PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday admitted that veteran nationalist Cephas Msipa was candid about the source of Zimbabwe’s problems that include leadership failure.
By Everson Mushava
Speaking at Msipa’s burial at the heroes acre in Harare, Mugabe avoided talking about his retirement, which was part of the advice that the former Zapu stalwart gave to the 92-year-old leader on a regular basis.
“I have known Cde Msipa for a long time,” the Zanu PF leader said in a very subdued address.
“He was an honest man, open-minded and was not afraid to express his mind to anyone, even to the president.
“Even Vice-President [Emmerson] Mnangagwa was always told that ‘you are the one misleading Mugabe’. That was Cde Msipa. He was always a man of his mind.”
Msipa was one of the few people in Zanu PF with the courage to tell Mugabe to retire to save Zimbabwe from further ruin.
The former Midlands governor, a long-time Mugabe ally who he once hosted at his Highfield home during the struggle for independence, was also one of the people who told the veteran ruler in his face to stop the Gukurahundi massacres in the 1980s.
After retiring from active politics in 2010, he ratcheted up pressure on the president to pave way for fresh blood.
Mugabe has already been endorsed by Zanu PF to seek re-election in 2018 despite his advanced age and reported ill-health that has triggered continuous power struggles in his ruling Zanu PF as party stalwarts angle themselves to succeed him.
Yesterday he described Msipa as a principled man who shunned corruption and always wanted to do things the right way.
He said because of Msipa’s principled leadership the land reform programme in the Midlands was not chaotic like in other provinces.
“There was order in Midlands province. They did not chase away all white farmers,” Mugabe said.
“I asked Cde Mnangagwa the reason and he told me that they had left only dairy farmers.
“The situation was difference to Mashonaland East. Kaukonde (Ray-former Mashonaland East provincial chairperson) was protecting his white friends.”
Mugabe said Msipa was a humble man who loved peace and played an important role in the signing of the Unity Accord between Zanu and Joshua Nkomo’s PF Zapu that ended Gukuruhandi.
An army unit carried out the atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces where over 20 000 died. Mugabe tried to justify the government’s decision to disregard Msipa’s death bed wish to be buried next to his wife Charlotte in Gweru.
“I was out of the country when I heard that there was misunderstanding regarding where he would be buried. We respect the wish of the dead,” he said.
“We were told he said he wanted to be buried in Gweru next to his wife.
“But when I came back, I talked to his children and told him that he could not declare himself a national hero and that it was the reason why out of humility he had said so.”
He added: “It is us who confer him with the status. Now we have said he is a national hero, he should be buried here. I am happy his children understood us and we came to an agreement.”
Msipa succumbed to a chest infection last week at the age of 85.