Sithole, Chikerema families revel in national hero status

14 Aug, 2022 - 00:08 0 Views
Sithole, Chikerema families revel in national hero status

The Sunday Mail

Sunday Mail Reporters

Families and close associates of late nationalists Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and Cde James Chikerema have welcomed the posthumous conferment of national hero status on the struggle stalwarts, saying the recognition was deserved.

President Mnangagwa gave the special honour of national hero status on several prominent Zimbabweans, including academics and former nationalists, on Heroes Day last week, saying the Second Republic was committed to giving a holistic account of the country’s war of liberation.

The President also extended the honour to Brigadier-General Chrispen Masuku, Rabelani Choeni, Elliot Gwabe, Professor Sheunesu Mupepereki, George Kahari, Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu and Stanley Matunhira.

Rev Sithole fell out with the ZANU leadership in 1975 and was replaced as party leader by former President, Cde Robert Mugabe.

He later formed ZANU-Ndonga that same year.

Cde Chikerema similarly disagreed with his peers and later became one of the leaders in FROLIZI (Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe), a breakaway party.

In his Heroes Day address, President Mnangagwa said the two nationalists deserved to be honoured for their contribution to the liberation of the country.

“We are therefore rising to the occasion and recognising other heroes and heroines such as the late Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and the late Cde James Chikerema for their historical contributions, despite their areas of weaknesses with regards to the observance of the correct line of the revolution.

“For that reason, we now honour them among the list of our national heroes and heroines,” he said.

Rev Sithole, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) founding president, died in 2000, while Cde Chikerema passed on in 2006.

Dr Sifiso Sithole-Barrow, Rev Sithole’s daughter and family spokesperson, said: “What I can share with you right now is that thus far, the family has not yet been contacted formally with regards to the development that has been circulating in the media.

“We are assuming that the President’s Office will at some point be contacting us.

“Once they do that, we shall then be in a better position to share with you our views.”

However, former ZANU-Ndonga president and Chipinge South legislator Mr Wilson Khumbula said honouring Rev Sithole was sweet news to the people of Chipinge and progressive Zimbabweans.

“We all welcome the announcement,” he said.

“Everyone I am talking to is overjoyed with this development.

“This shows great leadership qualities by President Mnangagwa.

“Everyone knows the inspirational role played by Rev Sithole in the liberation of the country.”

People from Chipinge, he said, were “taken aback by the failure of the First Republic to honour Rev Sithole.”

“We know that it was personality issues which were politicised, but President Mnangagwa’s announcement has helped to pacify our souls.”

He said leaders should be able to forgive and embrace one another, adding that “hatred destroys people and we want everyone to contribute towards a prosperous Zimbabwe”.

A former member of the Crocodile Gang and Rev Sithole’s neighbour at Freedom Farm, Cde Musabani Hlabati Mtetwa, commended President Mnangagwa.

“Everyone makes mistakes in life but forgiving is divine,” he said.

“Even in the Bible, we have kings who made mistakes, but God found favour in them and forgave them.

“It is undisputed that Rev Sithole contributed immensely towards the liberation of this country.

“We want to thank President Mnangagwa for remembering our liberation icon, Rev Sithole, as he was one of those who started the relay and inspired a lot of us to take up arms and fight the oppressive Rhodesian regime.”

Cde Chikerema’s widow, Phildah Goto, said the honour extended to her late husband was long overdue.

She said Cde Chikerema’s national hero status was well-deserved and has made all the struggles he faced worthwhile.

“I want to thank President Mnangagwa for according my husband national hero status. As we struggled during the war, we knew this country would be better under black people,” she said.

“The decision shows that we have a leader who understands where the country came from and where the country is going.

“May God bless him for the decision he took.

“VaChikerema never knew any other job except fighting for liberation.

“He dedicated his life to the freedom of black people in the land of their ancestors.”

Cde Chikerema, she added, remained resolute in his disdain for imperialists until death.

The late nationalist was buried in the family graveyard in Kutama Village, Zvimba.

An epitaph on his tombstone reads: “…a caring father, grandad and national hero.”


Cde Chikerema’s first-born child, Douglas (58), said bestowing of the national hero status on his father was a relief.

“Our father was always on the road, working for the liberation of Zimbabwe. It bothered us that he did not get to be celebrated in independent Zimbabwe,” he said.

“As a family we are very happy about this development and hope that he gets the due recognition, which we believe he really deserves.”

Rev Sithole was born in Nyamandhlovu on July 21, 1920.

He studied teaching in the United States between 1955 and 1958.

He was ordained a Methodist minister in 1958.

The publication of his book “African Nationalism” and its immediate prohibition by the minority white government motivated his political activism.

He was one of the founders of ZANU in August 1963 in Highfield along with other nationalists such as Cdes Herbert Chitepo, Robert Mugabe, Enos Nkala and Edgar Tekere.

The firebrand nationalist, who was popularly known as “Musharukwa”, was elected president at the party’s inaugural congress in then Gwelo (now Gweru) in 1964.

ZANU was banned by the Ian Smith regime that same year.

He was arrested in 1964 along with Cdes Mugabe, Tekere, Leopold Takawira and Maurice Nyagumbo before spending 10 years in prison.

He was to fall out with his colleagues after being released from prison.

He was replaced as ZANU leader by Cde Mugabe.

Rev Sithole eventually founded ZANU-Ndonga party.

In 1979 he joined Abel Muzorewa’s transitional government under the Internal Settlement.


Cde Chikerema founded a number of pressure groups, including the City Youth League, which organised the bus boycotts of September 1955.

In 1957, he was announced vice president of SRANC (Southern Rhodesia African National Congress), with the late Dr Joshua Nkomo as leader.

In 1959, he was arrested before being detained at Khami Prison and later at a detention centre in Gokwe Mapfungautsi for four years.

By the time he was released, the ANC had been banned and two political formations – ZAPU and ZANU – had emerged.

He aligned with ZAPU, before fleeing into exile in 1964 following mass arrests of black nationalists.

He later established the ZAPU headquarters in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Described as outspoken by those who knew him, Cde Chikerema often found himself at loggerheads with his fellow comrades.

The clashes included public spates with his uncle, Cde Mugabe.

Despite his immense contribution to the liberation struggle, which included being a key negotiator at the Victoria Falls Conference of 1975, the man fondly remembered as “Murehwa” in the Zvimba area was not officially recognised for his role in the liberation of the country.

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