Embracing our past, warts and all

07 Aug, 2022 - 00:08 0 Views
Embracing our past, warts and all President Mnangagwa

The Sunday News

By His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa

Our bitter Struggle

OUR Independence was hard-won.

It was fought for, claiming more than 100 000 souls. It is hard to find a family from which this protracted struggle did not raise a grave, often in horrid circumstances.

Many of us carry wounds from that past, wounds that evoke bitterness which we struggle to assuage. We recall moments of betrayal by those we mistook for comrades-in-arms.

We re-live tragic moments when fellow comrades fell in battle, some even dying in our arms, their precious blood mixing with bitter tears of irreparable loss.

Many of these we could not honour with decent burial or rites.

We were in a brutal war, and in war, terrible things do happen.

Heroes Acre

Heroes Day Commemorations thus rehash those bitter memories, all of them encapsulated and embodied in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

We forgave and embraced

The 15-year war for National Liberation also claimed the unarmed: defenceless men, women, children, orphans and refugees lost both in the rear and inside the country.

There was wanton carnage and senseless reprisals by the Rhodesian army in its vain bid to forestall our overwhelming quest for freedom. In the end we won, birthing 18 April in 1980.

This is the day we secured our Independence.

Bulking world expectations which expected us to be vengeful, we forgave and embraced past foes, thus laying a strong foundation for a new, humane, just and non-racial order where durable peace became possible.

Sacred Unity Accord

True, they were fratricidal disturbances in the early years of our Independence, but reason prevailed in the end, as our leaders met, talked and embraced, to give us a legacy of peace and stability we enjoy to this day, and which we have a duty to bequeath to posterity.

The Unity Accord which our leaders struck, is a key pillar of National Peace and Stability.

It should never be challenged, breached or compromised by whomsoever.

Balanced View of the Struggle

Forty-two years on, and especially on a day like tomorrow when we remember the heroes of our National Struggle, we must all take time to reflect on our past, warts and all.

In that reflection, we must remember that like history itself, no human struggles ever follow straight lines.

Struggles are fraught with meanders, detours, missteps, tensions and contradictions, all of which may now look easier to avoid or solve by hindsight. Yet, as we all know, men and women who make history enjoy no benefit of hindsight.

So often, they are actors who find themselves in pressing concrete situations which are not of their making, and which change rapidly, but within which they have to make hard choices and decisions as mere mortals.

We who look back at key events in history, and at those in the thick of them, should learn never to judge too harshly.

Things might appear neat, linear and simpler with the benefit of hindsight; yet in real-time they were not.

Similarly, actors might appear inadequate now, again with the benefit of hindsight, yet they did their best under the circumstances.

At f42, our society is now mature enough to calmly reappraise its past so it draws key lessons from it, in order to propel itself forward.

All nations go through such motions, thus deriving inspiration and generating impetus from their past.

We are no exception, and Heroes Day is dedicated to such fair, forward-looking introspection.

Early forms of Nationalism

I said like history, human struggles do not follow straight lines. Key actors often face perplexing situations. We are no exception to this key rule of life.

Following colonial conquest at the turn of the 19th Century, our forebears responded variously to the new situation of occupation in which they found themselves.

History tells us that in the southern part of our country, in Matabeleland, initial reaction was to attempt to restore the vanquished Ndebele Kingdom.

Indeed, under the aegis of the Matabele Home Society, a delegation was sent to London in 1927, to petition the British King George for the restoration of the Ndebele Kingdom.

The settlers who by then had already attained self-government in 1923, responded by scattering close relatives of King Lobengula, including exiling some to South Africa and the then Bechuanaland.

That made it well-nigh impossible to resurge the vanquished Kingdom.

Struggle and Myth-making

On the Shona side, there was a parallel effort to recreate the kingdom and myth of Chaminuka the magician, hoping such myth-making would inspire unity and provide an inspiring focal point in struggle against the settlers.

Looking back, it is very easy to dismiss both reactions.

Yet in reality these actually two developments actually marked the beginning of efforts to coalesce and homogenise African resistance to settler colonialism, even if parochial in scope, and mistaken in goals.

Out of both efforts emerged mythical figures from our own history who later on would inspire the Second Chimurenga.

Benjamin Burombo and Land

As the settler colonial regime carved laws which partitioned Zimbabwean land along racial lines, and especially in the wake of creation of infertile Tribal Trust Lands, accompanied by the mandatory infamous de-stocking exercise in the 1940s and 1950s, leaders like Benjamin Burombo emerged.

Whatever pitfalls evident in that early phase of Struggle, whatever missteps were made, two key gains were made during that era.

Firstly, land was put at the centre of the Nationalist Struggle as a principal grievance of Africans under settler colonialism.

Indeed, the Second Chimurenga built itself around this principal grievance, which only found definitive resolution after 2000.

These early leaders had correctly diagnosed the National Question, and we should salute them for it.

Genesis of Rural Mobilisation

Secondly, Burombo taught later nationalists, especially those who led the City Youth League of 1955 and beyond, and later the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress which was defiantly lunched on 12 September, 1957 — the day during which settlers celebrated the occupation of our country — that the rural populace could be organised and roused against settler colonialism.

Indeed, the likes of George Bonzo Nyandoro, James Dambaza Chikerema, Edison Sithole, Henry Hamadziripi and Thomson Gonese who were militant leaders of the City Youth League, were inspired by Burombo’s tactics which mobilised the aggrieved rural populace, often targeting settler Native Commissioners especially for attack.

Late Senator Rekayi Tangwena became the most emphatic symbol of land-based rural militant nationalism.

Attacking the myth of white invincibility

While Burombo might have had limitations as a person, the impact of his activities in taking our struggle forward was thus immense.

Indeed, as the City Youth League and, much later the Joshua Nkomo-led ANC bore down heavily on the settler regime, especially over its infamous land policies, the then Prime Minister, Edgar Whitehead would admit “to the growing tendency of the (ANC) movement to incite people in rural as well as urban areas to defy the law.”

Joseph Msika

Whitehead attacked the likes of Nkomo, Chikerema, Nyandoro, Msika and Nyagumbo for “an ability to incite a crowd to abuse and ridicule all constituted authority, whether chiefs, native commissioners, missionaries, federal African MPs, and many others working for the benefit of the African people.”

Clearly nationalism had found an idiom which resonated with the rural masses, and used rural meetings to perforate the myth of white invincibility.

This emboldened ordinary landless rural peasants to become part of the National Struggle.

Little wonder the Second Chimurenga had its strongest support in the countryside.

George Nyandoro and early Militancy

Faced with a strong liberal containment strategy deployed during days of the so-called Federation and its racial partnership philosophy, and especially under Garfield Todd, we again saw militants like George Nyandoro attacking African intellectuals whom he castigated as “tea-time partners” of liberal whites at the expense of the Nationalist Struggle.

Nyandoro told off these so-called intellectuals and their love for white-sponsored liberalism.

He excoriated them by saying: “Nobody wants to go to jail.

You all just want to sit here on your bottoms, theorising about your rights!”

A fearless man of action, Nyandoro himself would endure four years of detention and restriction without trial from 1959 to 1963, thus demonstrating inspiring sacrifice.

That way Africans were inspired to take risks; the confusing liberal spirit which Nyandoro said played “cooling chamber” to African grievances, thus setting back mobilisation against settler colonialism, would be discounted and defeated as a red herring to genuine African Nationalism.

The place of Trade Unionism

In reflecting on our Nationalist past, we must appreciate the important contributions made by early trade unionists in the overall build-up to the Liberation Struggle.

These included the likes of late Masotsha Ndlovu, Charles Mzingeli, Sigeca, Job Dumbujena, and our late Vice- President Joshua Nkomo.

late Vice President Dr Joshua Nkomo

While many were later lost to liberal organisations like Moral Rearmament, the African Capricorn Society, the United Club and the Inter-Racial Association, all of which got associated with late Garfield Todd’s United Rhodesia Party (URP), these early trade unionists added trade Union flavour to African Nationalism, over and above keeping towns and cities agitated.

With both urban and rural areas mobilised, the stage was thus set for a total war, which made the Second Chimurenga formidable.

More than the full nationalist


This broad canvas of key actors this feature men and women we already celebrate in history.

Apart from those who played a part of the Presidency since Independence, we also have the likes of Leopold Takawira, late Edison Sithole, Edison Zvobgo, Josiah Chinamano, Daniel Madzimbamuto, late Willie Dzawanda Musarurwa, all of whom were luminaries in nationalist ranks. They all lie at our National Shrine. Yet they do not give the full retinue of nationalists.

Tribute to late Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole

Zimbabwe African National Union

One man who looms large in the ranks of early leaders of our nationalist movement, but is not at our National Shrine is Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, the inaugural leader of Zimbabwe African National Union at its formation, after the 1963 split in the nationalist movement. Whatever his mistakes and missteps later in the Struggle, he deserves mention and acknowledgment in national annals.

The man who theorised the Struggle

Popularly known as “Musharukwa”, this leading nationalist, scholar and firebrand in fact gave our Struggle its intellectual grounding and depth, thus making it understandable to the wider world.

His seminal “African Nationalism”, published in 1959, just a few years before the end of the Federation and onset of UDI, crystallised African thoughts and ideas in Struggle.

For ZANU, it became a key resource book, out of which we capsulized our thoughts into timeless slogans.

Believing that “all movements of consequence are preceded by ideas”, this Nyamandlovu-born struggle luminary, whose family roots are traceable to Chipinge, inspired and led a generation which changed the course of our national history.

Non-racial struggle against white domination

Against bitter experiences of settler discrimination, he remained clear headed and non-racial.

Writing in 1959, he said: “What the African wants is not to drive away the white man, but to have his full independence.

It is unfortunate that the African’s move against European domination is interpreted as his hatred of the white man.

Nazi Germany

When the Allied powers moved against Nazi Germany, it was not because they hated the Germans but because they hated German domination.

The Allied powers did not set themselves against the German people but against German domination. Similarly, African nationalism is a move against European domination which tends to devalue the African people.

The African hates European domination but does not hate the white man.

He welcomes him. The physical presence of the white man in Africa is welcome, but his domination is unwelcome.”

It is very easy to discern from this key and expansive thought our Nationalist philosophy which distinguished between fighting an oppressive and discriminatory system, and waging a racial war of vengeance.

All our freedom fighters were imbued by this thought, knowing fully theirs was not a war against whites, but a war against a form of settler domination which happened to have whites at the helm.

The same value guides our Second Republic.

Imperialism does not self-liquidate

Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole fortified our struggle against pinning hopes on British Imperialism’s inner urge to self-liquidate thus promising an easy, painless way to self-government.

Dismissing the fallacy of voluntary decolonisation by Britain, Reverend Sithole wrote: “The main business of the British in Africa, in terms of their policy of eventual self-government, is to liquidate themselves, and it is only a perfect angel who can liquidate himself as quickly as possible for the benefit of those he dominates.

If liquidation is inevitable, ordinary mortals try to liquidate themselves as slowly as they can.

In short, no one liquidates himself willingly, and this is why it is that nearly every country that has received full independence from Britain has experienced a period of arrests and widespread imprisonment.”

Therein lies the roots of our slogan: “We are our own liberators through the barrel of the gun.”

In the same thought also inheres our notion of a protracted liberation struggle by which we prepared the masses for a long struggle demanding huge sacrifices from them.

He foresaw Economic Emancipation

Lastly, Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole knew that at the roots of the protracted liberation struggle was a quest for economic liberation and sovereignty.

He fully grasped the nexus between political power and economic power: “White people, like people of other races, equate economic power with political power.

He who is economically powerful must, of necessity, be also politically strong.

As the European ideology of white supremacy is to keep the African politically weak, it follows logically that one of the most effective ways of keeping him in that position is also to keep him economically weak.

This is a roundabout way of saying European political domination presupposes economic exploitation.”

He dissected settler economic power in all its facets and spheres, including on land, in industry and in commerce, thus deepening the scope of our struggle beyond flag Independence.

When we thus say, NYIKA INOTONGWA NEVENE VAYO, we incorporate within that mantra the need for Economic Sovereignty without which our political Independence becomes hollow.

Human history has no straight lines

Looking at leaders of our Nationalist Movement, culminating in the Liberation Struggle, we see a steady growth at every stage, with each generation playing its part and making huge sacrifices.

We see more players than our National Shrine has been able to acknowledge or accommodate.

We also see pitfalls which attended to each generation and each effort.

Our appreciation of our past must thus be wider and complete, without being blindfolded by easy binaries of good and bad, heroes and villains.

Human history has no straight lines; more important, is not made by angels.

History evolves incrementally, tortuously, with each successive generation playing a part.

Above all, history is made by men and women of flesh and blood, whose foibles and missteps only make them human.


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