IT was refreshing to see Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda reminding the country’s leaders that they had betrayed the core values of the liberation struggle through their primitive accumulation of wealth, among other things.
In an interview on the eve of the burial of national hero and former Zipra deputy chief of operations Stanley Nleya, who trained him during the liberation struggle, Sibanda said: “It’s unfortunate that after Independence some of us went wayward and started amassing wealth and getting involved in corruption.”
It was befitting that Sibanda was speaking at a time Nleya’s body was lying in state ready for burial at the National Heroes Acre, yet he did not enjoy the fruits of a liberated country he gallantly fought for.After Independence, he was labelled a dissident and was tormented.
Nleya, whom a former Zipra combatant described as an excellent trainer, fearless fighter and a great commander, represents the ironies of the liberation struggle. He was a great fighter whose contribution, just like many Zipra combatants, was deliberately hushed down such that less illustrious fighters and those with dubious war credentials are given more credit for their imaginary or inflated roles during the war.
It is precisely because many real liberation war heroes were sidelined by the elites and their parasitic associates, who have an entitlement mentality, that the values of the liberation struggle have all but vanished. Failure to hold each other to account also contributed. It is tragic and a damning indictment on our leaders that many Zimbabweans, are finding it difficult to celebrate Independence or Heroes Day. In the eyes of many, some liberators are corrupt wealth accumulators and oppressors who represent a stumbling block to a better future.
One cannot tell them that the liberation struggle promoted the value of sharing when they see the elites, their sons and daughters, looting the public purse — the Covid-19 procurement scandal being an apt example.
Many Zimbabweans sacrificed their lives for the one man one vote system, equality, selflessness, to put an end to all forms of discrimination, brutality and oppression.
Sadly, former president Robert Mugabe’s administration inherited and perfected the Rhodesian oppressive system while introducing ruinous economic policies which resulted in Zimbabwe being a basket case. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has persisted on a path of brutality, oppression and corruption, a clear departure from liberation ideals.
Sadly also, the ZDF now under Sibanda, has contributed to the oppression of the masses while keeping the brutal system intact. Zimbabweans have not forgotten the army’s role in the Gukurahundi massacres of the early 1980s, the brutality in the 2008 presidential election runoff, the August 1, 2018 shootings in Harare’s central business district and the crackdown on civilians in January 2019 which left about 20 people dead.