Zim president breaks Mugabe-era tradition for 'hero' prof's burial

07 December 2018 - 06:00 By JAMES THOMPSON IN BULAWAYO
Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has broken with the 38-year-old tradition of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, by deciding to bury a professor in Heroes' Acre.
Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has broken with the 38-year-old tradition of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, by deciding to bury a professor in Heroes' Acre.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has broken with former leader Robert Mugabe’s 38-year-old tradition of only burying struggle comrades loyal to him at the National Heroes' Acre in Harare.

On Wednesday, Zanu-PF’s supreme decision-making body outside congress, the politburo, resolved to break with the tradition when it conferred national hero status on 79-year-old academic Professor Phineas Makhurane.

“The decision to honour Prof Makhurane with a national hero status was arrived at ... during Zanu-PF’s politburo meeting. It was a unanimous decision in recognition of his contributions to the country’s education sector,” said Vice-President Kembo Mohadi.

Makhurane succumbed to diabetes at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo last Saturday. He was the founding vice-chancellor of the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo.

He was the first Zimbabwean to hold a PhD in solid state physics. His family pleaded with mourners to respect his wishes and not wear political party regalia at his funeral wake because he had steered clear of partisan politics during his lifetime.

The 57-acre North Korean-designed shrine was once a platform for Mugabe to attack the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and enemies within his own Zanu-PF party. One of those enemies, Edgar Tekere, is buried there - but against his wishes.

Tekere was buried there in 2011 but Mugabe didn’t attend the burial.

When Zanu-PF moved a motion to impeach Mugabe at the behest of the military last year in November, war veterans threatened that if Mugabe should die, he not be buried at the Heroes' Acre because he had become a sellout.

Mugabe's first wife, Sally Heyfron Mugabe, was buried at the shrine in 1992. Since then, visiting her grave has been an annual pilgrimage for the former president during the Heroes' Holiday celebrated in Zimbabwe.

However, this year, just as on all major holidays, Mugabe was a no-show at the shrine. His late wife's grave and that of his sister Sabina were abandoned with no flowers laid.

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