HARARE - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has hit back at President Robert Mugabe, saying the 89-year-old was losing it and that the people of Zimbabwe must pray for him.
The Zanu PF leader went ballistic on Sunday at the National Heroes Acre saying that Tsvangirai and his cadres do not befit the honour of being interred at the national shrine which is reserved for loyalist politicians and fallen guerrillas from the liberation war that ended white rule in Zimbabwe in 1980.
But Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka, told the Daily News that Mugabe should learn not to mix mourning the dead and politics.
National hero status is usually conferred on dead veterans of the 1970’s liberation war who are given State funerals at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
Widows of the “national heroes” receive State benefits until their death.
The conferment has drawn fire in the past after some eminent liberation war veterans like Ndabaningi Sithole and Lookout Masuku were overlooked for the honour, both having fallen out with Mugabe.
Tamborinyoka said Mugabe was blatantly abusing the platform, stoking tensions after repeated calls by the MDC for an overhaul of the system for conferring “national hero” status, igniting an old debate over who qualifies for the recognition.
The MDC has proposed “an inclusive national policy with set parameters and clearly defined yardsticks” to determine who qualifies to be a national hero.
“The dignity of a funeral is such that it is an arena beyond political contestation but mourning the dead; and that is it,” Tamborinyoka said.
Addressing mourners during the burial of independence war hero brigadier-general Misheck Tanyanyiwa at the Heroes Acre in Harare on Sunday, Mugabe renewed his rivalry with the former Prime Minister by declaring he would never be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre, because he was a “sell-out”.
But Tsvangirai said Mugabe needs full cooperation of the people of Zimbabwe in prayers as he is manipulating the bereaved and mourners’ time by attacking others.
“What Mugabe needs in abundance are prayers,” the former premier’s spokesperson said. “Let’s pray for Mugabe.
“Let’s not take deaths for political contestation platforms but rather let’s cry and mourn the dead.”
Tsvangirai’s MDC has often complained about conferment of hero status as they postulate that Zanu PF has converted a national shrine into a Zanu PF shrine.
The opposition MDC argues there should be a total paradigm shift in the criterion used to confer hero status.
Asked about hero status being the exclusive prerogative of the Zanu PF politburo, the party’s highest decision making body, Tamborinyoka told the Daily News that he has no further answers other than pressing that people pray for Mugabe.
Mugabe shared power with Tsvangirai for four years in a shaky coalition government which ended on July 31 when Zimbabwe held polls won by the Zanu PF leader amid claims of vote-rigging. Tsvangirai has refused to accept Mugabe’s disputed victory and maintains the octogenarian leader tampered with the vote.
Mugabe has not met Tsvangirai since the end of the coalition government and appears to have closed the door on the MDC leader for talks aimed at discussing his exit package, including purchase of a mansion which the ex-premier occupies.