Most people – both locally and globally – have always associated the National Heroes Acre in the Zimbabwe capital Harare, with largely being merely an impressive cemetery for those deemed outstanding gallant heroes and heroines of the country’s liberation struggle against colonial domination – but, unfortunately, fail to pay attention to the loud and clear message this monument conveys to those who bother to be observant…that “the situation in ‘independent’ Zimbabwe has not changed much to that under colonial Rhodesia – if anything, it has worsened”.
Why do I say so? When has this North Korean-designed shrine ever said anything about the ever-deteriorating and dismal plight of the country’s citizenry – whose ruthless leaders have callously presided over cold-hearted human rights abuses, wanton brutality, and rampant corruption, that have collectively reduced a once proud and prosperous people into a hopeless, frightened, and poverty-stricken lot, whose only daily waking up thought is how to make it through the day, and staying far away from the regime’s reign of terror?
Well, the magnificent murals at this imposing hilltop burial place have a great story to tell – as they emotionally, but quietly, narrate the unenviable predicament of the country’s majority under the heavy oppressive and subjugating hand of the erstwhile colonial masters and the settler Rhodesia regime, most notably, the various despicable acts of brutality unleashed on a hapless population, especially those who had become fed up with a racially-segregated and repressive system, and had decided to fearlessly stand up for their rights.
A visitor to the National Heroes Acre can be greeted by painfully graphic images of unarmed and defenceless people being bitten by blood-thirsty police dogs, set upon them by a heartless security force – whose major role had been shamefully reduced to purely protecting the anti-people minority racist establishment, against a justifiably infuriated and aggrieved majority, who demanded immediate change.
As one absorbs, analyzes, and internalizes such gruesome portrayal of the miserable life for the majority under Rhodesia, another equally disturbing and traumatizing thought quickly comes to mind – “So what has changed for the people of ‘independent’ Zimbabwe?”.
Has the welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry changed? Have security forces become pro-people, and ceased serving the interests of, and protecting, a privileged elite opportunistic ruling clique?
Can the disillusioned and legitimately aggrieved majority now freely exercise their right to peacefully protest, and express their dissent without fear of unrestrained savage brutality, at the hands of the security forces?
In fact, a much more frightening idea manifests – could these barbarous depictions of life in Rhodesia carved on these murals still not perfectly apply to life under ‘independent’ Zimbabwe today?
What has changed? If anything, instead of vicious police dogs ravaging innocent civilians, the image would have to be changed to portray a soldier kneeling on one leg, and firing an AK-47 assault rifle (at an angle of 45 degrees) towards unarmed protestors on the streets.
These murals could also display to the world, the multi-faceted brutality and abuse the people of ‘independent’ Zimbabwe have continually been subjected to by a small military-backed unpopular junta – whose only claim to power, is through the ‘might of the sword’ – which is driven by an insatiable penchant for pillaging the nation’s resources for self-aggrandizement, whilst degrading the rest of the citizenry to beggars, who survive on handouts.
They need to show how over 95 precent of the population survives below the poverty datum line (earning less than USD1 per day), a civil service so impoverished that has to beg even for transportation to ferry them to their workstations, and to make matters worse, the very people at the forefront of the liberation struggle relegated to sad paupers, whose only means of sustenance is to lineup for food parcels.
Those who are made to protect the ill-gotten wealth and privileges of the few in the ruling elite, have been impoverished, such that can not even afford a place of their own to call home – but, largely have to rent a room or two at the houses of the very people they are sent to unleash untold sadistic barbarity.
And, as a perfect finishing touch to the new murals, they should highlight the immeasurable lavish lifestyles of a powerful, or well-connected, handful – who, at one time, disingenuously proclaimed the ideals of a people’s revolution, nationalism, and shared national resources to benefit all, yet have morphed into a power-hungry, greedy, and vicious self-seeking opulent mafia…who will not hesitate to kill, in order to safeguard their loot and position of power.
As one walks past the murals at the national shrine, they are greeted with the tombs of the valiant men and women interred at this monument, most of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice in the fight for a better Zimbabwe for all its people – where rights of every citizen are sacrosanctly upheld, where the national cake is shared equitably amongst the nation, where every one is awarded their rightful wages, and where each person is treated with respect just because they are Zimbabwean.
Yet, when one looks into the eyes of those heroes and heroines – on their tombstone pictures – any normal person with a soul, easily weeps with uncontrollable torment and rage, as to why these selfless Sons and Daughters of the Soil died so needlessly – as their devoted and unquestionable love for the nation of Zimbabwe was cruelly and unashamedly bastardized by those who hijacked the genuine struggle, with the sole selfish intention of benefiting themselves, at the expense of the rest of the citizenry.
No wonder there was so much betrayal, assassinations, and backstabbing of fellow revolutionary war cadres, as a few – who are in power today – sought to pervert this great and noble fight for their own personal advantage, with scant regard of the true objectives, that made thousands of young men and women (actually, boys and girls) abandon their schooling, homes, and families, for an unpredictable life of peril, inspired by the sole desire to see every child of this motherland reaping the abundant fruits brought forth by this great nation called Zimbabwe.
These are the same hijackers of the struggle who continue to hoodwink the nation, and the world, into believing that they stand by the values of the revolution – yet, they do not, and they never did.
The people of Zimbabwe have finally awoken, and are now fully aware that the revolution started by such luminaries as Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Mlimo, and carried forward by Josiah Magama Tongogara, Herbert Wilshire Chitepo, Leopold Takawira, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, Lookout Masuku, Nikita Mangena, and Dumiso Dabengwa has not been won yet.
It is now the mandate and obligation of today’s Sons and Daughters of the Soil to ensure that those valiant heroes and heroines, who selflessly gave their own lives for all of this country’s people, did not die for nothing.
This is the time for a new breed of gallant heroes and heroines, who are prepared to sacrifice everything, so as to ensure that the country that was stolen by the ‘hijackers of the struggle’, is won back to the rightful owners of the land between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263733399640 / +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured