national’ hero and who is not – full stop.

To try and philosophise on this simple and straightforward fact is disingenuous and an attempt to make candy from poison ivy.

Heroes’ Acre is a private cemetery, albeit, operating under that ‘national’ flag.

There is no clear criteria on who is a national hero, for indeed no clear criterion was ever intended – it’s an whimsical affair.

One is a national hero if Zanu PF says so – that is the criteria.

Stripped to bear essentials, it’s a ‘members only’ club.

The same goes for defining who fought for the liberation of the country, Zanu PF has arrogated itself the right to define and decide who fought for the liberation of the country.

One could have been a peasant out in Binga, resisting and fighting the District Commissioner and disrupting his administration at one’s local level just like Geronimo fought the American invaders, or the youth, out in the ghetto, rioting and stoning buses or fighting the racist settler establishment in their own way, it requires the stamp of approval from Zanu PF to validate contribution to the liberation struggle.

What poor judgment!

The politburo has not always been associated with rational decisions, in any event.

Some of its indulgencies have been shockingly irrational, and to buttress this statement, before I am shot down by some ‘trigger-happy’ sycophants…just reel back to the Rotina Mavunga and the ‘Diesel from Rock Outfit’ starring Didi Mutasa, Sid Sekeramayi, Joe Nkomo etc, the Murambatsvina Legion of Doom, which swept out over 700 000 families from urban areas and left them homeless, while leaving mountains of uncollected refuse outcrops which have become part of the urban topography, in the same areas, and the RBZ Money Printing Press.

The politburo is full of guys who wouldn’t think twice about playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded pistol.

The nuances of ‘war’ and ‘battle’ are lost on some of these definers of our struggle for liberation.

All us know the role that Zanu PF played. It needs no advertising.

Zanu PF must take its place alongside other players and factors, and be subsumed within the context of the greater population of Zimbabwe, and not the other way round.

They, alongside many others, our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children, were engaged in the struggle for liberation.

They did not cease to be part of us or the broader populace by virtue of joining political formations or carrying guns.

But why do the two MDC formations continue to quibble over Heroes’ Acre, anyway?

It’s not where one is interred that makes one a hero, it’s a function of one’s contribution and the esteem with which one is held by the nation that is important.

Burying an impostor at Hero’s Acre no more makes such impostor a hero than burying a hero at Muzarabani deprives such hero of such recognition.

Who can doubt Martin Luther Jnr and Malcolm X’s hero status, in spite of them not being interred at Arlington Cemetery?

Quite honestly, who really cares, where one is buried?

Do they rise from the dead because they are buried at a so-called shrine of one sort or another?

It’s sad to see mature people fighting over corpses.

Frankly, many of us don’t mind where whoever is buried, as long as they are buried.

We have our own sacred village burial shrine in Murehwa where we bury our clansmen and I don’t know of a village that doesn’t.

So, what’s the buzz?

There are far more important national issues to worry about than to quibble over the status of corpses and graveyards.

But, perhaps we need to broaden the debate a bit, merely as an academic indulgence only, and have some conversation on who, and what is a hero in general parlance?

Everyone is a hero to some, and a villain to others!

You cannot legislate hero status, it’s a ’feelings’ thing.

You can only recognize it.

To my kids I am a hero, big time and if I am not to you, I couldn’t care ‘ta-pence’, to use a colloquialism!

The question must be asked, was the late Ndabaningi Sithole a hero?

If so, why so? And, if not, why not?

Feedback: bmangwende@newsday.co.zw

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