All those familiar with Zimbabwean history would obviously know of the first and second Chimurenga – uprising – that occurred in the 1890s – soon after the colonization of this land – and the 1960’s and 70’s protracted liberation struggle, waged mainly by ZAPU and ZANU.
In both those uprisings, countless people – whose sole desire was to have a decent livelihood in, and ownership of, the land of their ancestors, which had been stolen from them by European settlers, who turned the indigenous people into second-class citizens and slaves, thereby robbing them of any semblance of humanity – perished at the hands of the oppressors.
As the majority of this land’s people realized the inhuman and brutal nature of the colonizers – who, for some strange reason, believed that they were bringing civilization and Christianity to the indigenous population, whom they regarded as barbaric savages – they embarked on several resistance uprisings.
Names such as Mbuya Nehanda, and Sekuru Kaguvi amongst a whole host of others – stand out, as they were brutally killed by settler forces – who had more superior military prowess than the spear-wielding locals.
Such atrocious behaviour proved beyond doubt that, maybe, the Africans were not the uncivilized savages they were purported to be, but those who think that ‘might is right’, and use their superior strength to bully weaker and poorly equipped civilians.
Nonetheless, the brevity of these men and women was not in vain, as decades later another set of courageous Zimbabweans successfully fought the settlers and snatched the country from the jaws of colonial rule – leading to independence in 1980.
This struggle was fronted by ZANU and ZAPU – with their military wings ZANLA and ZIPRA respectively – as well as innocent men, women, and children, mostly in the rural areas, who bore the brunt of the war, and offered the most resistance.
However, as it turned out, soon after being assisted by the former colonial master Britain, in ‘winning’ the 1980 independence elections – in which they presumably assured the British that they would safeguard their interests – the former liberation movement ZANU PF abruptly transformed itself into the image and likeness of the settlers they had fought against a few years prior.
A typical pigs turning into men, as in the book ‘Animal Farm’!
Similar to the colonial period, ZANU PF swiftly began to persecute, jail, torture and kill all those that it perceived as ‘enemies’ – even though they were simply innocent men, women, and children that were never a security threat – in its bid to turn Zimbabwe into a one-party state.
The ZANU PF regime started off its 38 year long reign of terror by massacring more than 20,000 unarmed people in the Midlands and Matebeleland provinces, mostly based on tribe.
This was the most traumatizing time of my entire life, since – as a mere 11 year old in 1984 – I had to witness first hand the destruction of Ndebele families’ lives and properties – some of whom were my friends.
This was a truly life-changing experience, since it opened my eyes as to the true evil nature of the people who – at that time were still highly regarded as heroes and heroines who had freed our nation – as from that time onwards, I made it my mission to rid this proud and great country of this dark mother of sin that ruled upon us.
That is why I started writing articles against this ruthless regime – commencing with local Midlands based newspapers – when I was only in Form 3 in 1989.
True to nature, ZANU PF continued on its demonic path of destruction, vindictiveness, and arbitrary persecution of the people of Zimbabwe – culminating in the 2008 brazen killing of hundreds of opposition supporters, when it became clear that then leader Robert Gabriel Mugabe had lost the presidential election to MDC’s Morgan Richard Tsvangirai.
Nonetheless, when Mugabe was ousted in the November 2017 coup d’etat, that was led by the same military that he had used to terrorize innocent Zimbabweans, there was relative peace – which gave some people hope for the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa military-installed regime.
I, nonetheless, could never see how the same people, who had for decades been the tools in Mugabe’s reign of terror, suddenly become ambassadors of peace.
This suspicion was realized, when the hope, peace and joy did not last more than 8 months, since soon after the 30 July 2018 harmonized elections, in which – according to heavily disputed results by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) – Mnangagwa barely scrapped through with a paltry 50.8 percent, reportedly marking a return to the Mugabe-era persecution and violence against opposition figures.
In just under a week from the announcement of the election results, six people had been reportedly shot and killed by the military, and scores were attacked during the night in mostly high density suburbs in the capital Harare, for allegedly voting for the opposition MDC Alliance.
I wonder how these attackers could tell who voted for who!
As much as the nation should never forget the heroes and heroines of the first and second Chimurenga – whom we have always been taught about – we also need to commemorate those who have been victimized, persecuted, jailed, and killed by the ZANU PF regime.
These are our heroes and heroines as well, for they had sacrificed – most paying with their lives, albeit unwillingly, as they were innocent, unarmed men, women and children – for complete and genuine freedom and independence for our nation.
No one in their right mind can deny that – just as the thousands who lost their lives during the Rhodesian colonial era – these modern day Zimbabwean heroes and heroines suffered immensely at the hands of an equally oppressive ZANU PF regime.
Let people from Mbuya Nehanda to Josiah Magama Tongogara to Itayi Dzamara all be regarded in the same category of Zimbabwean heroes and heroines who were victims of successive brutal regimes in our country.
A nation’s unsavoury history can never be denied or swept under the carpet, as it will manifest its ugly head sooner or later – much to the country’s destruction – but, needs to be acknowledged at all times.
The Rhodesians and British should never deny the atrocities they committed against the indigenous people of this land – no matter how they may not want this ever to be mentioned again – and in the same vein, the ZANU PF regime can not deny their own heinous rule.
We, as Zimbabweans, need to fully and honestly account for our actions – good and bad – as this is the only way we can learn from our past, and map a more democratic, peaceful and prosperous future for our proud and great nation.
Acknowledging a nation’s complete history is not a sign of weakness, but can only be achieved by a strong and brave people.
This is not about denigrating the Rhodesians, nor is it about vilifying ZANU PF, but purely the only real recipe for nation-building.
Even organisations as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) believe that the only hope for genuine recovery for anyone with a drinking problem is to first acknowledge that he or she is an alcoholic.
As our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘The truth shall set you free’.
This nation should never again revel in the spilling of blood, but be known for its unity and respect for each and every son and daughter of the soil.
Let this be a country of love – but, this is only achievable if we are truthful to ourselves.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is the Programmes Director with the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice). Please feel free to email: [email protected] Please also’Like‘ the ‘ZimJustice’ page on Facebook.Post published in: Featured