Misihairabwi-Mushonga speech on National Hero status

Extract from National Assembly Debates (uncorrected) for 2nd September 2014

MOTION:

PROVISION OF ASSISTANCE TO HEROES DEPENDANTS

MRS. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: I move the motion standing in my name that this House:-

NOTING that Section 23 of the Zimbabwe Constitution provides for veterans of the struggle who are defined as:

(a) Those who fought in the war of liberation;

(b) Those who assisted the fighters in the war of liberation and those who were imprisoned, detained, or restricted for political reasons during liberation struggle;

CONCERNED that the current War Veterans Act defines a war veteran as one who underwent military training and participated consistently and persistently in the liberation struggle, between 1st January 1962 and 29th February 1980.

FURTHER CONCERNED that in practice hero status is recommended by the ZANU (PF) Politburo, and that the President is designated in the National Hero’s Act with the conferment of hero status.

COGNISANT that the National Heroes Act sets largely restrictive criteria of a hero, as one who has well deserved on account of his outstanding, distinctive and distinguished service to Zimbabwe.

SADDENED that though the National Heroes Act has a provision for the Heroes’ dependants welfare, however, many of them remain unassisted.

NOW THEREFORE, calls upon Government to:

(a) Ensure the realignment of both the Heroes Act and the National War Veterans Acts with Section 23 of the Constitution;

(b) Set objective and more comprehensive criteria of the definition of a hero vis-à-vis a liberation war hero, liberation hero and a national hero.

(c) Review, through public consultations, the current policy of conferment of Heroes status; and

(d) Ensure that dependents of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle are treated fairly and with dignity in terms of the benefits legally due to them.

MS. TOFFA: I second Mr. Speaker Sir.

MRS. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for allowing me this opportunity to speak to the motion that I gave notice of. I will start Mr. Speaker by saying three things. This has been one of the most difficult motions that I have had to debate during my time as Member of Parliament because of the three reasons which I will speak to.

The first one is that, Mr. Speaker at a personal level, as I researched on this motion, I realised that as a black African Zimbabwean woman I had very little knowledge around the liberation struggle. Secondly, it hit me that even the information that is available is just not there, Mr. Speaker. It was very difficult to find basic information around even issues of things that we talk about on a daily basis. We always hear about the Lancaster Agreement but just to find the Lancaster Agreement so that you could speak to who participated in it was a difficult thing. More so, because my motion speaks to the heroes, I just had the fortunate issue of having somebody giving me this booklet which they had gotten at the last National Heroes celebration.

So, that is how I managed to find those who have been declared as national heroes but even when I had done so, when I found some of the people in here, I went to my colleagues on the other side to find out; to say, do you know who this Sylvia Bwititi is. Many of them do not know and it just speaks to the fact that one of the fundamental historic foundation of this particular nation, there is very little that we get to know. If I, at my age Mr. Speaker, cannot have the relevant information about the Liberation Struggle, it concerns me about my own children and my own grandchildren.

The third issue that I would want to say which was very emotional and difficult, when I did the motion, I had not thought about it until I started researching on it and it is the whole issue of gender. Because it was frightening as I started going through this particular booklet to find out that in fact, the number of my sisters who are sitting here, the likes of Hon. Zindi, Hon. Chikwinya and Hon. Chimene were literally written out of the history of this country. I am also going to speak a little bit about those things when I speak to the motion. So, to a large extent, while the motion was really about trying to make sure that what we put in the Constitution aligns to the thoughts of the Zimbabwean people, more things came out that became very concerning and very emotional to me in particular.

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