By Anna Chibamu
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared liberation struggle veterans stalwarts Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and James Chikerema national heroes.
The two were public critics and nemeses of Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, with Sithole convicted for allegedly trying to assassinate the Zanu PF leader.
Mnangagwa announced the development during Monday’s Heroes Day commemorations in Harare.
“As the Second Republic, we are committed to giving a holistic account of our country’s Long war of liberation,” he said.
“We are therefore rising to the occasion and recognising other heroes and heroines such as the late Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and the late James Chikerema for their historical contributions, despite their areas of weaknesses, with regards to the observance of the correct line of the Revolution,” Mnangagwa told Zanu PF supporters.
He added, “For that reason, we now honour the list of our national heroes and heroines. We forever remain indebted to all the heroes and heroines of our great country for the freedom, democracy and independence we enjoy to this day. Their sacrifices will never die.”
Sithole, who founded the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) in 1963, died on died in 2000 while Chirekema passed on in 2006.
Both were founder members of the nationalist movement which pioneered the struggle for independence but were ostracised after Independence after becoming critical of then then Robert Mugabe regime.
Sithole is described as one of the founders and chief architects on Zanu in 1963 together with Herbert Chitepo, Mugabe ad well as Enos Nkala.
He was toppled as party leader in 1975 with Mugabe taking over.
Sithole went on to form Zanu Ndonga; after independence he was convicted by a Harare court in 1997 of plotting to assassinate Mugabe.
He was granted leave to appeal at the Supreme Court but the case had not been heard by the time he died in the United States three years later.
For his part, Chikerema was related to Mugabe, and despite having grown up together, there was little love lost between them.
Chikerema, who succumbed to cancer at an Indiana hospital in the United States, was publicly critical of Mugabe, describing him as a bitter man who has refused to change with the times and is prepared to pull Zimbabwe’s economy down with him.
Chikerema’s farm was designated for purchase by the government soon after he formed the opposition Forum party in 1995 before being added to a list of those to be compulsorily acquired without compensation in 2000.
Chikerema remarked “As far as I’m concerned, it’s Mugabe’s vendetta against me”.
Mugabe was also dismissive of his relative, dismissing him as “little Chikerema” while addressing mourners at the burial of Nathan Shamuyarira in 2014.
“You look at the tiny little Chikerema standing up and claiming to have raised high a huge person like Nkomo, that’s how clever Chikerema was and it’s that cleverness that destroyed him,” said Mugabe amid huge laugh from the crowd at the national shrine.
“There was nothing that Chikerema could work to completion, yes he was very clever but his know it all attitude always let him down leading to him forming the useless FROLIZI.”