ONE of the greatest tragedies to befall post-colonial Zimbabwe is that there has never been anyone to truly safeguard and protect the gains that came with the country’s hard-fought independence.
No one can deny that there was nothing nobler than the ideals and objectives of the liberation struggle — waged for the total emancipation of all the people of this country, regardless of skin colour, creed, tribe, ethnicity, religion, or even social and political standing.
We were all supposed to be seen and treated as equals after April 18, 1980 — with no particular grouping being considered more equal than the other, or more entitled to the fruits of our country’s independence than the rest.
Yet, what we had witnessed, in utter horror and helplessly, has been, in typical “Animal Farm” fashion, a small clique which has taken itself as more worthy of the fat of the land — enriching itself to filthy levels with the vast resources Zimbabwe has been endowed with – at the expense of millions of ordinary citizens, the huge majority of whom, are possibly worse off today than they were under colonial rule, or at the very best, their lot not having changed at all.
Nonetheless, the question that should be on everyone’s lips is: “What went wrong? Why were the ideals that were held so sacrosanct and sacrificed for by thousands of our valiant sons and daughters of the soil (a number of them who perished in the bushes and in villages) never fulfilled?”
That is, indeed, the million dollar question whose answer can never be a simple one.
Be that as it may, the first and most obvious thing is that the liberation struggle was hijacked by those who had their own ulterior motives — which had absolutely nothing to do with the betterment of the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Zimbabweans.
My research and discussions with very keys people has shown that the Chinese, who came in masquerading as Good Samaritans as if desiring to merely assist in our emancipation from the yoke of colonialism in the early 1960s, had their own vested interests in our natural resources.
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Let us remember that this was at the height of the so-called Cold War between the capitalist West, and the predominantly communist East, although these were also divided between the Soviets (Russians) on one hand, and the Chinese on the other.
As such, there was a renewed “scramble for Africa”, whereby the continent’s abundant natural resources, mainly minerals, were at the epicentre of global greed.
Since the initial “conquest of Africa” of the 18th and 19th century had been largely driven by western Europeans, the Russians and Chinese were not going to be left out this time around in the mid-20th century.
In so doing, they spotted a huge opportunity in the desire of African people to be free of colonial domination, thereby swiftly coming in portraying themselves as benevolent knights in shining armour, who would aid militarily, financially and politically in the various liberation struggles.
Of course, those was never their real intentions.
From the information at my disposal, it is clear the Chinese, in particular, paid handsome amounts of cash directly into the pockets of specific Zanu leaders for them to ensure that those in charge of the struggle would guarantee the Asian giant’s interests post-independence.
Thus, this was the same group that hijacked the people’s struggle mainly through the systematic elimination, both through assassinations of genuine nationalists, and also political manoeuvering, who eventually took over power leading into Zimbabwe’s independence.
Which is why revolutionary heroes as Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo and General Josiah Magama Tongogara were killed by their own comrades.
It is not very clear what part the British also played, as there is strong suspicion of their involvement in either the creation or funding of Zanu since it was clear that the liberation struggle was inevitable, and they had to prevent the ascendancy to power of a Russia-backed Zapu government.
This probably explains why the Gukurahundi genocide, which saw over 20 000 unarmed innocent civilians being heinously massacred in the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces, has never been condemned by the West.
In fact, the Zanu PF government remained their darlings during that dark period, with then President Robert Gabriel Mugabe even receiving numerous accolades in various Western capitals, including a knighthood from the queen of England, Elizabeth II.
This is the reason given as to why the post-independence Zanu PF government dilly dallied in implementing any real reforms that would genuinely transform the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.
In fact, even veterans of the armed struggle were cast aside, as they were no longer of any significance, having only been used as tools for the objectives of these Chinese-funded leaders.
Only when these war veterans finally decided to stand up for themselves — first through demonstrations that embarrassed Mugabe as he addressed a Heroes Day gathering in 1998, and land invasions in 1999/2000 — was the Zanu PF regime forced to make panicked unplanned decisions.
The chaotic outcome of these unprepared and abrupt programmes directly led to the immediate end of warm relations with the British and her allies, leaving the Zanu PF government with no choice but to turn back to their other friend, China, who had still been waiting impatiently in the shadows for their pound of flesh from the liberation war “assistance”.
This is the reason even today, the Chinese are permitted to ride roughshod over impoverished villagers — who are cruelly displaced from their ancestral lands, without any meaningful compensation or benefit in return — to make way for mining companies exploiting our vast mineral resources.
The Chinese have come with a vengeance, as if to make up for the two decades after independence, where they were totally ignored and dumped for the British by the Zanu PF administration.
Herein comes the issue of war veterans.
Our genuine fighters on the ground, who were in the bushes, and did the actual fighting, while those who were entering secret deals through prostituting themselves with the Chinese (and probably, also the British) were living relatively safely in foreign lands, ceased playing their part as vanguards of our independence, as they were cast aside soon after 1980.
That was the greatest folly of our country’s modern history.
These courageous men and women should have been the ones to ensure that the ideals on which the war of independence was fought were honoured by all, and continued to be held sacrosanct.
This meant that they were never to be a part or “wing” of any particular political party, but to stand alone, in truly independent fashion, as the conscience of the nation who did not fear holding to account those in power, whenever they erred.
It is really unfortunate and heart breaking observing how our ex-combatants have been strategically and systematically kept under the armpit of the ruling Zanu PF party, thereby obliged to be subservient and obedient to the ruling elite.
As much as we all understand the history of our nationalist movements, and the fact that our liberation struggle was driven by political parties with the freedom fighters being military wings of Zanu and Zapu, there was need for their separation from these parties at independence.
Considering that those who did the real sacrificing and fighting on the ground were the genuine deal, who placed their lives on the line for the cause of all the people of Zimbabwe, and not any particular grouping, they then had to stand on their own after 1980, and act as unbiased stewards of the ideals and objectives of the struggles.
They should have kept a close watch on those in power, as well as all those aspiring for power (the opposition) by making sure that all their actions were in line with what had been fought for, and the protection of our national sovereignty.
It is not too late, though, since these brave men and women are still with us today.
We now expect them to take up their role as the vanguards of our liberation struggle and independence by holding to account our leaders (both in government, and in the opposition), so that none are found betraying the people’s aspirations.
There is need for our war veterans to boldly speak out and stand up against the suffering of the citizens of this country, who were promised milk and honey during the straggle, but ended up with mud and spit in their faces.
Our war veterans should be at the forefront of condemning the institutionalised plunder of our vast national resources by a small ruling elite — the same people who hijacked the struggle, now enriching themselves and their cronies at the expense of millions of Zimbabweans, who are abandoned to wallow in poverty.
The liberation struggle was never waged for Zanu or Zapu — neither was it fought for only a few to enjoy the gains of independence.
Thousands of Zimbabweans did not lose their lives so that half the population, including war veterans themselves, would live in extreme poverty, with most of the workforce earning below the poverty datum line, as millions teeter on the brink of starvation due to food insecurity.
The people of Zimbabwe did not go to war so that our children are left with no hope for their futures — except to leave the country for the diaspora, or settle for a life of street vending or some other so-called “projects”, where they cannot even afford to meet the ever-increasing daily expenses, let alone buy a decent house for themselves.
Is it not painful hearing our parents, who worked during the colonial period, declaring that “Rhodesia or (the late former Prime Minister Ian) Smith was better”, as they have never been able to taste, or even see, the touted fruits of our independence — most of whom have actually been thrown into destitution, through the Zimbabwe regime’s mismanagement of the economy, corruption and looting of our national treasures, which should have benefited all?
Do our intrepid sons and daughters of the soil not feel an excruciating stabbing in their hearts when they see how their own rural homes, which they left 50 or so years ago, to join the liberation struggle, as a result of the unbearable poverty and their (rural areas) backwardness in terms of development — are still as underdeveloped and backward as before, nearly 43 years after independence?
When they think back to their harrowing experiences in the bush during the struggle, do they honestly believe that this is what they fought for, and that the people of Zimbabwe are now finally happy?
The truth of the matter is that we are not yet free and there is absolutely nothing to celebrate. If anything, we are disappointed, hopeless and angry.
It is time our liberation heroes took up their role as the vanguards of our independence — by standing up bravely against this greedy clique that callously hijacked the struggle.
It is time they defended what they fought for, against an oppressive kleptomaniac elite that never cared about the people, and is only out to benefit themselves.
It is time for the restoration of the real ideals for which thousands lost their lives!
Our heroes never sacrificed for this nonsense.