Zimbabweans were recently back to that time again when they lose sleep debating who is and who is not a national hero. This debate has been going on for as long as we have been a nation; that is, since we gained national Independence in 1980.
The problem seems to be that when the word hero is mentioned we think of heroes in the Greco-Roman sense. Because of reading too much Greek mythology, we think our heroes should be defined the way the Greeks or the Romans defined the heroes of the Trojan War!
The heroes of the Trojan War are clearly identified by the heroic roles they played. Achilles was the greatest Trojan War hero of the Greek army; Agamemnon was commander of the Greek Army at Troy; Menelaus was the Lord of the Spartans; Odysseus was the architect of the Greek victory; Patroclus was the saviour of the Greek cause at Troy; and Ajax was the defender of the Greek ships and army.
The Chimurenga War is way different from the Trojan War, both in the way it was waged and in the way it was won and Zimbabwe has not had its own Homer to write its own Iliad. So the definition of a hero of the Chimurenga is amorphous; changing with time and with who is ruling.
But one thing is clear about how Zimbabwe has been run since the war. Everyone knows that Zanu PF is a kind of mafia outfit, much like the Comorra, one the oldest and largest criminal organisations in Italy.
Hence, Zanu PF is defined by such bylines as, “Zanu chiororo”. (Zanu is the ultimate law), Zanu tamba wakachenjera (Zanu play your cards carefully or you die).
So, whoever is the Zanu PF godfather at any material moment defines the hero. Most people who have been given hero status fought in the Chimurenga, but a significant bunch has been of people who have sacrificed their souls to perpetuate the Comorra-like way the country has been run.
But why should people continue to lose sleep over this issue when former President Robert Mugabe disabused everyone who cared of the notion that they could have a say in how to define a national hero?
He said something to the effect that: “The National Heroes’ Acre is a Zanu PF shrine, if you are not Zanu PF and you want to have your own heroes, identify your own hill, build your own heroes’ shrine and bury your heroes there.”
Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala has been incarcerated at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison for some time now, and this is not the first time.
He has been in and out of prison dozens of times. This time he is in for allegedly publishing falsehoods that might cause public disaffection with the police after he retweeted a viral video that seemed to show a woman carrying in her arms a dead child that had allegedly been struck to death by a police detail with a baton.
Sikhala wrote a letter from prison recently vowing not to give up his struggle to emancipate the people from Zanu PF dictatorship.
“No matter the adversities, the liberation of our people from oppression and persecution cannot be postponed any further . . . Even if I die in the concentration camp called Chikurubi Maximum Prison, dear Zimbabweans remember me. Remember that it is because of our freedom, happiness and liberty that has (sic) been robbed from one generation to another, that I met my fate. I promise I will never be silenced until we all enjoy our nationhood.”
These are the kind of yesteryear words associated with nationalists fighting for Africa’s independence against colonial rule in the 1960s and 1970s.
Let’s look at it this way: Is Sikhala giving himself an aura of importance he hasn’t got? This question may sound “unrevolutionary” to those who have taken it upon themselves to fight the Zanu PF system. But imagine if it were MDC-Alliance president Nelson Chamisa being treated this way by the courts? I can bet the streets would be full of people demonstrating day and night for his release.
Could it be the ruling Zanu PF party and the Zimbabwe Republic Police have noticed that Sikhala is all bark and no bite and have planned, by his continued incarceration, to show him just how unimportant he is!
His plight has shown he is unimportant to his constituency and to the people who would have been expected to join him in his acts of defiance. Very importantly he is unimportant to the political party of which he is vice-chairman which has remained silent in the face of his incarceration.
When he finally emerges from Chikurubi, he will very likely realise he has no allies and that he is the lone wolf trying to tackle head on a whole monolithic edifice called Zanu Chiororo. That aloneness will break his heart.
Chamisa vs Bobi Wine
But why is Chamisa so quiet in the face of the persecution of someone so high in the hierarchy of his party? Many have said this is due to sheer cowardice on his part.
He is afraid to lead from the front and go on the streets to demonstrate his support for his comrades. His party spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere was also locked up recently and then released on bail. Chamisa didn’t raise as much as a finger to protest her persecution.
While important cadres of his party were crying for his voice, his counterpart and comrade in Uganda was leading from the front, taking head on the military and the police on the streets meeting intimidation, arrest and political violence as he campaigned in the presidential election. Bobi Wine showed the world what it really means to lead from the front.
Not our Chamisa! He is happy to just sit there and watch the drama as it unfolds and his party as it unravels.
Because of this another school of thought has emerged. Some say Sikhala poses the greatest threat to Chamisa’s leadership of the party. MDC-Alliance funders are alleged to have got fed up with his docile approach to the problem.
They want action, they want people to go on the streets and demonstrate like what the Ugandans did under Bobi Wine. They think Sikhala alone in the MDC-Alliance outfit is capable of leading such a revolution.
They say Chamisa is aware of this; aware that Sikhala is about to pull the rug from under his feet. So Chamisa would rather have Sikhala rot in Chikurubi than fight for him to be released.
Chamisa has the charisma and the crowd-pulling power that Sikhala so woefully lacks. His detractors say he is afraid to lend the crowds to Sikhala because that way he would be shooting himself in the foot. He is keeping his crowds with the hope that they will vote for him in 2023 when the next round of presidential polls comes along.