17 April 2003

Bishops block Zanu PF's bid to declare Archbishop Chakaipa a hero

President Robert Mugabe suffered an embarrassment this week when Catholic bishops rejected his party's bid to have his late friend, Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa, buried at Heroes Acre. It emerged this week that Mugabe and his Zanu PF stalwarts, who include secretary for information and publicity Nathan Shamuyarira, were pushing for Chakaipa's proclamation as a hero through the Mashonaland West provincial executive. Provincial chairman Philip Chiyangwa applied to the politburo to have the late primate buried at the national shrine but the bishops and the Chakaipa family turned down the idea arguing that it was improper to politicise Chakaipa's funeral.

A source said neither the bishops nor the family were enthusiastic about the proposal, leading to its abandonment. The bishops argued that burying Chakaipa at the national shrine would have suggested that he was a Zanu PF party member. Archbishop Pius Ncube said it would have been improper to equate a man of the cloth with politicians. "It was just a joke. Some people wanted to score cheap political mileage because the whole issue is irrelevant and even Mugabe himself never raised it at the funeral," said Ncube. "Even Chiyangwa who proposed it never came to the funeral and so you can see that it was totally out of the question."

Chiyangwa yesterday said he had applied to the politburo because Chakaipa was "a success story" whose service went beyond religion. He wondered why the clergy had not lobbied to honour their colleague. "The issue of the heroes' status is beyond politics and the church has the right to push for the honour of one of their own. Chakaipa, as you know is a success from my province and so I am right (in petitioning the politburo)," he said. Chiyangwa said there was still a chance for Chakaipa to be accorded the status even though he would not be buried at the shrine. "If they could bring the remains of that white man Guy Clutton-Brock for burial here what will stop them from doing the same with Chakaipa?" he asked. (The Zimbabwe Independent, Harare)

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