Sunday, 23 October 2016


President Robert Mugabe’s speech at the National Heroes Acre in Harare yesterday, at the burial of former Cabinet minister Cephas Msipa, was more noteworthy for what he omitted to say rather than his rehearsed tribute to the much-loved and respected nationalist.

Many mourners who gathered at the national shrine to bid Msipa farewell left disappointed after the increasingly frail nonagenarian failed to say anything meaningful about the things that were close to the departed hero’s heart, as well as the growing suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans.

“I’m very disappointed with the president’s speech. I expected him to say something about our suffering and the deteriorating economic situation in the country. My friends that I came here with also expected him to say something substantial on the worsening scandals involving ministers and other senior officials,” a Zanu PF supporter from the high density suburb of Warren Park said.

In addition to Mugabe’s low-octane speech, prominent opposition figures stayed away from the burial, amid worries that they would be abused by churlish Zanu PF leaders, as has tended to happen in the past, including by the nonagenarian himself — as well as fears that they would be victims of violence by increasingly thuggish ruling party supporters as the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections beckon.

Mugabe, who was consistently and relentlessly urged to retire from politics by the forthright and principled Msipa, told the gathered mourners that the former Midlands governor was a fearless man who was not afraid to speak his mind to anyone.

“He was a man who spoke from his heart, was sincere and above all was candid. He was not afraid of anyone and could even openly challenge the president.

“In his retirement from active politics, we remained very close, as he remained the Msipa I had known all along the journey from colonial bondage to independence. But once a politician, always a politician. Msipa remained one to the end, always speaking his mind, and speaking the truth,” he said.

Indeed, the unassuming later former PF Zapu senior official, who is famed for voluntarily retiring from active politics, told the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News earlier this year that 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.

Mugabe also told mourners yesterday that while he respected Msipa’s wishes of wanting to be buried in Gweru next to his wife, the late veteran nationalist was a true hero who deserved to be buried at the national shrine.

“Yes, he would have wanted to be buried next to his wife but once we die we have no control on where we will be buried.

“I was told when I was out of the country that there was disagreement over where Msipa would be buried with the family insisting on granting his wish to be buried next to his wife.

“However, we also argued that when he said that he did not know he would be offered national hero status. How could he have known? He could not have chosen to declare himself a national hero because he was a humble person and in his simplicity he never raised his head high.

“If he had known he would not have refused us and we are happy that the family finally agreed,” Mugabe said as he justified the decision to go against Msipa’s wishes.

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

But the ministry of Home Affairs, which superintends over the burial of national heroes and heroines, moved to hold an emergency meeting with the family, successfully pushing for the late nationalist to be buried at Heroes Acre in Harare.

Many of Msipa’s friends and former allies, including former Vice President Joice Mujuru, were conspicuous by their absence at Heroes Acre.

On the eve of his burial, they had expressed a real fear of going to the national shrine in the light of the escalating violence being perpetrated by ruling party thugs against Zanu PF opponents.daily news


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