He was among many who languished in the Smith-regime jails like Hwahwa and Connemara in the early 1960s only to be slapped with a Prohibited Immigrant (PI) status never to set his foot in Salisbury again as the ultimate prize. As persistent and stubborn as he was and determined to see a free Zimbabwe, he persevered by later helping young freedom fighters cross the border for recruitment and training in Mozambique.
Later on he worked at State House as an electrical maintenance artisan between 1988 and 1990, but never attempted to charm President Mugabe, whom he saw every day, with his remarkable liberation history. I do not know whether in his grave the old man is still proud to have liberated Zimbabwe, because in my own understanding the liberation doctrine has been hijacked and personalised to the extent that only those who belong to Zanu PF are considered to have meaningfully participated in the struggle.
That is wrong and I believe that Zanu PF should not personalise the liberation struggle. Everyone who witnessed the horrific events of the war all took part in one way or the other.
Firstly, our mothers who delivered the gallant sons and daughters who fought in the liberation struggle, are the first in the order of real heroes for without them the revolutionary project could not have succeeded. The same mothers had to encourage their sons and daughters to soldier on until Zimbabwe was free. Mothers had to bear the brutality of the Smith regime including torture as they were the first suspects and primary targets of Smith’s soldiers in their war against the guerilla forces. It is alleged that my own grandmother was forced to eat a whole bunch of bananas by Rhodesian soldiers upon being suspected of carrying the bananas for the “terrorists”, when in actual fact she was taking them home after harvesting from her own garden.
Zimbabwe was liberated by everyone who witnessed the struggle. Of course there are our fathers, the real brains behind the war. Our fathers toiled under the heartless Smith regime but out of all the turmoil they managed to keep the Zimbabwean dream alive by motivating the fighters. Some had to be taken to “Keeps” or concentration camps where they were “taught” how to discourage their sons and daughters from involvement in terrorist and banditry activities.
Whenever the Heroes Day is commemorated, has this been ever taken into account? Truly the liberation struggle was never solely a Zanu or even Zapu show. Our brothers and sisters were also at the battlefront, sacrificing their lives for the sake of liberating Zimbabwe.
Then there were the war collaborators, the “Chimbwidos and Mujibas” whose sole duty was to keep the revolutionary spirit awake by singing all night at the “Pungwes”. Without them the revolutionary morale would have died thereby prolonging the years of colonial subjugation and suffering. Our historians have a great task to rewrite our history before it is too late.
We cannot ignore the role of the students, many of whom were expelled from the University of Rhodesia because of their revolutionary activities. These are the very same people who returned at independence and picked our educational system from where the erstwhile coloniser had left. Without them the country would not have developed to the level it is today.
Credit should also be given to the Zimbabweans who lived in the Diaspora at the time. These are the people who lobbied sympathy and understanding to the international community by presenting the Zimbabwean story from a Zimbabwean perspective. Without them the Lancaster House Conference, the ultimate panacea to the Zimbabwean problem, would not have been called for.
Mention should also be made from our African colleagues, among them Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania. These provided the training ground for the liberation fighters, to the extent of risking destruction of their own infrastructural development. Several battles of independence were fought in these countries, thousands of kilometres away from Zimbabwe.
Finally, the culture of declaring one a hero after death should be stopped. It is high time people are given accolades while they are still alive. The idea of a few people gathering to decide upon the hero status of a person should stop. Real heroes are known dead or alive.