On Edgar Tekere being officially declared a hero

Jun 9, 2011

Would Mugabe & Co dare to try to argue that the late Edgar Tekere did not 'deserve' to be officially declared a 'national hero?' For about 48 hours after his death, that was the question many Zimbabweans pondered as Mugabe and ZANU-PF pondered how best to play a delicate situation.

The suspense is over and indeed, Tekere has officially been declared a national hero and will be buried with all the pomp that goes with that status.
On the one hand the liberation war credentials that have been repeatedly declared by Mugabe and ZANY-PF to be so important in their decision-making process on hero-designation were unassailable in Tekere's case. But on the other hand, Tekere had done the unheard of by openly criticising his former close colleague Mugabe, and even went beyond that to commit the taboo of forming his own political party and challenging Mugabe for state president in an election!
Tekere as a result spent decades in the political wilderness, sometimes close to being destitute, for his unforgivable impudence. Would the notoriously unforgiving Mugabe find it within himself to 'forgive' Tekere in his death and let him be accorded an honor there was wide consensus he deserved? Or would Tekere's contributions be overlooked for one technicality or another, or would he be accorded a 'lesser' grade of heroism for the 'rebelliousness' in his living years? Both have previously happened to other prominent potential heroes who fell out with Mugabe, to loud national derision.

Before he was sure which way the wind was blowing, Simon Khaya Moyo, the Zanu-PF national chairman and a man who has the unfortunate reputation of being a Mugabe bootlicker par excellence, tried to be prepared for whichever direction would win.

According to the Herald, Moyo said '(Zanu-PF) are saddened to hear of Cde Tekere's untimely demise. He played a pivotal role in the struggle to liberate the country. No one can deny him this fact.'

But mindful of Mugabe's hard-headedness and his falling out with the late Tekere, Moyo then sought to cover his behind in case Mugabe vetoed the public consensus on Tekere's heroism with "The revolution of course demands consistency and persistence in managing the affairs and destiny of the people." 

This double-talk could be dismissed as self-serving, Mugabe-obedient Moyo merely covering his own back until he was sure what the permitted (by Mugabe), 'official' position in regards to Tekere was. But his comments also brought to the fore the point that ZANU-PF's definition of the ''consistency and persistence in managing the affairs and destiny of the people" has long been synonymous with not daring to challenge the party line. This is what Tekere disagreed with; why he parted company with ZANU-PF, and also precisely why he is so gratefully respected by many Zimbabweans who have seen fear and the attempted imposition of ideological group- think become the norm in their country.

What probably goes way over the heads of Khaya Moyo and others of his ilk within ZANU-PF is that Tekere was 'consistent and persistent' in regards to the 'affairs and destiny of the people' precisely by his refusal to be 'consistent' with a ruling clique that had begun to deviate from putting the people's best interests first, before its own! The comfortable, self-serving and power-hungry top echelons of the ruling clique began to define consistency/patriotism as unquestioning loyalty to themselves, whereas Tekere's position was, " I am putting the best interests of the country above those of my party and its leadership, even if it costs me."

That is why Tekere is so respected. It is also why if ZANU-PF had attempted to take a different position on his official 'heroism, it is they who would have lost even more elections, face, credibility and who knows what else, than they have already been doing. Basically Tekere made himself a peoples' hero long ago, with ZANU-PF having now been forced to formally also accept it. 

As far as ZANU-PF's effectively-after-the-fact deliberations were concerned, what 'saved' Tekere was the fact that there was an immediate outpouring of expressions of sadness and respect for him from a broad cross-section of Zimbabweans. It in fact quickly became a deluge. Mugabe and ZANU-PF would have looked like idiots to have over-ridden this almost palpable groundswell of feeling for Tekere by claiming he was any less of a 'national hero' than some of the dubious characters who have been so designated.

More than in any previous case in which the deceased individual's differing with Mugabe was thought to be a reason to possibly deny him the honor, in this case ZANU-PF had very little room to manoeuvre. So in making the announcement, they did what they really had no choice but to do.
In the Newsday newspaper Zanu founder member and former Defence minister Enos Nkala said: “No one in the current party’s politburo qualifies to deliberate on the heroism of the late nationalist Edgar Tekere. Tekere is just a hero because he is a hero. We do not have to go to the Zanu PF politburo. Who is Mugabe to declare Tekere a hero? 

This widely held view is what led Tekere to be a 'hero' by popular acclamation before Mugabe and ZANU-PF followed behind to second the decision!

Happy end of story for all concerned? Well not quite.

Mugabe and ZANU-PF will obviously cite Tekere's unparalled liberation-war sacrifices that he made as a close colleague of Mugabe's. But interestingly, and potentially somewhat embarrassingly for Mugabe &; Co, for many Zimbabweans Tekere's post-independence criticisms of Mugabe are likely to count as much or more than his earlier exploits in why he is a hero, officially declared or otherwise.

Mugabe & Co will recount Tekere's liberation war-era role, while many Zimbabweans will more readily remember that he fought against Mugabe's intention to set up a one-party state soon after independence. They will recall his criticisms of corruption and the many other ways that the revolution he helped lead went off track. So for Mugabe & Co on one hand, and the people on the other, two rather different aspects of Tekere's heroism will be emphasised.

 If Tekere at one time became a thorn in his former friend Mugabe's side, it might be that it has been decided that now that Tekere is dead and 'harmless,' there is more to lose than gain by denying him a status that has previously only been accorded to people who remained unquestionably loyal to ZANU-PF until their end.  And yet Tekere's criticisms of Mugabe and the poor state of Zimbabwe will likely gain more currency now because unlike most others, Tekere's thoughts were immortalised in a book; his biography, A Lifetime of Struggle.

 It will now enjoy increased sales and readers new and old will analyse his views about why and how Zimbabwe went wrong with a new appreciation after Tekere's passing. This will turn more negative attention on Mugabe and Co from a source they cannot dismiss as easily as they do all other critics.

There is a certain hypocrisy in Mugabe and ZANU-PF giving 'their' highest honor to Tekere on his death when they were not big and accommodative enough to tolerate his disagreements with them when he was alive.

Caustically continued Enos Nkala, "We started Zanu PF in my house and invited him (President Mugabe) from Ghana to join us. He has destroyed Zanu PF, a massive party. Whether they declare him hero or not, they are a funny crowd of looters. They are servants of Mugabe."

One can almost taste Nkala's hot bitterness!

As if to mix a reluctant 'respect' for Tekere with one last insult, this is how another renowned Mugabe bootlicker and 'servant,' ZANU-PF senior official Didymus Mutasa, characterised the hero decision:

“Tekere ...has been challenging the leader of the party and we should be grateful that he has accorded him the national hero status.” 

In that one sentence Mutasa unwittingly revealed the attitude that Tekere pretested against and refused to accept, and that also explains so much of what has gone wrong in Zimbabwe. As far as Mutasa is concerned, Tekere was a troublesome child for 'challenging the leader of the party,' rather than a citizen merely exercising a key democratic right he fought so hard to help bring about. 'We should be grateful' not so much to Tekere for his heroism, but for 'the leader' being magnanimous enough to do the late Tekere the apparent favour of 'allowing' him to be declared a hero!

Mutasa is reported to have said, 'We want to thank him (President Mugabe) for accepting the province's position of according him the national hero status. President Mugabe has honoured us the people of Manicaland by recognising the good deeds done by our late hero. Yes, people might differ here and there, but that is what democracy is all about.

Perhaps for Mutasa it is Mugabe who is more the hero in this case than the man who is being recognised. That Mutasa could not see the sad irony of his statement is testament to how deep the malaise of one-man dictatorship that Tekere fought against and is being lionised for has sunk into the body politic of Zimbabwe. Rather than a celebration of 'what democracy is all about,' by making it so obvious that the decision rested on one man, Mugabe, Mutasa's disgusting groveling was shameful to the memory of Tekere.   

Tekere's heroism is partly because he refused to be anybody's 'servant' when many other of his contemporaries did, out of self interest and fear. He chose to remain 'consistent and persistent' to the values of the revolution that he helped spearhead, and that has now gone way off course in many ways.

The Zimbabwe Review


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