By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
As Zimbabwe mourns and buries another gallant liberation struggle hero, Stanley Gagisa Nleya – at the National Heroes Acre in Harare today – one can not help listening, with a very heavy and sore heart, the empty, thoughtless, and unsympathetic arrogant eulogies being regurgitated by the country’s leadership – in their seemingly endless, but failing, attempts to cover-up their selfish, heartless, and repulsive impoverishment of the vast majority of the population, through institutionalized high-level corruption – by abusing the ‘patriotism’, or ‘unpatriotism’, tag on all those who dare speak out, and stand up against this festering rot.
The ever-suffering people of Zimbabwe have had enough of all these sickening disingenuous statements by the ruling elite, who always try to bastardize and abuse the valiant legacy of genuine liberation struggle heroes – who fought for the betterment of the lives of all the country’s citizenry, yet what has been shockingly and disturbingly witnessed ever since we attained this hard-won political independence from Britain in 1980 – has been the selfish and rapacious amassing of unbelievable wealth by only a small privileged oligarchical clique, whilst the rest of the population, including those brave men and women who sacrificed everything for our freedom, having been abandoned, discarded and reduced into lowly pitiful beggars, who mostly survive on hand-outs, and donations.
In fact, one of the most brazen examples of this was watching on the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), a recent heart-rending event, whereby veterans of the country’s liberation struggle lined up in the city of Mutare (or, somewhere there) to receive food, and other basic commodities, hand-outs from the ruling ZANU PF party provincial leadership.
I have to be brutally honest, this was one of the most painful and sorrowful incidents that I have ever had the indignity of watching on state television – as, I failed to fathom how a government, that never tires in bragging about how they ‘fought for this country’s freedom’, and how we all should honour and respect the ‘selfless sacrifice by our liberation struggle heroes’, ends up being at the forefront of dishonoring, disrespecting, and insulting these very same heroes, by callously and cold-heartedly turning them into ‘Zeros’.
For those who may have not known, some of those declared ‘National Heroes’ by the ruling junta, lived a very painful and sad life of economic wilderness and limbo – having been abandoned by their fellow Comrades, who are now exclusively and greedily enjoying their own ‘Paradise on Earth’, at the expense of these gallant men and women’s selfless struggles.
As a matter of fact, I have received numerous messages of support and encouragement from our country’s genuine Sons and Daughters of the Soil – who are terribly hurt and aggrieved at how the true liberation struggle was hijacked by some mercenaries, who, today, have the audacity to brand themselves as ‘having fought for this country’s freedom and independence’ – whilst, at the same time, unleashing the most villainous, savage, and barbaric acts of injustice upon the very same people they claim to have ‘liberated’.
Are those in power in Zimbabwe seriously telling the nation that, those Sons and Daughters of the Soil’s ‘selfless sacrifice’ was to enable only a very small overly privileged oligarchical clique to enjoy the vast wealth that this great country is generously endowed with, whilst those who did all the real fighting on the battlefield – bravely facing the fatal bullets, bombs, and land mines of the Rhodesia regime – wallowed in abject poverty?
When our parents joined the liberation struggle in the 1960s and 1970s – in various forms, some fighting with guns at the front-lines, others providing intelligence as ‘mujibhas’ and ‘chimbwidos’, whilst still others in detention, restriction, or blacklisted (as happened to my dear father), and those who provided food for the guerrillas (be it voluntarily or involuntarily) – they never risked their lives, careers, possessions, and families for a handful of the so-called elite to replace the settler regime, that they were fighting against.
Our parents did not fight against a ‘White Smith’ for him to be replaced by a ‘Black Smith’!
A closer look at today’s Zimbabwe, one can easily fail to distinguish it from what those who joined the struggle for independence fought against.
In fact, what one simply needs to do is listen to the reasons why so many, mostly young girls and boys, left everything behind to be part of this most dangerous struggle – and one would be shocked to realize that the same reasons still apply today in ‘independent’ Zimbabwe, if not far much worse.
Our parents told us how the majority in Rhodesia would be marginalized from the mainstream economy, how only a few had the lion’s share of the country’s wealth, how access to high standard education and health was the prerogative of only a handful of the affluent, how anyone who dared stand up and speak out against such injustices was labelled a traitor and terrorist, thereby subjected to untold brutality, torture, abduction, arrest, and murder – usually, with the use of the country’s security apparatus.
Does this not sound eerily familiar in today’s ‘independent’ Zimbabwe?
As a matter of fact, the situation has become much worse, as the Rhodesia White population tried to take care of its own kind, and by default, this also trickled down to the Black majority.
Yet, in ‘independent’ Zimbabwe, the Black regime is the Black population’s worst enemy, subjecting everyone – including those in the ruling ZANU PF party’s grassroots, genuine liberation struggle heroes, and even the rank and file of the security forces who are frequently deployed to brutalize the population – to the worst kind of misery, indignity, and suffering ever experienced by a citizen of any civilized nation.
However, those in the ruling elite – with the security forces hierarchy – protect, participate, and empower illicit cartels that are unashamedly involved in some of the most incredulous, distasteful, and flagrant underhand, corrupt, and cruel dealings – with reckless, provocative, and daring impunity – that has seen billions upon billions of United States Dollars of the country’s wealth being looted.
Whilst, those who want everyone to know that they ‘fought and sacrificed for this country’, live lavish lifestyles – akin to what we grew up watching on TV programs, as ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous by Robin Leach’ – those who actually fought and sacrificed for this country’s illusive, and not-yet-truly-attained independence, have to figure out where and how to get the next meal, or where to get money for rentals, children’s school fees, vital medications, and every other basic essential.
Thus, what did those valiant Sons and Daughters fight and sacrifice for? Did they know that all their efforts, and selflessness was solely for the benefit of only a selected few?
It is quite clear that the struggle for Zimbabwe’s true and genuine independence is yet to be won, and the role of our gallant liberation heroes is not yet over.
These very brave men and women still have a long odious task ahead, as we strive together – with the rest of the oppressed, marginalized, and disempowered population – to stand up and speak out against the continued systemic economic and political repression, subjugation, and alienation of the majority.
The struggle for the emancipation of the people of Zimbabwe has not been realized yet, and it is up to each and every one of us – as a united force of the impoverished – to finally take a bold, firm, and unflinching stand against the new Black ‘vapambi vepfuma’, ‘vadzvanyiriri’, and ‘vasveta simba’.
Then, and only then, can the true aspirations of those gallant and valiant sons and daughters, who sacrificed everything in the 1960s and 1970s – as well as, today’s breed of liberation fighters – be achieved.
The struggle should continue, until we can all proudly and sincerely shout the wonderful and profound words of renowned United States of America (USA) civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last”.
When every man, woman, and child can be seen and treated as an equal, be free to enjoy the nation’s vast resources, be awarded his or her God-given right to dignity, and able to express his or her political views without fear of retribution – irrespective of which family they come from…powerful or not powerful, well-connected or not well-connected, or political party, or social and economic station.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Calls: +263733399640 / +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975 / +263788897936, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.