Sibanda, the mild-mannered man of Zimbabwe politics, was revered by millions. He died of cancer at the age of 66.
During the many moments of madness in Zimbabwean politics, Sibanda quietly distinguished himself as "the voice of reason".
Even the ageing Mugabe acknowledged his qualities, saying: "Always measured, humble and unassuming, he became a voice of temperance and maturity in tempestuous political times, a disposition which made him a natural candidate for championing the national healing and reconciliation programme launched under the inclusive government."
But Mugabe decided that Sibanda was not a national hero. Instead, his family was offered a state-assisted funeral.
National heroes include Mugabe's late first wife, Sally, and his sister, Sabina, who are buried at Heroes' Acre, in Harare.
Sibanda was the deputy president of Arthur Mutambara's breakaway faction of the Movement for Democratic Change and the minister for national healing. The main MDC, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said:
"Sibanda died as he lived, in the quietness of his general deportment. As he lies in the soft requiem of death, we in the MDC derive comfort in that even his grave shall dismally fail to entomb his rich and brave legacy."
For more than 40 years Sibanda played leading roles in Zimbabwe's struggle for freedom. He was an inspiring trade union leader and an even more effective politician.
Mutambara, the deputy prime minister, said yesterday: ''We reject with contempt the decision by Mugabe's [ZANU-PF] politburo not to declare Sibanda a national hero. "
Callers to privately owned Studio7 radio, broadcast from the US by Voice of America, were scathing in their criticism of Mugabe's decision. Many described the national heroes' shrine as a "ZANU-PF heroes' acre". (Timeslive.co.za)