PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday granted a State-assisted funeral to opposition MDC-T leader and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, turning down public calls to accord him national hero status.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
A State-assisted funeral is an honour usually given to the level of provincial heroes.
In an interview on the sidelines of the official opening of the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters in Harare yesterday, Mnangagwa said he had already discussed Tsvangirai’s status with his Zanu PF politburo colleagues and settled for a State-assisted funeral.
Tsvangirai died in South Africa on Wednesday evening after a long battle with colon cancer.
Since Zimbabwe’s independence, Tsvangirai emerged as one of the strongest opposition leaders against the Zanu PF-led government.
Although Tsvangirai had stood out as one of the sternest critics of the Zanu PF regime, Mnangagwa said they decided to honour him for the role he played in pushing for democracy.
“I have already discussed with my colleagues on what honour we are going to give him,” he said.
Asked how big the honour would be, considering calls by Tsvangirai’s supporters to bestow him national hero status, Mnangagwa remarked: “Not as big as your size.”
“We are giving him a State-assisted funeral. All expenses will be taken over by the State,” Mnangagwa said.
“Yes, he was in the opposition, but he was striving to make sure that there was democracy in the country and he has been in the political arena for a very long time.
“Our politics has been shaped by his contribution and at some time, we have had him as Prime Minister for about five years and it is very important that we, as a government, pay last respects to one of us.”
At the time of his death, Tsvangirai had just been endorsed as MDC-T and MDC Alliance presidential candidate for elections expected in the next few months, where he was to square off with Mnangagwa.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said Tsvangirai’s death came as a shock to the ruling party.
“Indeed and you are aware that the President and his Vice-President [Constantino] Chiwenga recently visited him at his house in Highlands and they were wishing him a speedy recovery and we all thought he was really recovering, only to hear the sad news yesterday,” he said.
“We are very sorry about that and we mourn with the family and relatives and we can only say God giveth and God taketh and we wish his soul to anchor and rest in eternal peace.”