THOUSANDS of people in Matabeleland region yesterday gathered at provincial shrines including Bulawayo Provincial Heroes’ Acre in Nkulumane as they joined the nation in commemorating Heroes’ Day.
This was the first bumper Heroes’ Day commemorations in two years as the country starts to reap the rewards of an effective Covid-19 vaccination drive.
In the past two years, people could not gather at heroes acres or venues of Defence Forces Day commemorations because of Covid-19 restrictions which did not allow such gatherings.
The Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube led the proceedings at Bulawayo Provincial Heroes’ Acre where hundreds of liberation luminaries are buried. She read President Mnangagwa’s speech.
Families of departed heroes and residents of Bulawayo gathered at the shrine to pay tribute to the galllant sons and daughters who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
Earlier in the morning, Minister Ncube visited the graves of national heroes who are buried at Lady Stanley and Pelandaba cemeteries. She led the laying of wreaths.
Interred at Lady Stanley are Cdes Lookout Masuku, Welshman Mabhena, Ethan Dube, Wilford Lizathi Sibanda, Masala Sibanda, Isaac Nyathi and Swazini Ndlovu.
At Pelandaba Cemetery they visited the graves of Cde Lazarus Mavava Nkala, Cde Gini Ntuta and Cde Artwell Nelson Bokwe.
Minister Ncube then moved to Bulawayo Provincial Heroes’ Acre where the main commemorations were held.
She was met by Service Chiefs who include Brigadier-General Josphat Kudumba Commander 1 Infantry Brigade, Commissioner Lampard Janah ZPCS Bulawayo Metropolitan Officer Commanding and Assistant Commissioner Martin Matambo ZRP acting Officer Commanding Bulawayo province.
In attendance were Zanu-PF Bulawayo Chairman Cde Jabulani Sibanda, Politburo member Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Raj Modi and former Bulawayo Minister of State Cde Angeline Masuku, Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni and senior Government officials.
Minister Ncube started by inspecting the guard of honour, then visited the tomb of the unknown soldier where the army band led the singing of the national anthem.
A moment of silence was observed.
Minister Ncube returned to the podium and read the President’s Heroes’ Day speech.
Thereafter, she inspected the graves of the fallen heroes and interacted with their families. Some family members were observed cleaning the graves while others held prayers and some took pictures at the grave sites.
Entertainment was provided by Thandanani Women’s Ensemble and various groups from around the city.
There was a truck serving opaque beer.
In Matabeleland South province, families of the departed heroes whose remains are interred at the provincial shrine had started trickling in by 8AM.
Many took the opportunity to sweep around the tombstones and lay flowers before proceedings started. For others, it was the perfect Kodak moment as they took pictures with loved ones at the graves of the heroes.
At around 11AM, Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Abednico Ncube inspected a quarter guard mounted by 1.1 Combat Group from Bulawayo before reading President Mnangagwa’s speech.
Minister Ncube led service chiefs and other officials in laying wreaths at the tomb of the unknown soldier.
He led the entourage in visiting the graves of departed heroes while exchanging pleasantries with their families.
Minister Ncube took the opportunity to visit his late wife’s grave where he laid some flowers.
Those who spoke to Chronicle said the day was a reminder of their beloved ones and the sacrifices they made for the country.
“Whenever we get the chance to visit their graves and lay flowers, it encourages and strengthens us. We have not forgotten them as we still have their memories,” said Ms Margarine Khumalo, whose aunt’s remains are interred at the provincial shrine.
Among those in attendance were Gwanda Mayor Councillor Njabulo Siziba, service chiefs, traditional leaders, heads of various Government departments and leaders from across the political divide.
In Matabeleland North, Heroes’ Day commemorations were held at the Provincial Heroes’ Acre in Lupane where there are 31 graves and a tomb of the unknown soldier.
Scores of people comprising Lupane residents, heads of Government departments from the province and other civil servants converged at the graveyard.
Entertainment was provided by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services band and Lupane born poet Umfana KaGogo real name Jonathan Moyo.
Vendors also grabbed the business opportunity and sold various kinds of goods while health officials were also on site to ensure people followed Covid-19 health protocols.
Four members of Parliament namely Cde Sonny Mguni of Bubi who is also provincial chairman for the War Veterans Association, Cde Musa Ncube of Tsholotsho South, Cde Mail Nkomo a proportional representation MP for Matabeleland North as well as Binga North MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda were in attendance.
Lupane Local Board chairperson Mrs Monica Ngwenya who is also a widow of a liberation war hero, was among the dignitaries.
Minister Moyo read the President’s speech and thereafter led services chiefs and other dignitaries in laying of wreaths on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Minister then visited the graves of the heroes and interacted with families.
Minister Moyo was told about challenges faced by some of the heroes’ families which he said should be urgently addressed.
There were also concerns about the state of the graveyard as only six graves have properly inscribed tombstones while tombstones have been built on 12 others but are yet to be inscribed.
The graveyard is still unfenced following theft of the perimetre fence a few years ago.
Mrs Ngwenya said her husband died in 2007 but a wrong date was written.
She appealed to the National Museums and Monument of Zimbabwe to correct it.
Mrs Siduduzile Ndebele-Masarira who was accompanied by her sibling Ms Mbalenhle Ndebele and grandmother Ms Ruth Nkomo (86) told Minister Moyo that they used their own resources as a family for her mother, Gladys Ndlovu’s tombstone.
Minister Moyo said there is need to develop the cemetery. He appealed to nearby villagers to desist from vandalising the place.
In the Midlands province, hundreds of people from across the length and breadth of the province yesterday thronged the provincial Heroes’ Acre in Gweru to remember the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives for the country’s independence.
There are 243 heroes and heroines interred at the Provincial Heroes’ Acre.
Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Senator Larry Mavima who was the guest of honour read the President’s speech before he led Service Chiefs in laying a wreath on the tomb of an unknown soldier.
He also visited widows and relatives of the fallen heroes who were cleaning and laying wreaths on the graves of their departed loved ones.