BY TINASHE KAIRIZA
AS Zimbabwe commemorated the Heroes and Defence Forces holidays this week, sharp scrutiny was cast on whether the country has regressed or enhanced the founding ideals of the liberation struggle for which many heroic individuals sacrificed their lives.
Some Zimbabweans opine that the country, particularly under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has departed from the core values of the liberation struggle.
A number of heroes who are interred at the national shrine such as Joshua Nkomo, Edgar Tekere and Josiah Tongogara, dedicated the greater part of their lives toiling for independence.
As Zimbabwe paid homage to the heroic acts of these selfless individuals, critics, though acknowledging some of the strides the country has made to uphold the core values of the liberation struggle, pointed out that the country has not fared well in respect to human rights.
This view is buttressed around how Mnangagwa’s administration, which came into power via a military coup promising to roll out a raft of political and economic reforms has veered off course, leaving many Zimbabweans questioning the sincerity of the “Second Republic”, amid a worsening economic crisis.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who lost the 2018 elections by a wafer-thin margin highlighted in his Heroes Day and Defence Forces Day statement that the military and security establishments should discharge their duties to advance national interests rather than being mere appendages of Zanu PF.
Over the years, the military has been excoriated for interfering in the country’s politics in favour of Zanu PF.
Chamisa highlighted that the military must not be muscled by Zanu PF to subvert the will of the people, at a time the country is gripped by a multifaceted crisis.
The opposition leader’s statement evoked memories of the August 2018 killings by the military, when soldiers opened fire on protesting civilians who were demanding the immediate release of the 2018 elections results.
Though Mnangagwa later instituted the Kgalema Mothlanthe chaired commission to probe circumstances of the killings, which left six civilians dead, the government is yet to compensate the victims, as spelt out by the body under its recommendations.
“It has always been our wish to preserve the desire by our heroes to have land, one-man-one-vote and total independence with no one being beaten for political reasons, no arbitrary arrests, no intimidation and no politicisation of chieftainships and inputs.
“The deeper meaning of a Heroes’ Day is located in finding each other to solve and end political hostilities, hate, harassment, human rights violations, rigged elections, conflict and violence. Heroes do not beat, do not harass, maim and murder people for politics. Heroes do not fail or fall,” Chamisa said in his speech to commemorate Heroes and Defence Forces days.
In more scathing criticism, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, which in recent times, has been attacked by government for supporting the cause of the opposition, bemoaned that the holiday events had lost their significance, steeped in advancing the ideals of the liberation struggle.
In a statement, it said: “The 2021 Heroes Day commemorations happen at a time when continuous violence is being perpetrated against civilians for political expediency. The forum laments the cyclic human rights violations occurring at the hands of the security forces, which are the heirs of the armed struggle heroes.
“The security remains at the centre of the violence of which the forum continues to condemn.”
Even Douglas Mwonzora, who is perceived to be an extension of Zanu PF, urged Mnangagwa to implement far-reaching reforms towards transforming “all arms of security into a truly professional security force which is driven by the ideals of ending repression drawn from our fallen heroes and serve and protect the people of Zimbabwe without fear or favour”.
The military, which has been praised for swiftly springing into action to save the lives of civilians during emergency disasters and its excursion into Mozambique in the 1990s to repel Renamo rebels, has largely been viewed as partisan.
In 2019, the military unleashed brute force against protesting civilians when the government hiked the price of fuel astronomically sparking an international outcry.
With Zimbabwe’s economy strapped in the throes of a crisis punctuated by currency volatility, dwindling income, grinding poverty and widespread unemployment, economist Tawanda Purazeni highlighted that Mnangagwa’s administration is yet to demonstrate commitment to entrenching economic rights — which were also founding ideals of the liberation struggle.
“Four decades after attaining Independence, there is a new set of a black elite doing exactly what the colonial masters were doing.
“The politically connected are benefiting from government tenders. Workers are getting wages below the Poverty Datum Line (PDL). Zimbabwe finds itself in a worse off situation economically, 40 years after Uhuru.”
Political analyst Prolific Mataruse contends that the liberation struggle remains an “unfinished business” and said the current generation should continue pursuing the founding ideals of Zimbabwe’s independence.
“The liberation struggle remains an unfinished business. The aspirations of the struggle have to be realised. Society must be able to make people achieve what they desire,” he said.