Observers have accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa of exhibiting traits of tribalism by failing to accord national hero status to the late legendary Zimbabwean playwright, actor and theatre director Cont Mhlanga.

Mhlanga died on Monday morning as confirmed by National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) Executive Director Nicholas Moyo.

Mnangagwa granted the late founder of the Amakhosi Theatre Productions a State-assisted funeral before giving his family ZWL2,5 million (US$5 458 converted at the official exchange rate) for funeral expenses.

But observers believe that Mhlanga deserved to be a national hero.

Human rights defender Thandekile Moyo said denying Mhlanga the status showed that the Zanu-PF was administration was discriminating the people of Matebeleland.

“Cont Mhlanga was not declared a national hero, because he was not considered a hero by the government, and by people outside Matabeleland. This is an example of the marginalisation of Matabeleland. Of Institutional tribalism. It is such things that fuel the talks of secession,” she said.

“How can we talk about arts in Zimbabwe and not talk about Cont Mhlanga? That an institution as big, successful, impactful to peoples lives, to the culture, and to the Ndebele language as Amakhosi is considered insignificant by this government is unacceptable.

“I don’t care much about Heroes acre, It is to me nothing but a Zanupf dump, But the fact that it is Zanu-PF that declares whether or not a person is a national Hero means the people of Matebeleland will be discriminated against dead or alive if Zanu-PF stays.

“It’s things like this that make me question my worth as a Zimbabwean woman from Matabeleland. What is my place in this country? Where is my place? I search and search, with my mind’s eye for something to show me I belong, that I’m a full citizen. I search in vain.”

Researcher and journalist Zenzele Ndebele asked the authorities.

“But why was Cont Mhlanga not granted National status? Was he not Zimbabwean enough? Was he not Zanu-PF enough? What criteria are used to grant someone a hero status?”

Sybeth Musengezi, a Zanu-PF youth challenging Mnangagwa’s 2017 coup that ousted former President Robert Mugabe, questioned the criteria used in denying Mhlanga national hero status when late musician Oliver Mtukudzi was granted the same.

“This man Cont Mdladla Mhlanga should have been declared a National Hero, not a State assisted funeral. His contribution is no different from Oliver Mtukudzi’s… unfortunately, we’re led by a bunch of tribalists,” he said.

A Twitter user by the name Majaira Jairosi also asked the same.

“That Cont Mhlanga has not been declared a national hero, even when Oliver Mtukudzi was declared a national hero smacks of tribalism and a deep dislike of our citizens from Matabeleland by Mnangagwa. You can tell by him shredding the Unity Accord. We’ve no VP from the region.”