The hero who tamed white farmers

Kuda Bwititi: Chief Reporter
Zimbabwe takes pride in its successful land reform story, and it is through cadres like Cde Peter Chanetsa that the country has made the programme irreversible, Acting President Emerson Mnangagwa has said.In his address at the burial of Cde Chanetsa at the National Heroes’ Acre in Harare yesterday, Acting President Mnangagwa said the national hero played a pivotal role in driving the Land Reform Programme during his tenure as Governor of Mashonaland West.Mashonaland West is an important agricultural centre and as such was a key national constituency during land reforms. Cde Chanetsa, who became governor of the province after having served as the first black Government Chief of Protocol in 1980, led Mashonaland West from 1996 to 2003 – the initial planning and implementation of the fast-track phase of the Land Reform Programme.

Yesterday, Acting President Mnangagwa told throngs of mourners at the national shrine: “As we gather to lay Cde Peter Chanetsa in his final resting place, I implore the nation to recall his service. Above all, let us remember what he did to ensure the success of our land reform programme.

“Today, we gloat and tell the world that our land reform programme is irreversible. It is because of such cadres that we managed to achieve this state of irreversibility. Let us ensure that the land we have acquired is utilised to the fullest.”

Acting President Mnangagwa said while serving as Governor of Mashonaland West, Cde Chanetsa tamed the fierce resistance of white farmers who were prepared to do anything to stay on the land.

“His governorship covered the early phase of our radical land reform programme. His governorship, too, placed him in the firing line of most former white farmers who had made fortunes out of tobacco and were prepared to defend their priviledges, most notably in the Banket area.

“Cde Chanetsa had to contend with such a hugely networked crop of white farmers who never brooked leaving the land that had given them such riches.”

Acting President Mnangagwa said Cde Chanetsa’s works would remain etched in the minds of many owing to his uprightness. He described Cde Chanetsa as a befitting hero owing to the role he played before and after Independence.

“When Peter’s home province of Mashonaland West recommended that he be considered for national hero status, consultations within the Politburo were just a matter of formality, because the one we gathered to lay to rest here today had long earned his place at this scared shrine.

“We worked with him in Tanzania, as we struggled for the Independence of this great country of Zimbabwe. We were with him at Lancaster House Conference for the negotiations with the British for the formal decolonisation of our beloved country.

“At Independence he came back to be part and parcel of that crop of brave and committed cadres who gave their utmost to ensure that the newly independent state of Zimbabwe would be a success for the first day of inaugural day.”

The Acting President said as the first black Chief of Protocol, Cde Chanetsa served with distinction.

“Then and quite often, commitment to self and family took a back seat as these pioneering men and women burned the midnight oil to ensure that the toddler that Zimbabwe was would quickly grow in dignity and firm against a watchful and not always sympathetic world.

“Peter played his part and as the first Chief of Protocol; he played it all in full glare of a watchful world. Alongside many other founding cadres, we thus thank him immensely for helping the then Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, now President, go through that delicate period of the formative life of our beloved nation.”

Acting President Mnangagwa chronicled Cde Chanetsa rich history in fighting for Zimbabwe’s Independence. He said Cde Chanetsa left the country for Tanzania at an early age owing to his abhorrence of racism and oppression.

There he attended Kantaramba Secondary in the Sumbawanga Ufipa area where he completed Standard 12. After that, he worked closely with Tanzania’s liberation movement, Chama Chamapinduzi, getting exposed to nationalist politics as a youth. In 1974, Cde Chanetsa was assigned to the Zanu office in Dar es Salaam, where he conducted security and protocol duties.

At the party’s 1977 Chimoio Congress, Cde Chanetsa was appointed party protocol chief for East Africa – an office which also handled the colossal task of preparing for the crunch Lancaster House Conference.

Said Acting President Mnangagwa: “A major highlight of that delicate assignment was in preparation for the 1979 Lancaster House Conference when Cde Chanetsa had to go ahead of the main delegation to ensure that sound logistical and protocol arrangements for the leadership were in place.

“It was a tall order, but working with the likes of Dr (Frederick) Shava, our current representative to the United Nations, the assignment was undertaken professionally without any hitches.”

Following the Lancaster House Conference, the party sent Cde Chanetsa to the United States to mobilise students for the 1980 general elections and he was appointed Chief of Protocol to Prime Minister Mugabe soon after Independence in 1980.

Speaking at the burial, Home Affairs Acting Minister Dr Joseph Made said Cde Chanetsa made a “tremendous contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe”.

“He was a loyal and committed team player who played a pivotal role in setting up our Government structures as the first Chief of Protocol,” Dr Made added.

Family spokesperson and son to the national hero, Cde Edphan Chanetsa said his father “loved Zanu-PF”.

“My father loved Zanu-PF, fought for Zanu-PF and for him it was woe betide anyone who spoke negatively about the party. He firmly believed in Zanu-PF and those who attempted to tell him otherwise failed miserably.

“He also loved his family and he often said that the best development one should give to his family is education. Many of my relatives bear testimony to his love for education through the support that he would give to them.”



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