But last week Mugabe must have learnt with a bit of discomfiture that his stance on this emotive issue was too simplistic. Edgar Tekere was the people’s hero not only because of his unquestionable role in the liberation struggle but also because of his rebellious nature. Humanity in general loves rebelliousness and is bored with placid compliance.
Where many leaders of the liberation struggle, after Independence, chose docility and pandered to Mugabe’s every whim, Tekere chose to be different. The nation is grateful that for him Mugabe’s wish for one-party-rule did not come to pass.
But does his climb-down show an elder statesman willing to listen to the will of the people or simply a shrewd contriver once again playing politics?
People will talk about the treatment of other deserving heroes of our struggle that Mugabe snubbed and denied the hero status, such as, recently, Thenjiwe Lesabe and going back decades, people like Ndabaningi Sithole. They will ask why Tekere has been treated differently.
The answer is simple. The PF-Zapu element in the so-called united Zanu PF does not matter to Mugabe. Mugabe has never won a popular vote in Matabeleland since 2000 and those former PF-Zapu stalwarts who window-dress the so-called Unity Accord are nonentities in Matabeleland, irritants who cannot win elections.
But the prospect of losing Manicaland completely on the Tekere issue, after the MDC-T made inroads in that province in the 2002 and 2008 elections, was too enormous to contemplate.
So Mugabe acted the shrewd politician he has always been and gave Tekere, grudgingly, a berth at the national shrine.
But one thing is instructive: the people’s will always triumphs over seemingly unshakeable odds. There is hope then that if people are united on something, as the people of Manicaland were on Tekere, they can move mountains. Food for thought!