The Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) veterans on Thursday asserted themselves and refused to let Zanu PF’s Bulawayo province use the death of one of their members for political mileage.
The late retired Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel Moyo was buried yesterday at the Nkulumane Heroes’ Acre in a tense atmosphere after the drama that followed his death, with Zapu and Zanu PF jostling for control of his funeral.
Over 2 000 people, mostly Zapu members who were clad in party regalia, and some Zanu PF members also in their party regalia, turned out for the burial.
Although there was a mutual understanding between the parties to respect the late hero, the tension broke out as members of the two parties started exchanging words during funeral proceedings.
When the body left the Moyo house in New Luveve for the heroes’ acre, tension was still high as party members pondered what would happen at the heroes’ acre as some party activists exchanged harsh words.
“Gabhu (Rtd Lt-Colonel Moyo) was a Zapu member. You Zanu PF people will do things your way when you bury one of your own. We will not allow ourselves to be bullied by Zanu PF here. We are men like them and we all fought for this country,” said a Zapu member to a Zanu PF member.
The Zanu PF activist retorted it was high time Zapu people were taught a lesson.
“If these Zapu people have never been beaten, it is high time we teach them a lesson,” he said.
The Moyo family, however, managed the tense situation by agreeing the programme that had earlier been issued by the Department of War Veterans Affairs, and excluded Zapu and Zipra veterans, be set aside.
Only Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Cain Mathema, was allowed to give the graveside speech.
The spokesperson for the family, Campion Moyo, who was tasked to give a vote of thanks acknowledged the tension that had haunted the funeral of his relative.
“Up to yesterday afternoon I was not sure of what would happen. There were a lot of divisions here, some saying he belongs this side, some saying this and that. I was apprehensive about this day,” he said.
Sources said Zanu PF ended up failing to give a speech at the funeral because they misjudged issues.
“They put themselves on the state side forgetting that they were no longer the ruling party. We said if there will be any party speeches at the heroes’ acre, the three ruling parties should be allowed to speak.
“They refused to talk at the house because they wanted to speak to the gallery at the heroes’ acre. That was a big loss on their part,” the source said.
The Zipra Veterans, who are aligned to Zapu, have in the past two days, together with their party, been involved in skirmishes with the former ruling party’s provincial structure over who would control the funeral and burial of the late hero.
In his speech, the chairman of the Zipra Veterans, Ray Ncube, emphasized that war veterans should respect and treat their communities humanely.
“Ex combatants must never ill-treat their communities because it is from those communities that they hail and it is on those communities that they depend. We must treat people with respect, especially during elections.
“Shortly before the end of the liberation war, Joshua Nkomo told us that we have to learn to ask for votes. He told us that you don’t squeeze votes out of the people,” he said.
Rtd Lt-Col Moyo died on 1 January 2011 at United Bulawayo Hospitals.He was 56.
He is survived by two daughters, a son and wife, Anna, who is an administrator at the Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial offices.
The burial was attended by among others Macleod Tshawe, former Zanu PF provincial chairman, Zanu PF politburo members Sikhanyiso Ndlovu and Eunice Sandi, the immediate past president of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), Obert Sibanda and Highlanders manager, Douglas Mloyi.
In his speech, Mathema, warned people against historical revisionism that bred tribalism and divisions.
“When the whites came here they avoided the seat of King Lobengula and said they were going to the East to liberate the Shona from the Ndebele.
That was part of their propaganda. I don’t know who had told them that the Ndebele and the Shona were at war?
“When the whites came they said, they want to liberate the Shona from the Ndebele and today they have turned around to say they want to liberate the Ndebele from the Shona. Tomorrow they will say they want to liberate another tribe from the Ndebele.
“Gabhu went to war to liberate this country so that we can live together and own our resources,” he said.