BULAWAYO residents yesterday held a special service to remember the life of Nelson Mandela, amid claims the government blocked the city council from honouring the global icon in 1994.
The former South African president died on December 5 aged 95 after suffering from a lung infection.
He would be buried at his ancestral home in Qunu, Eastern Cape today.
The Bulawayo City Council resolved in 1994 to honour Mandela with the Freedom of the City award alongside another former President Thabo Mbeki and Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.
In 2001, acting mayor David Ndlovu of Zanu PF charged that a hidden political hand was behind the council’s failure to honour Mandela.
The issue was resurrected yesterday at the moving ceremony organised by churches and the council.
Former councillor Wilson Bancinyane Ndiweni told the gathering that the government also blocked council’s plans to rename Leopold Takawira Street after Mandela.
“What government did was mischief and is not acceptable. After council had done all procedures through the government to invite Mandela to come to Bulawayo, we were surprised when the government suddenly blocked that,” he said.
“When Mandela visited Zimbabwe, he was diverted and taken to Kwekwe instead of Bulawayo.
“Our arrangement was also to change Leopard Takawira Street to Nelson Mandela Street.
“That message was to be delivered in the presence of President Robert Mugabe who was also expected to accompany Mandela to the city.
“We doubted if he would have blocked that before Mandela.
“But someone leaked that crucial detail to Mugabe’s office which led Mandela not to come to Bulawayo.”
Mayor Martin Moyo said Mandela, popularly known as Madiba, is a true icon whose achievements will never be equalled.
Moyo said Mandela was not only a leader for South Africa, but many people worldwide looked up to him for inspiration.
“Mandela defined many words in a manner never done before. He gave new meaning to every word,” he said.
“I doubt any of us alive can be half of what Madiba was.”
Moyo said it was unfortunate that Bulawayo’s plans to honour Mandela when he was still alive were thwarted.
The Freedom of the City award is the highest civic honour the city can give to an individual.
“It will be recalled that the Bulawayo City Council resolved on 20 July 1994 that his Excellency, the State President of the Republic of South Africa, the honourable Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela be awarded the Freedom of the City for his unprecedented contribution of democratic development and restoration of peace and stability in South Africa in a period spanning more than three decades,” Moyo said.
“While council had passed the above resolution, the conferment ceremony was not held.”
Speaking at the same event, MDC-T Bulawayo provincial chairman Gorden Moyo said Mandela would have used his influence to stop the Gukurahundi massacres if he had not been in prison.
Moyo said during the uprisings in Lesotho, Mandela sent South African soldiers to calm the situation down and he could have done the same with Zimbabwe.
“If Mandela had been out of prison he would have stopped the moment of madness in Zimbabwe which wiped out most communities in Matabeleland and some parts of the Midlands,” he said.
Dumisani Nkomo, a local activist, described Mandela as a visionary whose leadership credentials should be emulated.