By Robert Mugobi
The post colonial government of the Republic of Zimbabwe has set aside two days of the month of August; one for the nation to remember and celebrate the heroes and heroines who selflessly participated in the armed struggle for independence and the other day for the nation to celebrate the role played by the uniformed forces during and after the Chimurenga wars. Over the years, I have realised that there is no shortage of our people (including those in officialdom) who are ignorant of what it means to remember the selfless service to the Republic those who fought in the armed struggle gave.
Some just want to take a break from work on that public holiday and spend time with their loved ones. Some just want a chance to go to the Heroes Day gala and watch their favourite musician perform live for free (thanks to the taxpayer). Some just want to go to the stadium to witness the different drills on exhibition by the uniformed forces. Some, in officialdom, just want to grace the heroes and defence forces celebrations so as to earn political goodwill. So I as you now dear reader, what comes into your mind when you think about Heroes and Defence Forces day? Is having a gala or setting aside a public holiday dedicated to honouring the heroes and heroines enough?
As I am writing this article, I invite those of us who are Christians to remember with me this story which is told in the Bible of how saints of the old times were seen walking in the streets of Jerusalem round about the time Jesus rose from the dead. And as we remember the brave sons and daughters who fought in the Chimurengas for the sole purpose of bringing an end to colonial rule in Southern Rhodesia, renamed Zimbabwe, let us, in a melodramatic way, imagine the fallen heroes and heroines walking the streets of our ten provinces of Zimbabwe on the eve of the Heroes Day. Seeing where we are as a nation today, would they say they fought a good fight or they would want to take up arms to fight again because the current state of affairs is not what they envisioned our country would be post independence.
I hold the view that as a nation, we have to change our approach on how we honour these heroes and heroines. I think the best way to honour them would be for us to exorcise the spirits (and I’m using this term lightly) like poverty, underdevelopment, underutilisation of resources, corruption, other social, economic and political instabilities that are haunting our beloved nation from our midst. I can almost hear the voices of the heroes and heroines bellow from their graves urging me to let our people know that by failing to build our nation from where they left it at, we have let them down despite the number of galas we have held in their name.
I can almost hear them urge me to tell the nation that they will only feel celebrated, wherever they are, when we have mechanised our agriculture and mining sector and not continue using the same primitive methods as they did. I can almost hear them urge me to let our people know that they will only feel celebrated when there is no Shona or Ndebele people in our land but one Zimbabwe.
The question of Gukurahundi will have been addressed; the perpetrators brought to justice. I can almost hear the heroes and heroines urge me to tell my nation that they will only feel celebrated when our politics will cease to be a matter of life and death but people can support their political party without fearing for their lives.
I can almost hear them from the grave send me with a message to our leaders reminding them that they are in that position to serve and not to be served. And proper service is seen in results not in promises at rallies towards elections.
O dear uniformed forces. I can almost hear the heroes and heroines reminding me to remind you that you are there to serve the flag and the people. Not a select few who are in officialdom. You know something is not right in a country when her people are afraid of those who were supposed to make the feel safe just by looking at them in their uniform.
I could go on and on but even as I echo the words of the fallen sons and daughters, one must remember that the fallen heroes and heroines will not feel remembered or celebrated by a long article but by the writer joining the readers in the arena of action and building this great country of ours brick by brick.
God bless you.
Robert Mugobi is an author and poet. He writes here in his capacity