Reflections on Heroes Day

This week the country remembers its gallant sons and daughters who sacrificed a lot to end colonialism.

I will freely admit that I do not agree with some of ZANU PF’s choices of who should be buried at the National Heroes Acre. Regardless, it is fitting that we remember and celebrate these people.

So we saw these heroes in the newspapers and on our TVs again- we were reminded of Cde Josiah Magama Tongogara the ZANLA commander, Eddison Zvobgo the quick witted lawyer, Herbert Chitepo the late ZANU Chairman, Joshua Nkomo the father of the nation and others who contributed immensely to our liberation struggle. We also heard of the Unknown Soldiers- the thousands who lie in unmarked graves in Zambia, Mozambique and elsewhere.

In what has correctly become an annual national event, President Mugabe delivered a speech at the National Heroes Acre- where the most eminent fallen sons and daughters of Zimbabwe are interred. The dead heroes in their tombs, listened in silence- perhaps in respect or, I suppose, the icy indifference of the dead.

Were I a necromancer, I would have roused and spoken to these heroes and asked to hear their opinion.

And I would have sat amongst them as president Mugabe delivered his speech. Some may have wondered why after so long he is still in power. From the rhetoric, they may have wondered too if we are still in the middle of a war.

And others still might have asked where some of their comrades are buried. Herbet Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara and others would have enquired where Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, Sheba Gava, Henry Hamadziripi and others lie, if not besides their companions. To that I probably would have no answer, save to say that they later lost the way. But, I imagine, they would press on, they would ask why Border Gezi and Chenjerai Hunzvi are there. Some would probably even wonder who they are. And I would have no answer.

But I would also have asked them questions.

To the sagacious Eddison Zvobgo I’d ask if he has any regrets about his creation- the executive presidency. I’d want to know whether he did it because he truly believed it was necessary or if he was driven by his own ambition. Did the dangers of absolute power escape his usually sharp legal mind?

 

“We do not want to create a socio-legal order in the country in which people are petrified, in which people go to bed having barricaded their doors and their windows because someone belonging to the special branch of the police will break into their houses.”- Eddison Zvobgo.

 

Why did he not do more than protest when the government gave us repressive laws like the University Act, AIPPA and POSA, which he called “the most serious assault on our individual freedoms since independence.”? Surely as a legal expert he foresaw the dangers. As a lawyer I’d ask him whether the elections we just had stand up to legal standards and if they can be described as free, fair and credible.

To the former ZIPRA commanders, Lookout Masuku and Alfred Nikita Mangena I’d pose the question: Would they have taken up the gun had they known the tragedies our people would suffer after independence? To Lookout I would want to know if his opinion is somehow affected by his own personal experience as a ‘dissident’ and detainee in a “free” black led Zimbabwe. I think they would tell me that regardless of the consequences, they would do it the same way all over again.

To Cde Josiah Magama Tongogara I would ask my most important question: Had he sensed that something was wrong when he said that they were not fighting an individual but a system? What should happen if we successfully fight an individual but maintain the same system- should the struggle continue? I would also want to know how serious he was about not caring for political power given the way some of his comrades love and cling to it.

“What some of us are fighting for is to see that this oppressive system is crushed. I don’t even care whether I will be part of the top echelon…I am dying to see a change in the system. That’s all, I’d like to see the young people – black and white- enjoying together in a new Zimbabwe.”- Josiah Tongogara

 

What would his opinion of our relationship with Western nations and their support be? After all he thought the war was succeeding because of the efforts of progressive groups in the UK, Sweden and other European nations. I would ask if he was truly distrustful of the civilian leaders like Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, who, according to Fay Chung, he felt “would betray the struggle for ephemeral political gains”? Does he feel vindicated in any way?

From Edgar Two-Boy Tekere, I would want to hear what he thinks of the wealth amassed by our leaders. In one interview he said he found the show of American Capitalism repugnant; would he find, for example, Minister Obert Mpofu, equally repulsive?

To Joshua Nkomo, the “Father” of our nation, I would ask what he meant when he said, “I have learned the most important lesson late in life, that a country can gain independence without its people becoming free”. Did he mean economic freedom as some morden ‘Pan Africanists’ would have us believe, or freedom of expression, assembly, speech and association? What would have happened if he had learned this lesson early in his life?

I would also question Cde Maurice Nyagumbo. I would ask if he felt absolved when he committed suicide after being found guilty of corruption. Should his act be emulated by his comrades who are still in the realm of the living? Would that be wise, I would ask, because so many of our leaders nowadays are corrupt.

And to all the other heroes of our struggle I would ask if the current state of affairs is what they had in mind when they went to Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, China and other countries for military training.

I would ask if they are satisfied with the way our government treats its people, especially the poor.

I would ask if they are happy with the way we conduct our elections, with our laws and the corruption we see everyday, everywhere.

I would ask if they are satisfied with what we have done in addressing poverty, if it is commendable that instead of a few wealthy whites we now have a few wealthy blacks.

Perhaps they would tell me if they are happy that three decades after independence many people still live in fear of political thugs who operate with impunity.

Are all those who lost lives, time, friends and limbs to free Zimbabwe- the heroes- proud of a society where difference in political opinion can be costly?

I would ask these questions and if any of them said “yes” they’d no longer be my heroes.

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