ZANU PF national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri yesterday vowed that she would doorstep President Emmerson Mnangagwa on his return from China this week to protest the politburo’s decision to deny national hero status to the late nationalist Kiliyon Sonke Bhebhe.
Bhebhe succumbed to renal failure at his Nyakarange Farm near Chinhoyi last Tuesday and was buried on Tuesday. He was 90.
Speaking to NewsDay after visiting the family farm to pay her condolences yesterday, Muchinguri said she would demand that the decision be revisited, saying it was an insult to just provide a State-assisted funeral to such an eminent nationalist.
“I’m not happy with the decision taken by the politburo. There are young people who do not know the contribution of some of the members like Bhebhe. They are too young to appreciate them,” she said.
Muchinguri said she would force Bhebhe’s issue to be deliberated again when Mnangagwa returns, insisting that a national hero status was the only befitting honour given his
contribution to the liberation struggle.
“President Mnangagwa, who knows Bhebhe more than most of us here, will have other ideas on his status. Bhebhe’s hero status was not conclusively dealt with,” she said.
Muchinguri, however, tried to play down the rift among senior and junior Zanu PF top officials.
Chiefs’ Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira also expressed disappointment at government’s failure to declare Bhebhe a national hero.
Addressing mourners in Chinhoyi on Tuesday, Charumbira said: “It is unfortunate that some of these young people don’t know the contribution of people like Bhebhe. These are true heroes.”
A family member, Kizito Bhebhe, expressed disappointment by the way his uncle was treated in death.
“Surely this man fought in the liberation struggle more than some who are buried at the national shrine,” Kizito fumed.
Bhebhe was born at Hogo in Lower Gwelo district on May 1, 1928 and engaged in political activism at a tender age.
He joined African National Congress (ANC) in 1957 and later joined National Democratic Party when ANC was banned in January 1960.
Bhebhe was arrested in 1964 and restricted to Gonakudzingwa before being moved to Gwelo Prison in 1966, but finally joined the liberation struggle in 1977 in Zambia, where he was roped into Zapu’s War Council, a post he held until independence in 1980.
He is survived by his wife Alice, 12 children, 40 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren.
In a related matter, war veterans in Bulawayo have called on Mnangagwa to accord national hero status to the late Slayi Masuku who died last week after a short illness.
Bulawayo war veterans’ provincial chairperson Cephas Ncube said Masuku was one of the pioneers of the liberation struggle and an outstanding Zipra cadre.
“We have considered him and we are requesting from our superiors that he should be considered for the national hero status. Masuku can be declared or given the status no matter where he is buried,” he said.
Zanu PF provincial chairperson Christopher Sibanda described Masuku as an unwavering and loyal party member befitting national hero status.
“I was with him and he was a devoted and determined man. He came to the front in 1968 and from that time till 1980, he was at Khami Prison. Masuku managed to study and he was a retired teacher. He fell ill and we did not know about it. He died in his late 70s and we are preparing for his hero status,” he said.