Former deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara has vehemently dismissed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to confer national hero status on Zanu founder Ndabaningi Sithole, labeling it a “fraudulent charade.” Sithole, who passed away in December 2000 and was laid to rest on his family farm in Mt Selinda, Chipinge, had previously been denied hero status by the late Robert Mugabe due to past grievances from the liberation struggle era.
Mutambara, who served in government from 2009 to 2013, emphasized that Zimbabweans already regarded Sithole as a hero and did not require any validation from Zanu-PF. He expressed his skepticism about Zanu PF’s authority to determine Sithole’s hero status, specifically criticizing Mnangagwa’s limited involvement in the liberation struggle and inability to comprehend Sithole’s significant contributions.
Highlighting the adversities Sithole faced throughout his life under Zanu PF’s rule, Mutambara condemned the recent ceremony at Freedom Farm as a deceitful ploy to gain political favor and votes. He urged others to denounce this act with the utmost contempt.
Sithole played a pivotal role as the founding president of Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) in 1963. However, he was subsequently imprisoned, alongside other nationalists such as Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, in 1964. In 1975, Sithole was removed from power in a palace coup orchestrated by Mugabe, who accused him of renouncing the liberation struggle during a court trial. Despite being labeled a sellout, Sithole later served in the executive of the transitional government of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia in 1979 and established another political party, Zanu Ndonga, with strong support from his Ndau community in Chipinge.
Sithole’s popularity in Chipinge as an opposition figure against Zanu PF and Mugabe was undeniable, solidifying his significance in the political landscape.