HARARE – President Robert Mugabe steered clear of heavy politics, and delivered one of his least controversial speeches in recent times when he spoke at the burial of liberation struggle stalwarts Victoria Chitepo and Vivian Mwashita at the Heroes Acre in Harare yesterday.
The nonagenarian’s address to the gathered crowd was short and mostly confined to the contributions that the two heroines had made during Zimbabwe’s arduous liberation struggle — avoiding in toto Zanu PF’s ugly factional and succession wars, as well as his usual jibes at the opposition.
Still, this did not stop the ruling party’s brawling factions from sizing each other up at the sombre occasion, with youths aligned to the former liberation movement’s ambitious Young Turks known as the Generation 40 (G40) group using the platform to sing Mugabe’s praises, and to insist that he should rule until he dies.
As he stepped out of his posh Zim 1 Mercedes Benz saloon, the 92-year-old was met with wild chants from the bussed youths, some of whom sang “havamborware, kunyeperwa” (Mugabe is not sick).”
The increasingly frail nonagenarian — the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country’s independence from Britain in April 1980 — lapped in the adulation, punching the air several times and igniting even more frenzied hero-worshipping among his followers.
The much-respected Victoria — wife of the revered late national hero Herbert Chitepo — was found dead in the bathroom of her Harare home late last week.
In a rare display of emotion in public, the modest Victoria claimed in 2001 that her husband’s violent death in exile in Zambia in 1975 was an internal Zanu job. She went on to demand unsuccessfully that his killers be brought to book.
He husband died when a car bomb, placed in his Volkswagen Beetle the night before, exploded. He and Silas Shamiso, one of his bodyguards, were killed instantly.
The explosion sent parts of the car onto the roof of his house and uprooted a tree next door. Hours later, one of his neighbours died of injuries he sustained in the explosion.
Former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda commissioned an inquiry into Chitepo’s death, with documents released in October 2001 placing the blame on Zanu infighting.
Mugabe said yesterday that Victoria had led an exemplary life, adding that “she was very humble”. – Daily News