President Robert Mugabe was this week forced into a double climbdown — granting his bitter critic, veteran nationalist Edgar Tekere, national hero status and conceding to electoral conditions he had stiffly resisted.
Just as the majority of his loyal politburo members chose to have Tekere conferred with hero status, against many odds, including his public badmouthing of the party leader, it emerged the President had also been pushed into giving in on his wish to hold elections this year.
President Mugabe has reportedly assented that all agreed issues in the election roadmap should be implemented before polls are held – a task highly unlikely to be completed this year.
If the agreed positions are to be implemented, the country is likely to go for elections next year or in 2013, according to the GPA negotiators.
As announced by NewsDay yesterday, the Zanu PF politburo chose to depart from the norm, declaring Tekere a national hero despite his consistent attacks on President Mugabe and Zanu PF. Prior to Tekere’s death, the party had denied national hero status on all of its dead cadres deemed to have failed to toe the party line or had not been consistent party followers.
Tekere, who successfully resisted President Mugabe’s bid to make Zimbabwe a one-party State, was fired from Zanu PF and proceeded to form his own party, the Zimbabwe Unity Movement. He fought to oust President Mugabe in the 1990 elections, but lost – bruised but defiant.
After years of no-holds-barred verbal altercations with President Mugabe, Tekere endorsed the candidature of Simba Makoni in the 2008 harmonised elections and was the guest of honour at the MDC-T’s 10th anniversary celebrations in Mutare in 2009.
In spite of all this, Didymus Mutasa, the Zanu PF secretary for administration, revealed yesterday that 43 out 65 politburo members had voted in favour of Tekere being declared a national hero. One suggested he be given a State-assisted funeral, 10 were unavailable to give their vote while another 10 were against him being honoured.
“Surprisingly, one said he didn’t know Cde Tekere,” Mutasa said.
“I would like to say how sad the party is with the passing-on of Cde Tekere. At the same time, I would like to say how happy I am that the politburo has decided to declare him a national hero.
“He will therefore be handed over to the State to manage the affairs of his funeral, from now until he is laid to rest.”
Mutasa played a critical role in ensuring that Tekere was granted the status, personally phoning politburo members to get their views before meeting President Mugabe.
Tekere is on record saying he did not wish to be buried “alongside thieves and crooks” at the Heroes’ Acre.