HARARE - A prominent Harare lawyer has sensationally claimed that President Robert Mugabe’s late younger sister Sabina did not deserve national heroine status.
A single, former seamstress with little formal education, Sabina succumbed to an unknown ailment in July 2010, and critics say she is proof of how Mugabe looked after his own after he took control of the newly-independent Zimbabwe in 1980.
She served as the Member of Parliament for Makonde East from 1985 to 1990 and for Zvimba South from 1990 to 2008.
Sabina’s sons have also benefited from their uncle’s long reign.
Leo Mugabe served as a Zanu PF MP and chairman of the Zimbabwe Football Association while Patrick Zhuwao is the minister of Indigenisation and an MP.
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka, who has filed a Constitutional Court suit challenging the criteria for choosing national heroes, is challenging the way Mugabe and Zanu PF have monopolised the discretion to choose those that should be declared national heroes.
Chinyoka is challenging the criteria together with MDC MP Alexei Musundire.
The National Heroes Acre is a 57-acre burial ground and national monument in Harare, whose stated purpose is to commemorate Patriotic Front guerrillas killed during the 70s Rhodesian bush war, and contemporary Zimbabweans whose dedication or commitment to their country justify their interment at the shrine.
Persons buried there are considered heroes by the incumbent Zanu PF regime, which has administered the country since independence in 1980.
In the application, the two cited Mugabe, Public Service minister Priscilla Mupfumira and Zanu PF as respondents.
“By way of example, to my knowledge there are only six women that have so far been designated as national heroines and buried at the national shrine,” the court application says.
“All of them, except one, appear to have only one factor known to me that they were married to liberation war leaders.
“The only exception, a certain Sabina Mugabe, was not married to any liberation war leader, and is not chronicled in any government of other publication that I am aware of with having done anything of note. She, however, is the sister of the first respondent, whose first wife (Sally) is also one of the other five (wives of war leaders.”
He said that all hero statuses conferred by Mugabe and his Zanu PF party should be declared null and void.
He said deserving heroes were not buried at the national shrine.
“There was a man known as Jairos Jiri, who dedicated his life to helping the blind and disabled, and whose charity dedicated to these efforts still stands. When he died, he was not declared a hero, yet first respondent (Mugabe)’s sister, who founded no charities and who had no stable family life and therefore made no example to anyone was a national hero,” Chinyoka said.
He said that in terms of the National Heroes Act, Mugabe had been given unfettered and unlimited discretion to decide on who should be buried at the National Heroes Acre.
Chinyoka told the court that Mugabe’s discretion was too wide and did not show that it would yield results that are lawful and efficient.
Mugabe has told critics only members of his Zanu PF party will be buried at the Heroes Acre and said those unhappy with the development were free to establish separate shrines for their own heroes.
The Zanu PF politburo has, since independence, exclusively selected the country’s national heroes most of whom are then buried at the North Korea-built shrine just outside the capital.
The party has consistently ignored calls for a non-partisan selection process from opposition groups.
But critics say Mugabe has used the honour to punish critics as well as reward loyalists, some of them undeserving of the accolade.