The death of legendary soccer player Adam Ndlovu in a car crash last Sunday has sent political parties falling over each other in desperate attempts to be viewed as more supportive to the Ndlovu family and therefore more acceptable to the grieving masses of Zimbabwe, especially the electorate in the Matabeleland region.
Political analysts yesterday said it was difficult to dissociate the stampede by politicians from vote-seeking shenanigans — given the approaching elections. They said it was also difficult for the politicians to lay back and do nothing after such an emotion-wrecking development that has cast a black cloud across Zimbabwe.
MDC-T led the way on Tuesday with Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe requesting Cabinet to consider conferring hero status on the late soccer icon.
According to Zanu PF secretary for Administration, Didymus Mutasa, the request was rejected.
Khupe’s party, the MDC-T then proceeded to declare Ndlovu a national hero and provided food for the mourners. Plans to send a high-powered delegation for the burial today were also put in place.
“Vice-president Khupe and the provincial leadership have assisted with foodstuffs for the mourners. We will be attending the burial in full force. Members of the party’s standing committee and the provincial leadership will definitely be there,” MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said.
Despite turning down the hero status request, Zanu PF on the other hand, was seen frantically seeking relevance right across its hierarchy.
President Robert Mugabe and the First Family came in with foodstuffs while his officials made huge personal offers, including meeting entire funeral expenses and medical bills for Adam’s sibling, Peter, who was hospitalised following the accident.
“The President and Amai Grace Mugabe have given food assistance and other amenities to the late Adam Ndlovu’s family for use during his funeral. Part of this assistance will be given to Nomqhele Tshili’s family (a passenger who also died in the tragic crash),” Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba said.
Political analysts said the parties’ generosity, though noble, was largely motivated by their desire to win the hearts of the electorate ahead of next year’s elections.
“They are aware that the Ndlovu brothers contributed hugely to the development of soccer. They know that they have a national following and we are approaching an election. So what politicians are doing is to follow the mood of the nation. Politicians who will not sympathise with the family know that they will fall at the next poll,” said political commentator Pedzisayi Ruhanya.
Another analyst Ernest Mudzengi weighed in: “This man was a popular sporting personality and politicians know that and they want to capitalise on it. It’s even more pronounced as we go towards elections and every politician wants to be associated with the Ndlovu brand.”
Meanwhile, Zanu PF leaders from Matabeleland have been described as “spineless” and “passengers aboard other people’s vehicle” after Mutasa described the Bulawayo provincial structures as “stupid” for bringing to the politburo hero status recommendations for Ndlovu.
Mutasa said his party had never accorded a sportsperson hero status and asked what sport Ndlovu had played that others had not, to warrant him that honour.
“. . . while they (Matabeleland leaders) are members of Zanu PF, they are not within the decision-making structures of the party. The Bulawayo party leadership and Matabeleland as a whole were almost unanimous that Ndlovu deserved hero status. The structures in the region were put for the perpetuation of the marginalisation of Matabeleland,” said political analyst Effie Ncube. Ncube said Mutasa’s sentiments reflected Mugabe’s attitude towards the matter as, “he is just one of Mugabe’s spokespersons”.
Another political analyst, Dumisani Nkomo concurred with Ncube, saying Zanu PF’s attitude showed that the people of Matabeleland in general were not viewed as equals to their counterparts.
“It shows that the Zanu PF leaders from the region are powerless when it comes to making important decisions. Actually, they are subjects within Zanu PF and are treated like any ordinary citizen,” said Nkomo.