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139 Chapter 7 The Challenges of Honouring Female Liberation War Icons in Zimbabwe: Some Discourses about the National Heroes Acre Ngonidzashe Marongwe & Blessed Magadzike Introduction This chapter problematizes the apparent exclusion of deserving heroines from the National Heroes Acre which contains only six heroines out of the more than one hundred heroes interred there. This discussion is influenced by two profound questions that a Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) provincial official, Mapiye Hwekwete, raised. At the burial of Sheba Tavarwisa in an unmarked village graveyard in rural Gutu, Hwekwete asked the then Vice-President of Zimbabwe, and ZANU-PF Second Secretary, Simon Muzenda: “what unforgivable crime did she (Tavarwisa) commit not to be buried at the (National) Heroes’ Acre?” And, “what criteria are used by government to award national hero status among its pioneer war veterans?” (Matikinye, 2007). The questions raised by Hwekwete are pertinent because of the impressive resume that Tavarwisa carried from the Second Chimurenga where she sat in both ZANU’s central committee and in the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) High Command as the Deputy Secretary for Education (Nhongo-Simbanegavi, 2000). While the questions carried a lot of value regarding the trivialisation of Tavarwisa’s war biography, they raised germane issues that challenged the omission of other women who played prominent roles during the struggle for independence and in the post-independence period from the national shrine. Among these are Freedom Nyamubaya, Thenjiwe Lesabe, Ruth Nyamurowa, and Catherine Garanewako. Although drawn from the First Chimurenga Mbuya Nehanda played a central role as a spiritual guide to the Second Chimurenga (Tungamirai, 1995). The 140 contributions of these women, which will be expanded in the section titled: “Revisiting some women’s Second Chimurenga biographies”, will form the background for the argument in this chapter. The questions also speak directly to the challenges and dynamics of honouring heroes in Zimbabwe that have been raised by some scholars. Inter alia, apart from attempts to trouble the graded memorial order the heroes’ acres created (Werbner, 1998 and Kriger, 1992), controversies have continued to animate the National Heroes Acre, including the questions on what attributes make national heroes, the process of conferring heroism, the criteria for selecting national heroes and the politicisation of the selection process have been discussed (Kriger, 1992; Fontein, 2009; Werbner, 1998, The Standard, 5 August 2010). Some of these debates have the potential of eroding the important symbolism, meanings and messages that the National Heroes’ Acre is supposed to convey as the epitome of Zimbabweans’ valour against the British imperialism and as the pre-eminent liberation heritage site. Be that as it may, the chapter acknowledges that it is not only some women who played prominent roles during and after the Second Chimurenga who have been denied interment at the National Heroes’ Acre. There are also some men such Ndabaningi Sithole, the founding president of ZANU and Henry Hamadziripi who was Secretary for Finance in the ZANU’s Dare Rehondo that directed the ZANU war efforts during the 1970s when the political leadership of ZANU was in prison, and a man who allegedly recruited Josiah Tongogara and Simon Muzenda into ZANU (Matikinye, 2007). Canaan Sodindo Banana was the first (ceremonial) President of Zimbabwe and a key architect of the 1987 Unity Accord between ZANU and Patriotic-Front Zimbabwe African People’s Union (PF-ZAPU). Michael Mawema and James Chikerema were among the founding fathers of Zimbabwean nationalism and occupied various positions in the National Democratic Party and ZAPU, among others. Wilfred Mhanda trained ZANLA cadres at Mgagao Military Training Centre in the early years of the 1970s (Dzimbanhete, 2014) and was also the deputy Political Commissar in Zimbabwe people’s Army (ZIPA) (Mataire, 2014). ZIPA was a joint military taskforce forged by 141 ZANLA and ZAPU’s military wing, Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), from around 1975 mandated with spearheading the resumption of the liberation war effort (Mataire, 2014). However, while important the discussion of these men falls outside the purview of this chapter, which tries to focus on the troubling of the underrepresentation of women at the national shrine in Harare. As well, the chapter acknowledges the significance of debates concerning some individuals who have been declared as national heroes and heroines but are perceived in some sections as not deserving of the honours, including Chenjerai Hunzvi, Joseph Calverwell, Sabina Mugabe and Border Gezi (Matikinye, 2007). There have also been cases where some deserving and selected heroes have refused interment at the...


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