IN a shocking turn of events, Zanu PF national spokesperson Rugare Gumbo yesterday said he was not aware of the death of former Zipra commissar retired colonel Richard Dube, a day after he was buried.
Gumbo’s statement came in the wake of accusations by Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa at Dube’s funeral at Lady Stanley Cemetery on Saturday that Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and defence forces chief General Constantine Chiwenga had blocked efforts to have Dube declared a national hero.
Dube succumbed to vascular problems on October 11 at a South African hospital.
Dabengwa told mourners during the emotionally-charged burial that Zanu PF politburo member and the party’s political head in Bulawayo, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, had asked him on October 13 to prepare Dube’s obituary for the politburo to discuss his status at its meeting last Wednesday.
However, Gumbo told Southern Eye yesterday that Dube’s status was not discussed by the politburo and also confessed to being unaware of the war veteran’s death.
“I really don’t know because I was unaware that Richard Dube has passed away,” said Gumbo, adding that he could not comment any further.
Dabengwa, a former Zanu PF politburo member, said he prepared the obituary and handed it to Ndlovu.
He said at the time of Dube’s funeral, he was also aware that the politburo had not discussed the matter.
President Robert Mugabe has in the past made it clear that the National Heroes’ Acre is reserved for Zanu PF members and advised other parties to establish their own cemeteries if they so wished.
“I handed the obituary to Ndlovu because he had insisted that we do so,” said Dabengwa.
Ndlovu said he would not comment any further on the matter.
“I have already said all that I can say on this issue and will not comment any further,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF Bulawayo chairperson Callistus Ndlovu were unsuccessful as he could not be reached on his mobile phone while that of his deputy Killian Sibanda continuously rang unanswered.
Dabengwa said the failure to declare Dube a hero dove-tailed with Zanu PF’s stance not to accord former Zipra fighters hero status.
Some of the Zapu and Zipra heroes who lie at Lady Stanely Cemetery or were denied national hero status include Thenjiwe Lesabe, Lookout Masuku and Swazini Ndlovu, among many others.
Zipra Veterans’ Trust chairman Buster Magwizi warned that continued sidelining of former fighters aligned to Zapu would create problems for future generations.
He said Lady Stanely Cemetery in Bulawayo had become a de facto Heroes’ Acre for Zipra veterans while their Zanla colleagues appeared to be enjoying a monopoly of the national shrine in Harare.