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Fallen heroes must be turning

By Ray Matikinye

FOR more than two decades President Robert Mugabe and the state media have reminded Zimbabweans of the sacrifices made by “our gallant sons and daughters” towards liberation

from racism and colonialism.

They have jolted our memories about deprivation, oppression and restrictive laws associated with settler colonialism.

Monday’s event at the National Heroes Acre was no exception.

Those 71 heroes interred there had professions ranging from academics, medical doctors and philosophers to the not-so-well-educated.

Others, during their lifetime were luminaries in different fields.

Borrowing a Shakespearean nostrum: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is often interred with their bones” would be instructive as a way to revisit the advice and legacies that our heroes bequeathed to us.

First to enter the stage would be Josiah Magama Tongogara, exalting the virtues of liberation war and telling the world that the war for national Independence was not a fight against whites.

“We are fighting a system and we are going to smash that system,” General Tongo said.

Tongogara’s remark has been immortalised in film clips screened frequently on national television. It could have been a befitting epitaph on his grave.

But years of unfulfilled promises of a better future and the economic woes most Zimbabweans are enduring compel them to doubt whether the inequities of the colonial era have been removed.

They witness a majority wallow in abject poverty while a few drink upstream of the rest of the herd.

If any of the heroes in the mould of veteran nationalists like Tongogara, Jason “Ziyapapa” Moyo, Lookout Masuku, Herbert Chitepo, Morris Nyagumbo, Rekayi Tangwena and Willie Musarurwa were to resurrect, they would find President Mugabe still harping on the evils of colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism.

“Our heroes believed in the principles of freedom, justice and self-determination. They endured colonial repression and suppression and refused to surrender to the vicious colonial enemy,” Mugabe said on Monday.

“On this day, let it be known that wrongful self-enrichment will not be allowed to go unpunished.”

But those buried at the national shrine would find time has remained at a standstill with Mugabe still frothing at the mouth about the British as if two decades of Independence have done nothing to change the set-up.

Seeing ubiquitous poverty in a country that the late Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere termed a jewel, Eddison Zvobgo would take the stage next with his: “We are spending as if the world owes us a living,” to warn of government profligacy. That extravagance has spawned an economic crisis that has left Mugabe thrashing his hands about, exasperated by elusive solutions.

The heroes will be taken aback by the surreal black-on-black repression that has replaced white repression which they laid down their lives for. In place of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act they will find Posa.

Musarurwa would find it quaint that years of arduous struggle for freedom have allowed, in Zvobgo’s words, “a law that poses the greatest assault on individual freedoms and liberties” on the statutes religiously enforced by a coterie of obscurantist party ideologues.

He would probably find it surreal that the Tafataona Mahoso-chaired Media and Information Commission defends this obnoxious law that symbolises the dearth of free expression firmly embedded in the rule books. That, together with the recently enacted Criminal Law Codification Act section 33 (2a), takes Zimbabwe to the 1950s and beyond.

If Nyagumbo, at one time the most powerful man after Mugabe, were to resurrect, he would probably be needled by Mugabe’s benign talk about ending corruption.

Nyagumbo took his own life because he could not withstand the shame and ignominy of being fingered in a car-racket.

He would be surprised that years after he was interred, Mugabe is still groping about and has an unwinnable battle on his hands because all his pledges to fight corruption have been more bark than bite.

Among the heroes buried at the national shrine, the hard-nosed Tangwena would wince over the fact that Operation Murambatsvina, still pursued with unmatched vigour by a people’s government, made his tribulations at Gaeresi Ranch look like child’s play.

He would wish he walked the face of the earth again to lead his subjects back to their razed homes.

The headstrong Ernest Kadungure would chip in with his joke about a fisherman who threw a huge bream back into Lake Manyame to illustrate annoying shortages of basic commodities that presaged the current economic morass.

The angler was rankled by his failure to find paraffin to light a stove, cooking oil to fry his huge catch, or petrol to drive and buy the paraffin to cook a meal. After a short while the fish resurfaced and sloganeered: “Pamberi neZanu” for saving it from the pot.

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