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By Anna Chibamu
NATIONAL Assembly members Wednesday gave Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe a torrid time asking him to explain the criteria used by the government in determining who befits the national hero status.
MDC-T vice president Thokozani Khupe and Zanu PF Levi Mayihlome alleged tribalism and regionalism in the conferment of the hero status for those who contribute to national development before they die.
“My question has to do with the late Cde Soul Gwakuva Ndlovu who passed on the 16th July 2021. A veteran journalist, writer and freedom fighter, Cde Soul G. Ndlovu is one of the pioneers of the liberation struggle to the extent that in 2014, he was one of the 21 pioneers who received the liberation and independence medals but the sad reality Madam Speaker, is that he was not honoured?
What is government policy in regards to people like Cde Soul G. Ndlovu who contributed to the liberation of this country and to educating people when he worked for the Chronicle and Sunday News but he has passed on; has not been honoured with anything because as far as I am concerned, he is one of the good candidates of hero status,” Khupe queried.
In response, Kazembe said: “With regards to the issues to do with heroes and heroines, we have noticed that for the first time since independence, we have had even musicians in the name of Oliver Mtukudzi being accorded that status. We have also Soul Jah Love, youth and also we had an actress; I think the surname was Nhira if I am correct.
This shows that there is no discrimination whatsoever. I am also hearing now that the late journalist was also a liberation war veteran. There are so many ways one can be accorded that status. The ministry of Homes Affairs is not responsible for conferring hero status to a person; we are responsible for burying heroes.”
However, Norton MP Temba Mliswa alleged the issue was seen as tribal. He also said Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri was best placed to respond.
“This question should really be directed to her to see what recourse she can take as a result of that so that there is equilibrium, the balance of power and balance of regionalism because it is being seen as tribalism, ZIPRA and so forth. So the Minister of Defence is the one who is responsible for the war veterans. He was one of the 21 and there is no letter needed because he is there on record,” Mliswa said.
Kazembe however minister dismissed Mliswa’s submissions saying different backgrounds had been conferred hero status regardless of where they came from.
Umzingwane MP Levi Mayihlome felt Kazembe was dodging the questions and weighed in saying: “You find a person who joined the struggle in 1960 has been deprived the status of a hero while a person who joined the struggle in 1978 has been accorded the national hero status within 24 hours. What is the criterion used to confer hero status on retired uniformed members and war veterans?
“We want this to be clear so that we allay the fears of people out there. We come from a region where people have been perceiving marginalisation, we want the Minister to be clear on what criteria he uses and what is the process that is required for the conferment to take place.”
In his response, Kazembe simply said: “I thought I had made it very clear from the beginning, that the ministry of Home Affairs does not confer hero status, we simply bury heroes.”
The late former President Robert Mugabe was notorious for denying liberation war stalwarts such as Ndabaningi Sithole, James Chikerema and Chinx Chingaira among others, only for him to declare on his deathbed he does not want to be buried there either.
The same is also being said of current leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa.