However, 31 years into independence and there is still a debate about the criteria used to confer national hero’s status. And for now it is only the Zanu PF politburo that has the prerogative of declaring one a national hero.
So, according to Zanu PF, heroes are only those in the rank and file of their party. Heroism has been politicised yet there are many other people outside politics or partisanship that contributed to the development of the country in big ways.
One sector of society that did play a pivotal role during the war were the musicians who sang songs that inspired the struggle. Musicians like the legendary Thomas Mapfumo, Cde Chinx, Tineyi Chikupo, Zexie Manatsa, Oliver Mtukudzi and various other musicians had compositions which inspired the struggle and united the masses.
Mapfumo’s Tumira Vana Kuho-ndo, Nyoka Musango, Cde Chinx’s Maruza Imi, and Vanhu VemuAfrica are examples of songs sang during that period and surely their impact was significant.
Protest songs against white supremacy and bad governance motivated the guerrillas during pungwes which were frequently held during that time.
Basing on the criteria used by the Zanu PF politburo to accord one a hero’s status, it will not be easy to have such musicians get recognition despite their contributions.
Mapfumo is an example of a musician who stood firm in condemning the injustices which were being perpetrated by the colonial government and he constantly had brushes with the law. These are national heroes who deserve recognition for the part they played in the struggle for independence but such accord does not seem anywhere in the near future.
During the liberation war, music served as a barometer in gauging the people’s sensitivity and the tone and atmosphere of that period. It constituted the cultural weapon of the struggle, igniting the spirits of perseverance, unity and hope.
Even in independent Zimbabwe, we have musicians who have excelled locally and internationally. People like the late Leonard Dembo, arguably one of the finest musicians ever to grace this land, is one such musician who deserves honour. His song Chitekete is the only Zimbabwean song to have so far been played at the Miss World pageant.
Therefore, as we remember those who sacrificed their lives in the liberation of this country, it is also important to take this time to honour the role played by music in the struggle for independence and thereafter. There are several musicians who have since departed who really played a significant role in the growth of the arts industry in Zimbabwe.
The arts industry might have solace in that Simon Chimbetu was at least declared a provincial hero, even though his contribution was broader and never limited to provincial level.