Today is Heroes Day in Zimbabwe. I’ve always found it kind of interesting, being basically like Independence Day but with more reverence paid to those who through much struggle and sacrifice made independent Zimbabwe a reality. And although I admit that it’s a little shrine-like to bury all of a country’s heroes together at Heroes Acre, it does extend honour to those who’ve done much for Zimbabwe and I think it’s a pretty cool idea. Whether all those buried at Heroes Acre deserve such honour, however, is a different story for another time and another place.
After Independence Day, Heroes Day is President Mugabe’s other big opportunity to speak about pressing issues such as evil sanctions, blah, blah, colonial oppressors, blah, blah, and how Zimbabwe will never be a colony again. I don’t mean to undermine the importance of these issues, it’s just that he has used basically the same speech for the last 5 years so it’s become a little tedious.
You can practically predict what he’ll talk about next: invariably it starts off covering the sterling sacrifices of Zimbabwe’s leaders of years gone by, it then moves on to their courageous struggle against and overthrow of the oppressive Smith regime, then he speaks for a while about the injustice of the Smith regime itself and the racism of white minority rule. All of this is expected and understandable, with it being Heroes Day and all.
But then, after about 45 minutes, he’ll take a bit of a tangent, moving on to the wickedness of the West and their continued threat and interference, before speaking about the evilness of the targeted sanctions against certain Zimbabwe government officials and how, basically, the sanctions are solely to blame for Zimbabwe’s devastated economy. Not surprisingly, when the crippled economy is being spoken of, the fact that the Zimbabwean economy was agriculture-based and couldn’t survive the seizure of the vast majority of the country’s commercial farms isn’t mentioned.
But let’s not get distracted by that as, finally, and by far most importantly, he reminds us all that the West wants nothing more than to recolonize Zimbabwe and that Zimbabwe must vigorously resist this happening. My favourite line from this part of his speeches is “Blair can keep his England and I will keep my Zimbabwe!” Obviously that line had to be slightly reworked once Blair was no longer relevant, but the sentiment remains largely intact.
Apart from Mugabe’s Heroes Day vitriol, the other frustratingly predictable thing about this time of year is the ZANU propaganda and focus on who has liberation credentials and who doesn’t, readily evident in the pieces of most pro-government columnists. As annoying as they sometimes are, they are also highly entertaining for their flowery and hilarious use of the English language. I came across one that made me chuckle… as well as, you know, get a little scared and uncomfortable.
“BACK in the village, yonder in the land of milk, honey and dust, or Guruve if you like, where morals are ideal and respect is sacrosanct, there are times when diplomacy is hurled out through the window. This is the time when a spade is called a spade and when it becomes clear and clearer that no amount of cosmetics can beautify a frog. During that time no one is prepared to hug a hyena to make peace.”
Wow, what an opening paragraph. For those who are not familiar with Guruve, I wonder what kind of picture is painted of the place in their minds. I suspect that it doesn’t much resemble the real Guruve, or the real Zimbabwe for that matter, but anyways. I’m also rather confused… and very concerned… about when people are actually prepared to hug hyenas… and whether they actually do it. But maybe that’s just me.
The writer then goes into Zimbabwe’s liberation war, stating that it was a painful one, full of blood and sacrifice. Indeed, “it was a journey for the lion-hearted, never for the chicken-hearted.” He urges us to celebrate “the lives of our gallant heroes – departed and living – who traversed a long and arduous journey that began with the Umvukela of 1893”, and he goes on to outline the decade-long Second Chimurenga that finally brought Zimbabwe its freedom, and the continuing Third Chimurenga.
The heroes that we have to thank for this progress span from “Mbuya Nehanda to Sikhajaya Muntanga and the living cadres.” I’ve never heard of Sikhajaya Muntanga, and neither has Google, but the writer has been known to quote his father in his column, so he/she may be a relative. I would have thought that there were many others that he could have chosen to illustrate those who made a lifelong commitment “to the majority”, not least Herbert Chitepo and Josiah Tongogara, but, no, he chose the very obscure. But that doesn’t really matter as he mentions this only to make the main point of his piece: “one should wonder, could Zimbabwe have been free today if there were people of the calibre of some of our so-called leaders?
“Of course this villager is talking about those who ran back home to their mothers, when they heard the sound of the gun, whom we now have in some measure including at the top echelons of our inclusive Government.” After years of such attacks, it’s easy to recognise that it’s PM Morgan Tsvangirai and other MDC leaders that are being insulted here, on the grounds that their liberation credentials are not as strong as some in ZANU.
Apparently, in his last column, whilst berating the MDC, “this villager highlighted how some legislators were spending time calling for the legalisation of prostitution. Some female legislator even called prostitutes “pleasure engineers”! What cheek! This could have been pretty laughable were it not so tragic. Surely in Nhamoyebonde Village, such sentiments would send the chicken laughing, throughout the village. All they think about is their loins and what to do in between the sheets. The village soothsayer, that ageless fountain of wisdom, says: “Check their records. Find out how they got to where they are and tell me!” Sex maniacs!” Yes, he’s referring to himself as being an ageless fountain of wisdom. Too much!
“They are the same people who tell us they are fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe. But, which democracy? You guessed right, the democracy as dictated from Washington and London. Now the latter have now become democracy champions when only a few years ago they needed the lessons of the gun to admit to the legitimacy of black majority rule.
“We even hear the MDC now have their heroes, too. Real heroes like Mbuya Nehanda, Joshua Nkomo, Josiah Tongogara, JZ, Leopold Takawira, among many others should be turning in their graves, with anger and disbelief. The living among them should be wallowing in the curse that their efforts and exertions wrought. But it does not end there. We now hear that the MDC formations now seek to undo the security forces of Zimbabwe to weed out generals who have remained vigilant against the imperial enemy, since the days of Second Chimurenga. My foot!
“Yes, the soft ones ran back home to their mothers after an attempt to join the struggle and in their softness lies the folly that has catapulted them into the trenches of the enemy. President Robert Mugabe is the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. For all we know, he is about the biggest hardliner against imperialism in the world today. So does it mean torpedoing him as well, via deposing his generals? Where on earth would any leader accept that? Certainly not here! Nyikayaramba, hazviite, Zimbabwe ndeyeropa! President Mugabe should not, and this villager is sure he will not accept this foolishness. He has already stated so, and the generals themselves knowing the supreme command have said hands off as well.
“This is not about being unreasonable. The force, under the command of President Mugabe, has done remarkably well in defending the country – so much that Britain feared to attack us. The force has participated at various United Nations missions keeping the peace even in Europe itself. It can only be political mischief that calls for the so-called reform of the force. In fact, it is security sector “deform” that these mischievous guys are looking for. A deformed force surely will do the bidding of the enemy and fail to defend the motherland. A deformed force will find it amenable to salute enemy flags.
“”One day, just one day. You will see how the generals are all important to his country. Just one day,” says the soothsayer.”
A piece like this, and attitudes like that of this soothsayer and, um, ageless fountain of wisdom, makes it clear how difficult it is to achieve any real political reform in Zimbabwe, and why insufficient credence is given to the MDC within the government of national unity. I’m not sure if or how this will ever change, or how Zimbabwe will come to look to the future rather than the past in resolving its problems. In the meantime, roll on another Heroes Day and anti-MDC and anti-West tirade and, I guess, at least we can rest assured that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.
For all the charade that Heroes Day has become, let us not forget that Zimbabwe has had many worthy heroes whose great sacrifices to bring us freedom should be remembered and celebrated. Happy Heroes Day Zimbabwe.