Mugabe's sister afforded hero status in death

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The Independent Online

A new plot is being dug at Zimbabwe's Heroes Acre cemetery after the death of Robert Mugabe's younger sister, Sabina.

The 76-year-old – who died yesterday after a long illness – will be interred alongside those who fought white minority rule in the 1970s.

The state media was quick to pay tribute to Sabina's role in the liberation struggle and her work for women and children's rights.

"In the early days, there were few women at the forefront of political protest. Comrade Sabina Mugabe was one of them," wrote the Herald.

However, others questioned the hero status given to the former ruling party MP, who retired from frontline politics, citing ill health, before the last election.

Sabina was among a number of senior Zanu-PF politicians who were directly implicated in the violent farm invasions that began in 2000.

According to witnesses she appeared at a farm belonging to the Ford family – white farmers in Norton, about 20 miles outside the capital Harare – in November of that year. She was said to have told Terry Ford to vacate the property as she was taking it over.

Mr Ford, who resisted the takeover, was found dead in March 2002. His neighbours said his corpse had been tied to a tree and he had been severely tortured before being killed with a shot to the head.

Zanu's coalition partners, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said they had not been consulted over the national hero status given to Mr Mugabe's sister.

Before going into politics Sabina had been well known in the Norton area as a seamstress and trader in second hand clothes.

Although she strongly denied following her brother into politics she was seen as one of the few remaining confidantes to the 86-year-old president.

She leaves behind two sons, Leo Mugabe – the disgraced former head of the Zimbabwe football federation – and Patrick Zhuwao, a senior ruling party cadre.