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Veneration of heroes must not be myopic

I HAVE long been critical of the veneration of “heroes” past and present because it is often misdirected.

It obscures the significant contributions of other actors and whitewashes the shortcomings of “heroes”. Thus, we are left with an incomplete picture. Without detracting from Jongwe’s noteworthy role in the resurgence of the national students mother body Zinasu and the MDC’s rise, it is imperative to bear in mind that these developments were not handed down by Jongwe or any of the other leaders involved for that matter. The leadership skills Jongwe and others exercised were buttressed by pro-democracy cadres’ activism, the material and moral support and sacrifices of various supporters and sympathisers.
By focusing on Jongwe, almost to the point of martyr creation, we lose sight of the contribution of these actors.
Zimbabwean politics and history is replete with the practice of exclusion. For instance, the role of spirit mediums such as Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi was played up in Zanu PF historical interpretations, at the expense of the sacrifices of rural peasants and traditional chiefs, in order to conscript their martyrdom and spiritual attachment to land for the legitimisation and mobilisation of support for the “Third Chimurenga”.
This conscription has also served to cast Robert Mugabe as the modern heir to Nehanda and Kaguvi in the struggle for land reclamation. Mugabe and Zanu PF’s role in the liberation struggle loom so large in official history that the importance of Charles Mzingeli, Reuben James, Ndabaningi Sithole, Guy Clutton-Brock, Wilfred Mhanda, Joshua Nkomo and others is obscured.
Moreover, the fact that the Movement for Democratic Change president and prime minister of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai simply blamed the Zanu PF government for Jongwe’s death without fully considering the problematic implications of that allegation reflects his and the MDC’s lack of gender sensitivity. It goes without saying that women have been marginalised in a masculine and violent Zimbabwean opposition and ruling party politics.
As we commemorate Jongwe’s death seven years ago, we must look back on his life warts and all.

Blessing-Miles Tendi,

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