Pictures of war veterans being tear-gassed last week were greatly saddening, while the drama, tear-smoke and high-pressure water used on these liberation war heroes, somehow smoke-screened some otherwise genuine concerns that the former fighters had.
BY JEALOUSY MAWARIRE
Although the disturbances might have posed a serious threat to national security, given the volatility of emotions and simmering anger in the general citizen, we believe the mere fact the veterans of Chimurenga II sought to demonstrate against President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, showed the seriousness of the problems we now have as a country, for this group, ordinarily, would never imagine exposing the regime and its chief protagonists as a desirable means to an end.
The gathering of the war veterans to demonstrate is very symptomatic of the deep anger and lack of trust by citizens on central government due to its failure to deliver in the area of social services, frustration due to non-performance of the economy and key sectors such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing, which has resulted in food insecurity, unemployment and the decay of infrastructure on one hand, and the rampant abuse of institutions and organisations by desperate political players, on the other.
The demonstration by the war veterans is also a serious indictment on the youths who seem to have betrayed this generation of gallant and selfless sons and daughters of the soil by failing to step-up and take the baton of the struggle for total independence from them. In so doing, the youths have left the war veterans to take issues upon themselves and consequently expose themselves to the vagaries of a brutal and dying regime when most of them are no longer in the physical health, shape and age in which they were when they took down the colonial, oppressive and racist Ian Smith regime.
The issues that the war veterans are articulating — although clouded by the internal fights within Zanu PF — resonate with the problems that seize the general citizenry, which include, but are not limited to, bad governance, a rampantly corrupt system, absence of a proper and reliable health care system, high levels of unemployment, non-payment of pensions to pensioners which include war veterans, dilapidation of infrastructure, non-performance of industry and key sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, high cost of tertiary education which government has stopped subsidising and the general absence of freedom among citizens to pursue happiness and participate in the governance of their country without fear of State security reprisals.
However, the former freedom fighters’ attempts to champion the cause of the general public has been hampered by contradictions within their association and the fact that the association, its leadership, general membership and objectives have been hijacked by functionaries seconded to the organisation by power-hungry and competing interests in the Zanu PF succession race. This has resulted in the heavy-handedness with which their intended demonstration was treated.
That tear-gassing and use of water cannons and brutal attacks on some war veterans gathering to demonstrate in Harare should be condemned in any democratic political set-up. It is not the best way a country, its leadership, security forces or the general public should treat veterans of a war that brought independence to the country.
But the events of Thursday February 18 2016 should also force our war veterans to introspect. We implore them to retrace their steps back to the fundamental objectives that informed the formation of their association as a non-governmental organisation (NGO), whose fundamental objectives were aimed at promoting the people first ideals of the liberation struggle in as much as they addressed their welfare as veterans of Chimurenga II.
We believe that veterans of the struggle for our independence are not just trained gunmen, but schooled nationalists who have a deep understanding of the national question, a clear understanding of what needs to be done to realise the people first ideals of the liberation struggle that remain a pipedream 36 years after independence.
In so doing, we are confident that these distinguished fighters of the liberation struggle understand that the freedom they fought for was not for one man, his family or a particular grouping within our body politic; therefore, their allegiance is to the national cause, not the preservation of one man or sectoral political interests.
We also know that the war veterans — like every citizen in the country — are concerned about recent attempts to divide our people along colonial, tribal, nomenclature and colonial geographical boundaries when the lesson learnt during the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe is that we are one people, not only in Zimbabwe but the whole of Africa, especially our sub-region.
In Africa, we are all the same nation. We are abantu/vanhu. We are not tribes but a nation of people all united by our totems which are evidence of the history of our families. There is no difference, for instance, between Samanyanga, Nyamasvisva, Nzou, Zhou, Ndlovu, Ndou or Tlou. We are the same family speaking different dialects of the same Bantu language as a result of free movement and location.
Attempts at dividing us along tribal and ethnic lines are nothing but an indication that among us are juvenile and desperate political failures who are trying to clutch onto archaic and bigoted colonial tactics of separating us by exploiting rare instances of non-mutual linguistic intelligibility among our people.
We are glad that the struggle for our independence, and indeed the other Chimurengas before it, demonstrated the oneness of our people and we implore veterans of the liberation struggle to continue being torch-bearers of this unity among our people and resist any attempts that Zanu PF succession politics might exert on them to for-go the ideals of our national struggle, which demands that our people have self-determination, have freedom of association, freedom of speech and guaranteed safety after the exercise of that freedom, freedom to pursue any economic activity of their choice, equality before the law and freedom to form or join a political party of their choice and to participate in civic and governance activities in their country without fear, among a battery of other freedoms availed to them, especially, after the coming into effect of our new Constitution.
It is incumbent upon every citizen to cherish our independence and peace and work towards the attainment of the goals that those that sacrificed their lives to liberate our country set for themselves, their country and for posterity. The late Comrade Josiah Magama Tongogara once said, “Zimbabwe does not belong to us, it belongs to the future generation, so we should leave it a better country for them.” We, therefore, have a duty to ourselves, our children and generations to come to lay the foundations of solid economic growth in our country. Together, we are builders of Zimbabwe in peace.