By Takura Zhangazha*
Each year Zimbabwe has correctly set aside a public holiday in August to remember the heroes of our national liberation struggle. The conferring of hero status upon individual Zimbabweans however remains a contentious issue given the fact that it is Zanu Pf that decides on the matter. In fact, there was an occasion where President Mugabe spoke at the funeral of one national hero where he stated that the Warren Hills Heroes Acre in Harare essentially belonged only to those that went to the liberation struggle. He added that should anyone else who was not in that struggle directly or indirectly seek to be interred at the same venue, he or she might as well find their own hillside elsewhere and build one for themselves.
There have been many other debates about who and what it is to be a Zimbabwean national hero especially after the passing on of a prominent national political leader or popular celebrity who had/has no direct link with Zanu Pf. It is however unfortunate that hero status is normally conferred upon only those that will have passed on. There is rare conferment of hero status on those that are living (young or old) who have served the country in varying capacities inclusive of but not limited to the liberation struggle or post-independence politics.
It is this latter point that is perhaps in need of expansion. We have, as a country and in the last thirty plus years correctly made it a priority to honour the comrades that passed on in the course of the liberation struggle as well as those that participated in it and are with us today. This has however been politically contentious with each passing year and especially in the aftermath of the establishment of an inclusive govermnent which to all intents and purposes was/is a sure sign of weakening Zanu Pf political hegemony. (Hence the regular contestation by political parties around hero status)
The primary issue however is that where we have remembered our national heroes of the liberation struggle we have failed to remember that though their heroism led to the founding of the nation, it is primarily a heroism that was intended to create further heroic deeds in the name of the struggle and the revolutionary values that established the country. And this is the primary challenge for all Zimbabweans today. It is not so much to hold the gun like our freedom fighters but to demonstrate the same commitment and purpose in understanding our society better and charting principled democratic way forwards that are remembered for posterity and emulated by generations to come.
The heroic deeds of the armed and political wings of our liberation war movements were also undertaken with a specific intention to ensure that while the war was inevitably necessary and tragic, the struggle itself required that their conduct be consistently revolutionary, honest and principled on key democratic values that served the best public interest of all Zimbabweans.
With time, it has become evident that those that led us after independence and those that lead us today have failed to understand the need to be conscious and stay on the right path of a continual and democratic people's victory. In most instances and of their own volition, our contemporary leaders have sought more self aggrandizement than democratic national leadership and have tended to function out of sync with the democratic intentions of the liberation struggle. They have departed further and further from democratically conscious leadership and are patently failing in becoming revolutionaries of their own time.
Instead of being conscious not only of the liberation struggle and sticking to democratic values and principles, our leaders are increasingly involved in elitist cohesion and are functioning in part as though the country were personal property or belongs to three political parties. They have further found comfort in believing that all of their actions should be defined by ‘compromises’ in order to acquire or retain political power as an end and without the necessary social democratic clarity. In the short and long term, the effect of these tendencies has been inept politcal leadership of government and elite cohesion around covering up each other’s weaknesses. I fear that perhaps they too have missed their ‘heroic’ moment despite either having been jailed or tortured at the hands of then oppressors.
And this is why perhaps all Zimbabweans must discover the hero in themselves and in activities outside of the political mainstream. By doing so, perhaps we can be heroes and democratic revolutionaries of our own time. This is regardless of whatever vocation one finds him/herself in. We must act with clarity and appreciation of how our own contributions to our society can be heroic with or without the approval of politicians and politicized matters. This must however be done with the spirit and intent of those that fought the liberation struggle conscientiously and with belief in democracy, social and economic justice and the necessity of performing their generational duty for posterity and not self.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his own personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)