So, what would Tekere say?

HARARE - Before he parted company with his old friend, President Robert Mugabe, Edgar Tekere chose a statement with which many people would identify at the time: “Democracy is in the intensive care unit…”

If other people thought this was typical hyperbole from Two Boy, there was a shock for them: Tekere quit the party to which, they had dedicated their lives, Zanu PF.

Many analysts had noted Mugabe’s pell-mell rush into the creation of a one-party state. He might have denied it himself, but many saw all the signs of a dictatorship shining in his eyes.

Fast-forward to a number of years later: Tekere dies of natural causes. Among the Zanu PF echelon, there seems to be an argument over his hero status. A few are of the firm belief that Tekere was not “hero status” material.

He had formed his own party to oppose Zanu PF. He had challenged Mugabe for the presidency, but had lost.

He continued to challenge Mugabe’s party. Eventually, common sense prevailed and Tekere was buried at the Heroes’ Acre.

I have always wondered if Tekere regretted his interment at The Acre. Nothing much had changed in Mugabe’s determination to fashion a one-party state.

Many analysts now believe that it is this determination which led, eventually, to the explosion which followed the notorious Zanu PF congress which nearly led to the end of the party.

What it effectively did was to cause such an unstable period for the country it was felt across the world: Zimbabwe was in political and economic turmoil.

Only the daredevils would venture to invest their money in the country. Only the foolhardy would choose Zimbabwe, under Mugabe’s stewardship, as a political ally.

The real crisis was witnessed during the so-called celebrations of the Heroes Day. Some called it a shameful affair, largely boycotted by people who would routinely have attended the event with bells on.

I knew Tekere, personally, longer than Mugabe did. We were both in our 20s when we were some of the first people to settle in the new African township suburb of Mufakose, outside Salisbury.

Our friendship lasted until his death, over which I shed genuine, tears which would normally be described as “copious”.

Even when he returned from Mozambique and became a top cabinet minister, nothing could interfere with our friendship. I was deeply saddened by his son’s death and attended the funeral to lend him what support I could give him in his hour of bereavement.

I had known Tekere to be a man with a very strong will. There was little in his life which could detract his spirit from what he believed to be his real wish.

I would say, without hesitation, that I always believed Tekere’s decision to quit Zanu PF was based on a well-thought-out conclusion, encompassing all of his desires to “do the right thing”.

As with everything else in life, Tekere was not infallible. I knew this from being his friend for such a long time. He did make mistakes, as we all do, but you always knew that he admitted his mistakes without hesitation and wished he had not made them.

What I shall always remember of Edgar was that he was, at heart and basically, a good man who would not go out of his way to behave like a rogue, or a scoundrel, when he knew the nature of the “right thing” to do.

In the end, even Mugabe recognised this, which is why Edgar is at the Heroes Acre today.

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