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Violation of liberation struggle values

By Allen Hungwe

In the last two weeks, I attended two absorbing funerals. The first was that of Dzinashe Machingura, a long forgotten liberation struggle hero. A man who, during the liberation struggle, rose to being the national political commissar of the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA).

Both Nathan Shamuyarira and Dzinashe Machingura died very poor and pitiful.
Both Nathan Shamuyarira and Dzinashe Machingura died very poor and pitiful.

The second funeral was that of former cabinet minister and a member of the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI), ZANU and ZAPU, Nathan Shamuyarira.

The two fallen men, both had a long standing history in the liberation struggle, though at one point each of them fell out of favour with the mainstream ZANU ensemble. While Shamuyarira’s fall was temporary and he later re-joined ZANU, Machingura remained on the side-lines even up to independence and till his death.

Though their involvement in the liberation struggle had similarities, given their measurable contributions, the trajectories of their lives after independence reflected a huge disparity.

One became decorated for his liberation struggle credentials, while the other lost any speck of recognition and had his history erased for political reasons. Their lives, however, converged at some point of similitude as they passed on. Both Machingura and Shamuyarira died very poor and pitiful.

The state of their lives at the point of their death were incomparable to most of their comrades, who had been with them during the days of the struggle for independence. Their lives were unparalleled even to those who had been junior to them during the struggle days, or those that had never been part of that struggle.

These are two heroes, whose eventual demise from this life on earth was epitomised by their struggle to “make ends meet”. I am not an advocate for excessive compensation for the role played in the liberation struggle, but am traumatised at how comrades have taken the unprecedented route of neglecting others who share such a rich and compelling history.

The state in which Machingura and Shamuyarira died, has led me to ask a lot of questions, one of them being, “is the true ideal of the liberation struggle being upheld?” This emotive questioning of the legacy of the liberation struggle in the post-independence era brings about a lot other dimensions.

Who are those who claim to be war veterans and do they have an identity with the liberation struggle and if so, what ideals have they sustained from their days in the struggle? The liberation struggle must never be under-estimated in Zimbabwe. It carries a central piece of the total history of the country and is therefore a rallying point for nation-statehood.

The liberation struggle must the binding mortar that creates an identity of what Zimbabwe is about. The recognition and fundamentality of the liberation struggle must be unquestionable and be employed to unite the nation rather than divide it. It is unfortunate that today we see a perversion of the liberation struggle and its submersion for material and political mileage.

The liberation struggle has become a convenience rather than an ideal. One of the biggest challenges that faces parties like ZANU-PF, is the erosion of a value system. If one studies the mechanics of the liberation struggle, it was predicated on a strong value system.

The liberation struggle wasn’t just about war; it was about engraining a value system that was meant to create co-existence between the masses (povo), the comrades waging the war and broader progressive society. The first fundamental of liberation struggle training was the conduct and behaviour that was required when interacting and engaging with the masses and society.

The value system emphasized the need to respect parents (vabereki), while young females and males in communities were perceived to be brothers and sisters. The value system was strict on discouraging and stamping out corruption and extortion from the masses.

The comrades were encouraged to pay for what they acquired from the masses and discouraged from plunder. The value system was about promoting the collectivity of human life as entitised by society rather than concerted individuality. The common good was also a central pursuit of this liberation struggle value system.

The values were not isolated from the Pan-African culture of community coexistence and harmonious living. There was a strong cultural connotation which was built on streamlining the African way of life.

One of the main reasons why the liberation struggle became a success was not only due to the fighting prowess of the comrades. It was also due to the collaborative efforts of the “povo”, who functioned as the medium through which the liberation struggle was dispensed. The bond between the “povo” and the comrades was the cultural identity that existed in the value system.

The reasons for going to war were also identified from a standpoint of attempting to address the fulfilment of the African value system. In simple terms, the success of the liberation struggle was due to the strong, central and uncompromised value system that sustained the struggle through the bond that existed among the comrades, the “povo” and progressive society.

The state of Shamuyarira and Machingura at the time of their deaths depicts the erosion of that value system.

In fact the value system became tainted by other cares that cropped up with the post-independence excesses which over-rode the foundations of what the liberations struggle was all about. This is why it has become difficult to reconcile the ZANU-PF of today and the liberation movement it birthed in the pre-independence era.

The difference is the value system. If ZANU-PF wants to recapture its identify and historical base, then the party needs to simply re-instil its value system of old. It needs to go back to invoke the tenants of the value system that created a bond between itself, the “povo” and broader progressive society.

This is a feat that has also been made more complicated due to some pungency for materialism that has now become central to political existence. There has also been an invasion of ZANU-PF by other questionable characters whose passion for the original value system of the party is simply absent or diluted.

I salute people of the calibre of Machingura and Shamuyarira, who managed to live beyond the compulsion of excesses that threaten the original value system of why they became involved with the struggle for independence. In death they may have been indigent, but in their lives they remained original to the value system which engineered the struggle for independence.

I am left wondering; as men like them become fewer, what then is the destiny of Zimbabwe? What will we see of our dear nation, if the value system of the liberation struggle slowly becomes archival rather than perpetually instructive? The disgrace that Machingura and Shamuyarira faced in death is the epitome of the sustained value system they carried beyond the attainment of independence.

I salute these two heroes and always stand to measure my life not against what I see many do now, but against what these two stood for. Machingura and Shamuyarira’s heroic lives were however betrayed by the violation of the values of the liberation struggle.

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