PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party's top leadership were conspicuous by their absence when friends and relatives of the late Wilfred Mhanda who was also known as Dzinashe Machingura came together Saturday to bury the liberation war icon.
Affectionately known as Cde Dzino, Mhanda was laid to rest at Glen Forest Cemetery on the eastern fringes of the capital in a sombre ceremony attended by a handful opposition MDC-T leaders and civil society activists.
Among those who attended were MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti, deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma and Senator Sekai Holland. The three are leading figures in the 15-year-old party's controversial leadership renewal agenda.
MDC-T organising secretary, Nelson Chamisa and Guardian Council member James Makore were the only senior party allies of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai who also attended.
The feuding MDC-T factions could not hide their resentment for each other as Chamisa and Biti's small entourage failed to shake hands even though Chamisa charted excitedly with NCA leader, Lovemore Madhuku as mourners dispersed after the burial.
But it was Zanu PF's absence at the burial which highlighted the general distaste Zimbabwe's rival politicians have towards each other.
Mugabe is known for his legendary unforgiving nature and it seemed even former Mhanda close buddy Rugare Gumbo stayed away for apparent fear of coming under suspicion.
Gumbo was part of the group that became known as Vashandi which staged a mini-rebellion against Mugabe's leadership at the height of the vicious guerrilla struggle although he later repented.
Gumbo has reportedly described Mhanda as a true national hero "whether we will bury him at the national heroes (Acre) or not".
Didymus Mutasa, the Zanu PF secretary for administration who is convenor of politburo meetings vested with the powers of conferring national hero's status on individuals, claimed disdainfully that he did not know Mhanda.
However veterans of the struggle who were part of the Vashandi group, among them former ZBC CEO Happison Muchechetere, Abel Marimo (who commanded the Manica province), former Attorney General Sobusa-Gula Ndebele, Gwauya and Freedom Nyamubaya made up a former struggle elite of poll-bearers who took Dzino to his final resting place.
Bernard Manyadza a leading figure in the formation of the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP) described Mhanda as a brilliant military strategist and a true national hero.
"The good thing is that Dzino left us a book that tells us what happened during the war but I can tell you that book is actually shallow because he left out a lot of detail and I am challenging all of us here who were part of the struggle to write our stories while we are still alive.
"The history of our struggle has been distorted by people with their own agenda and we have to correct that," said Manyadza in his grave-side remarks.
Manyadza chronicled a not so rosy history of how Mugabe joined the fighters in Mozambique in the mid-70s and was consigned to a "teaching post in Qulimane before he was allowed to join the mainstream struggle at the instigation of Dzino and others.
"We were betrayed by the people we had worked so hard to get their release," he said.
Mhanda's burial was also graced by former Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, British Ambassador Deborah Bronnet and the European Union Head of Delegation Aldo Dell'Ariccia.
Opposition Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa also sent a condolence message, describing Dzino as a steadfast person who insisted on the fulfilment of the ideals of the liberation struggle for the betterment of the lives of all Zimbabweans.
"Dzino never tolerated the betrayal of the people. He insisted on the fulfilment of all that we fought for despite the vilification from some sections.
"He will forever be remembered as an icon of the struggle for the independence of Zimbabwe," Dabengwa said in a speech read on his behalf.