ZIMBABWE – A prominent Zimbabwean lawyer and an opposition MP have filed a lawsuit against President Robert Mugabe challenging the partisan manner in which national heroes are selected in the country.
Nehanda Radio can exclusively reveal that former University of Zimbabwe (UZ) student leader turned lawyer Tinomudaishe Chinyoka supported by opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) MP Alexio Masundire filed the lawsuit on Friday.
President Mugabe is the first respondent while the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) party were cited as the second and third respondents respectively.
“I do not agree with the fact that it is the Third Respondent’s Politburo (Zanu PF) that makes the decision to accord hero status to anyone. This is not only unlawful according to the (National Heroes) Act, but makes a national institution a party specific institution,” Chinyoka and Masundire said in the application.
“I personally agree with the fact that some people should be regarded as deserving recognition as heroes, but using a political party to make that designation takes away partiality from the decision.
“As a result, the institution of ‘heroes’ is robbed of objectivity and becomes an arena for First Respondent (Mugabe) to dispense patronage even after death,” the application added.
Last year in August, President Mugabe used the burial of Justice Andrew Mutema to openly state that only those who followed Zanu PF would be declared national heroes.
Mugabe even said those who felt otherwise could go and establish their own Heroes Acres as they were many hills in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe has in the past used his powers to block the honouring of prominent war commanders like Dzinashe Machingura (Wilfred Mhanda) for the simple reason that he dared to criticise Mugabe. Even veteran nationalist and ZANU founder Ndabaningi Sithole was denied hero status for leading an opposition party against Mugabe.
Chinyoka and Masundire argue in their application that this shows Mugabe “has no desire to follow the (Heroes) Act in the exercise of his powers, but instead wants to use his powers to reward his friends and fellow party members.”
“In any event, the Constitution vests executive authority in the First Respondent (Mugabe) to be exercised through the Cabinet, not an organ of his political party. When First Respondent has instead allowed his political party to make the decision on hero status, he has effectively broken the law,” the lawsuit argues.
Chinyoka and Masundire want the Constitutional Court to declare Section 3 of the Act as unconstitutional and stop Mugabe and Zanu PF from declaring anyone else a hero until the defect in the Act has been remedied. They also want all previous decisions made by President Mugabe and the Zanu PF politburo to be declared as invalid.