Wednesday, 19 October 2016


President Robert Mugabe’s embattled Zanu PF, reeling from its seemingly unstoppable factional and successive wars, as well as growing citizen unrest owing to its 36-year misrule, has pushed Cephas Msipa’s family to have the late national hero buried in Harare at the National Heroes Acre, rather than in Gweru as per his wishes.

The Daily News learnt yesterday that while Msipa’s grieving family had welcomed Mugabe’s conferment of national hero status on the much-respected and loved Zanu PF elder on Monday, his family had “politely” asked for Msipa’s wishes, to be buried next to his wife Charlotte — who died a few years ago and is interred in Gweru — to be respected.

Indeed, this had subsequently forced the ruling party to convene a hurried press conference where it announced that it was granting Msipa’s family their patriarch’s wishes — with Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere even releasing a funeral programme which confirmed that he would be buried in Gweru on Saturday.

But the ministry of Home Affairs, which superintends over the burial of national heroes and heroines, moved to hold an emergency meeting with Msipa’s family, where it pushed for the late nationalist to be buried at the national shrine in Harare.

“I am sorry the programme has changed. After meeting with the Home Affairs officials, our father will now be buried at the National Heroes Acre on Saturday,” Msipa’s son, Charles, told the Daily News late yesterday, even as Kasukuwere continued to profess his ignorance about the change of plans.

“As far as I am concerned there has not been any change. If there were I would have been informed. Why would Home Affairs not tell me? There seems to be some confusion within the family,” he said when contacted to confirm the news that Msipa would now be buried in Harare.

Commenting on Zanu PF’s decision to railroad the family and go against Msipa’s wishes to be buried in Gweru, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC said this was “most regrettable”.

“The late Cephas Msipa was a very forthright and principled revolutionary. He must have had very good reasons when he said he didn’t want to be buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.

“As Msipa was a larger-than-life personality, it’s okay that he be buried at the national shrine, although he obviously had very serious reservations about some of the characters who lie buried there,” spokesperson Obert Gutu said.

The unassuming former PF Zapu cadre died in Harare on Monday, aged 85 — bringing to an end a long and illustrious political career famed for voluntarily retiring from active politics and always speaking truth to power.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily News earlier this year, the much-respected Msipa said Mugabe’s 56 years in politics were long enough for a “normal human being to hang the boots”.

“My serious advice to him (Mugabe) is that he should rest now, as he has done so much for the country,” the once close friend of Mugabe of many decades said, adding that the nonagenarian — who is the only post-independence leader that Zimbabweans have had — cannot rest after death.

“In a way, he has done a lot for this country, and really in all fairness we are punishing him. When will he rest, when he is dead?” he asked rhetorically.
“I feel sorry for him as a friend. I think he must just be given time to rest. We live in this world for a much shorter period than we realise. He really needs a rest. A race is run up to a certain point and there comes a point when you must rest.

“It’s good for him, good for his family and good for the party. We need new ideas. These can only come with leadership renewal. I would like him to rest,” the concerned Msipa  emphasised repeatedly.

He also challenged some Zanu PF hardliners who were advocating for the nonagenarian’s further stay in power to be “human and stop punishing” him.
“We should all feel sorry for him. We are punishing him. Those who are saying he should continue, we don’t seem to care about him. I know some people want him to stay for their own protection.

“I also know some of them feel he is protecting them. He gave them certain positions and so they are afraid that if he goes they will lose those positions. It’s unfair for us to punish a man for all this time. Let him sit back and watch. It’s very important after all that hard work,” Msipa said.

“If it was to become possible for me to meet him I would convince him to rest. I am talking about retiring. I am saying he has worked so hard, so much that he needs to rest now.
“There will be no other time except now. He can’t rest after death of course. They call that rest in peace, but I don’t know what that means,” he added.

Msipa also revealed at the time that just before he left active politics, he had asked Mugabe to retire, an offer that was turned down.

“I went to see Mugabe with my two sons where I told him to retire. He told me that in politics you don’t retire, but that you rather die there. That’s his philosophy.

“So in a way he seems to be enjoying the position, but he must also think of rest, because he is punishing himself physically. We are all human beings and the fire in us burns out and you can’t go on trying to keep putting on some light when it’s burning out,” he said.

In his last interview with the Daily News in August this year, Msipa, also advised Mugabe and the ruling party to listen to the growing voices of dissent in the country, warning that failure to do so would be tantamount to negating the values of the country’s liberation struggle which cost the lives of so many Zimbabweans.

Reflecting on Heroes Day commemorations at the time, Msipa — who affectionately calls Mugabe “muzukuru wangu” (my nephew) — said his heart bled each time he was confronted by the grinding poverty afflicting the majority of Zimbabweans, which had seen many people turning to street vending to survive.

Msipa spoke as Mugabe and Zanu PF were facing their biggest challenges since they came to power in April 1980, with the ruling party torn apart by its seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars, and the nonagenarian facing growing citizen unrest and calls from both within the former liberation movement and without to step down. daily news


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