Zvamaida Murwira and Yeukai Tazira
THOUSANDS of people yesterday thronged the National Heroes Acre to remember the country’s luminaries who sacrificed limb and life to liberate Zimbabwe and deliver freedom that flourishes today.
Even as the nation observed the Heroes Day, across the provinces, it was also an occasion to bestow honour to outstanding Zimbabweans who blazed trails in different fields over the years, with President Mnangagwa, who headlined the main event at the National Heroes Acre impressing on Zimbabwean to always draw inspiration from the country’s liberators.
At the sacred National Heroes Acre the terraces were filled to the brim, forcing many to climb trees and follow proceedings perched on branches.
Several musical groups that included, the Zimbabwe Republic Police band and Mbare Chimurenga Choir entertained the crowds that comprised of almost everyone, across the political divide, religious persuasion and families of dear departed heroes and heroines.
There were thick columns stretching several kilometres along Bulawayo Road as some people walked to the national shrine for the event.
Dignitaries included Vice President Constantine Chiwenga and his spouse Colonel Miniyothabo Baloyi, Zanu PF Vice President and Second Secretary Cde Kembo Mohadi, Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, Senate president Marble Chinomona, Zanu PF National Chairman Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri Cabinet ministers, service chiefs and legislators among others.
The event started in earnest with singing of the national anthem that was accompanied by a fly past by the Airforce of Zimbabwe.
President Mnangagwa immediately inspected a quarter guard of honour mounted by the Presidential Guard.
There were also gun salutes in honour of fallen heroes. President Mnangagwa later delivered his keynote address which received a standing ovation from the floor.
He later laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and at the east and west wings at the National Heroes Acre rolls of honour together with VP Chiwenga and Cde Mohadi. The Head of State and Government later handed over flags to families of heroes who were declared posthumously.
They include Brigadier General Crispan Masuku, Rabelani Choeni, Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, Elliot Ngwabe, Justice Siwanda Kennedy Mbuso Sibanda, Professor Sheunesu Mpepereki, Professor George Payne Kahari and Retired Commissioner Stanley Matunhira.
Later, President Mnangagwa conferred honour and awards to four luminaries in his capacity as the President, Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and Grand Master of the Zimbabwe Orders of Merit.
The four were conferred with awards for their distinction in their various fields and expertise.
Those that were awarded include, researcher Professor Robson Mafote, Dr Ephraim Kudzaishe Havazvidi (posthumously), Professor Simbi Mubako, Advocate Siwanda Kennedy Mbuso Sibanda (posthumously).
Prof Mafote was awarded the Robert Mugabe Commendation Award for service in Human Capital Development and outstanding leadership for outstanding transformative service in human capital development.
In a citation read by Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo, Prof Mafote is a holder of 48 patents issued by the United States patent office and several others issued by the European Union, Japanese, Mexican and Brazilian patent office.
He won international recognition for his administrative prowess.
Prof Mafote held several appointments with diversified and cross cutting sectoral institutions.
He is a long serving lecturer with more than six publications in peer reviewed scientific journals.
Dr Havazvidi was posthumously awarded the Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo Commendation award for agriculture community development peace building and fostering unity.
In his citation read by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Anxious Masuka, Dr Havazvidi spearheaded the wheat breeding system during his tenure at Seed Co.
He registered more than 29 high performing varieties until his retirement which include SC Nduna which turned into household status for farmers in the country.
Dr Havazvidi represented sub Saharan Africa in several research initiations for the Zimbabwean wheat growers and won several awards during his time.
He sat on several agricultural boards and academic institutions locally and abroad.
Prof Mubako and Adv Sibanda were awarded the Herbert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo Commendation Award for justice and human rights which is awarded to those who distinguished themselves in consistent pursuit of justice and human rights for the greater good of communities.
Both citations were read by Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu.
He read that Prof Mubako demonstrated interest and actively participated in politics and the educational system of the country.
He was leader of university students association and attended several Pan African conferences most of which he chaired. He also chaired the Zimbabwe and Zambia Students Association.
He joined Zanu at its formation in 1963 and became its legal adviser in 1971, becoming a close friend of Zanu national chairman, Cde Herbert Chitepo.
When Cde Chitepo was murdered Prof Mubako played a role in defending nationalists arrested in Zambia and worked together with the country’s founding President Robert Mugabe and other nationalists.
He was a member of the legal team at the Lancaster House talks together with Honour Mkushi and Simplisious Chihambakwe.
He held several posts after independence as Cabinet Minister, High Court judge and ambassador.
Adv Sibanda abhorred injustice and inequality, and joined Zapu where he became one of its legal advisers where he served many of its members from the gallows.
His knowledge of constitutional law saw him being appointed as one of the drafters of the Lancaster House Constitution,
In an interview after the conferment, beneficiaries and their relatives said they were excited by the honour.
Adv Sibanda’s widow, Ms Leonara Sibanda, said she was humbled to have witnessed her late husband being honoured by President Mnangagwa.
“It is a very high honour for us as a family and we are so happy that he left us with this legacy. I am hoping that the children will take the baton from where he left. Today is also an emotional day for me but it is a lovely day. I thank the Government of Zimbabwe for recognising and honouring him for his selfless life he led,” she said.
Prof Mubako said he felt honoured for the award.
“The award is a great honour to me, particularly when it is an award in honour of Herbert Chitepo who was a great friend of mine and also a model to me. I studied law because of him, I was inspired by what he did and followed his footsteps, so I am greatly honoured to have an award bearing his name. My family is very pleased,” he said.
“Chitepo was a great lawyer but he was prepared to leave his law practice in order to liberate the country. That is the example which all Zimbabweans must follow so that the country comes first before our own personal likes and dislikes.”
In interviews several people hailed the National Heroes Day. United Nations Resident Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon congratulated Zimbabwe on the 42nd Heroes Day celebrations.
“On behalf of the UN system, I want to congratulate Zimbabwe on a successful 42nd Heroes Day celebrations,” he said, adding that they were committed to building capacity for Zimbabwe’s socio-economic development.
“The UN is committed to continue to support national efforts that will translate gains of independence into sustainable peace and also in support of inclusive socio-economic development, strengthening institutions, building capacity for an inclusive economy remains our commitment to the Government and people of Zimbabwe,” he said.
Political Actors Dialogue spokesperson, Dr Francis Danha said they valued the day because of its significance.
“We support today’s programme. We value this day as Polad. It shows the sacrifice made by our heroes, so we call upon all political parties in remembering our heroes,” he said.
MDC leader, Mr Douglas Mwonzora echoed the same sentiments.
“This is a day for everyone, regardless of one’s political affiliation. We have come to honour our heroes and heroines. We are particularly excited by the conferment of hero status for Rev Ndabaningi Sithole and Chikerema. This is a positive step,” he said.
Harare City Council mayor, Councillor Jacob Mafume said it was imperative that they joined President Mnangagwa in honouring the day.
“We are hosting the nation on this day and many other days. It is a significant day where we honour the heroes that enabled us to be what we are. It has been a long road. We need to remember the sacrifices that have been made,” he said.