Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe (95), who died in Singapore early yesterday morning, has been declared a national hero. President Mnangagwa — who cut short his trip to South Africa where he was attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) — announced the national hero status while addressing the media at State House in Harare yesterday evening.
Earlier, the ruling Zanu-PF had met at an extraordinary session at the party’s headquarters in Harare to deliberate on the former leader’s status.
“Zanu-PF, which the late departed helped found, has met and accorded him national hero status which he earned and richly deserves,” eulogised President Mnangagwa.
“Let me also register the gratitude of Government and the entire nation to the Government and people of the Republic of Singapore for the unmatched hospitality and medical care they extended to our leader up to the very end.
“In particular, we are most grateful to the team of medical experts and support staff which cared for him with such great diligence, dedication and compassion. They did all they could up to the very end.”
He also declared days of national mourning until the former President’s burial.
“As we await the arrival of the remains of our dear departed icon, we pray that the good Lord grant him mercies, putting his dear soul to eternal rest.
“We as Zimbabweans declare days of mourning of our leader until he is buried,” he said.
The President added that the death of former President Mugabe had left a void in the nation and a legacy of adherence to the rights of Africans.
“A veteran nationalist and a doughty pan-Africanist fighter, Cde Mugabe bequeaths rich and indelible legacy of tenacious adherence to principle on the collective rights of Africa and Africans in general, and in particular, the rights of the people of Zimbabwe for whom he gave his all to help free.
“In his life and political career met and melded key phases, moods and shifts in the story of our national struggle and quest for freedom and statehood including the tragedies, pains and rigours which underwrote that epic story.
“Incarcerated for 11 years in settler colonial prisons he, alongside fellow nationalists who include the late Father Zimbabwe Cde Joshua Nkomo, remained unbowed and resolute, eventually escaping from the then Rhodesia in 1974 in order to lead and guide the resumption and escalation of our war of liberation at a time of its tragic setbacks and paralysis,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said under former President Mugabe, the struggle regained momentum and consolidated the Patriotic Front into a formidable coordinated national liberation movement that waged a gruelling and protracted struggle in the Southern Africa region.
President Mnangagwa added that the freedom being enjoyed in the country since 1980, was because of sacrifices of a generation of nationalists and freedom fighters pre-dating the 1960s, who included the late Cde Mugabe.
“A great teacher and mentor, the bitterness of long spells in incarceration and anguish of a brutal and bitter war, never extinguished Cde Mugabe’s forgiving inner humanity,” said President Mnangagwa.
“That humanity shone and undiminished throughout that season of war and forcefully asserted itself by way of the signature policy of national reconciliation on which our whole Statehood was founded and built. Through that policy of forgiveness Southern African politics took a definitive shift towards a just, post-colonial multiracial harmony, which would be replicated elsewhere in our region and beyond.
“He thus wrote a lasting page on nation-building and statecraft for the world, making him stand out as such a remarkable statesman of our century.”
President Mnangagwa said the late former President would also be remembered for post-independence transformations in areas of rights, education and social services for the hitherto marginalised black Zimbabweans including the bold and historic land reform programme.
“Through this programme, indigenous Zimbabweans regained their long denied land rights, to complete their sovereignty. For that he was especially vilified, shunned and punished by those who stood to lose from an end to colonial ‘rights’ and from a just reassertion of African rights.
“With characteristic defiance, he stood firm and undaunted, resolutely pressing on with the land reform programme to completion, all against formidable odds which included punitive sanctions and other reprisals that followed and which still dog us to this day.
“Today Zimbabwe’s land question, itself a principal grievance of our struggle, stands fully and irrevocably addressed and resolved. History will remember him for this bold move,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said Government remained committed to carry forward former President Mugabe’s aspirations.
“As we mourn the passing on of our commander, liberator, founder and leader, we remain determined to carry forward the transformation so fervently desired, including the transformation, including protecting and defending the gains of the struggle for which he made huge sacrifices.
“On the bedrock and solid foundation for the First Republic which he moulded as its leader, we today recover and grow our economy, brick by brick until his lifelong vision of an empowered people is realised,” said President Mnangagwa.
The President extended his “deepest, heartfelt condolences to former First Lady Grace Mugabe, the Mugabe family and the children “on this their saddest loss”.
“Amai Mugabe stood by her husband to the very end, thus imparting to our nation a lasting lesson on devout love and care. For that we deeply thank her, as we join her in the grief and loss and bereavement which is also ours to feel and bear,” he said.