The Zanu PF-led government has maintained dead silence on former High Court judge and liberation war icon Simpson Mutambanengwe’s hero status with party spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo shrugging off suggestions of a party quandary over the matter.
Justice Mutambanengwe died in his Namibian base Thursday last week.
His death placed government in a quandary on how to respond as it came hard on the heels of retired Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s own passing days before.
The latter was accorded the highest honour of the land and subsequently interred at the national shrine on Saturday.
For a judge who perhaps had a bigger profile if it came to the two late jurists’ liberation war contributions, Mutambanengwe was viewed in some circles as also deserving of the honour.
MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora said the Zanu PF government had no choice but to accord the former Zanu secretary for legal affairs national hero status.
“He was one of the first nationalists and he exported Zimbabwe’s jurisprudence to other countries. They have no choice but to give him that status,” Mwonzora told NewZimbabwe.com weekend.
PDP president Tendai Biti also said Mutambanengwe was an automatic candidate for national hero’s status even going by Zanu PF’s often biased processes of according citizens the status.
“Simpson Mutambanengwe is a very, very senior member of Zanu. So, he should be made a hero not because of his judgeship, but because of his history in founding Zanu PF. He is one of the senior members of Zanu,” Biti said.
The opposition politician said Mutambanengwe was forced to leave the country for Namibia some years ago after he had refused to be bullied into passing judgements favourable to the Zanu PF regime.
Mutambanengwe would emerge years later to become the compromise choice for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson’s post by the country’s now defunct unity government.
He later abandoned the post after Zanu PF loyalists raised a storm over his refusal to be manipulated by a party that has often been accused of rigging by opponents.
He refused to ‘play ball’
Biti said Zanu PF has decided to view Mutambanengwe’s contributions based on his refusal to “play ball”.
“Zanu PF is a lost cause,” Biti said.
“Nothing that Zanu PF does surprises us; it’s a captured institution. So, they will not remember his life today when he refused to play ball.
“Mutambanengwe didn’t play ball that’s why he left over 20 years ago and became a High Court judge in Namibia.
“He was a giant of the national liberation cause.”
Zanu PF spokesperson, SK Moyo refused to discuss Mutambanengwe’s national hero status.
“There are processes to be followed. We don’t just declare and I am not aware than any process has been followed,” Moyo said.
Asked if he thought the late judge was a good candidate for the honour, Moyo responded, “That’s not for me. I don’t declare people heroes.
“No, I am not going to comment until the processes have started.”
President Robert Mugabe and his lieutenants have also maintained their silence on the late judge while the State media has chosen to focus only on the ex-judge’s legal life.
Even when presented with a podium which he has often delighted in using to berate enemies while also making government pronouncements, President Mugabe did not make any mention of Mutambanengwe as he buried Chidyausiku Saturday.
Perhaps sensing a pending snub, a family spokesperson has since said Mutambanengwe refused burial at the national shrine.
During the liberation war period, Mutambanengwe became a key figure in the 1974 Nhari rebellion when Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) fighters in Chifombo, Zambia rebelled against the political leadership, accusing them of leading extravagant lifestyles in Lusaka.