By Morgan Tsvangirai
Today, the nation remembers the gallant sons and daughters of this country who fought a brutal war to bring about self-determination in the country of our birth.
We stand proud on their shoulders, well aware that their determination and fortitude made the difference between subjugation and political independence.
Some paid the ultimate price, and indeed others lost limbs so that the aspirations of future generations could walk again.
Yet that freedom was also due to our mothers and fathers as well as the sons and daughters who remained at home to support those on the war-front.
Today, we reflect on the brutality and the tenacious struggle that we had to go through as a people to be where we are today. I and the party I lead are proud of the sanctity of our war of liberation and we take full pride in what the sons and daughters of this country did to remove the oppressed people of this country from the yoke of colonialism.
Indeed, the MDC is a proud post-liberation movement, not opposed to the sanctity of our previous struggle but formed merely to complete the unfinished business that remains outstanding to this day.
We realize, as a proud post-colonial movement, that independence came through blood, sweat and tears and we salute all those who took part in it, especially those that paid the ultimate price.
But the big regret for the nation is that political independence did not come with the attendant freedoms that so many of our people had fought and died for.
We in the MDC respect the heroes of our war of liberation and that is why at our 4th Congress in October 2014, we resolved to take an unequivocal position to commit ourselves to attend to the welfare of those who are still alive.
The MDC Congress therefore resolved to support the constitutional rights and welfare of genuine war veterans as enshrined in the new constitution and to ensure that they get assistance for rehabilitation, education, health and pension rights among others.
As MDC, we salute the heroic people of this country for supporting the MDC and the broader democratic movement in the fight for a new Constitution, which we had to force down the throat of our reluctant colleagues in Zanu PF.
Today, the national tragedy remains that the sacred document that we made for ourselves as a sovereign people remains unimplemented, despite its overwhelming authorship and endorsement by millions of the people of this country.
My biggest worry is that our Constitution remains a fantastic document in the closet, with the people not able to realize their aspirations and enjoying the full rights they should be accorded in line with that charter!
And today, as we remember those luminaries as the great Masotsha Ndlovu, Joshua Nkomo, Edgar Tekere, Sheba Tavarwisa, Josiah Tongogara, Margaret Dongo, Wilfred Mhanda and Solomon Mujuru; we must do so with a deep sense of reflection.
Today, if the dead among them were to resurrect, would they be proud of what has become of the country for which they waged a brutal and protracted war?
Would they be proud of the hunger and starvation now stalking the nation despite our people taking the land that belongs to us?
Would they be proud of this joblessness and desperation amid huge mineral wealth that continues to be exploited for the benefit of a chosen few?
Would all those heroes and heroines be proud that we have become a nation of vendors, from women vending their bodies for a living to the vendors that have become a huge spectacle on the streets of our cities?
As we ponder and reflect on all these issues on today, I want to humbly broaden the narrow definition of a national hero and submit that in light of the hard work and toil our citizens continue to brave to make an honest living for their families, we have become a nation of heroes!
All those ordinary Zimbabweans by the street side who have decided to make an honest living by selling their wares by the roadside are the new heroes of our time! They should be lauded because they have chosen hard work and honesty, and not crime!
Those small scale miners, the millions of young, uneducated graduates for which this government has failed to provide jobs but have instead chosen restraint are a venerable generation of heroes!
The few remaining workers that are now losing their jobs every week following the recent Supreme Court ruling are indeed a new crop of national heroes!
And yes, all those in the opposition in various political parties from the early 80s to the era of the MDC who were brutally killed in State-sponsored violence are heroes; all those who perished at the hands of our former saviours deserve their due remembrance today.
They are also heroes!
All our hard working sons and daughters slugging it out in the Diaspora for the sake of their families and their country are national heroes.
And of course, all those beneath this soil who died so that democracy could take root; Tonderai Ndira, Rebecca Mafukeni, Isaac Matongo, among many thousands others were brutally killed by Zanu PF are also national heroes.
And yes, Itai Dzamara, whose disappearance remains a mystery for after a tenacious fight for freedom and democracy in his country of birth, is a national hero.
And to the soldiers, the brave and patriotic men and women in uniform who defend us every day, our thoughts are with you this Defence Forces Day.
We have great respect for you and we pray that you have utmost respect and abide by the provisions of the new Constitution in which Zimbabweans set out clear guidelines in which the security sector should interact and protect the interests of the citizens.
At the centre of that relationship is respect for human rights and the need for our defence and security forces to defer to the civilian authority of the land.
The Constitution makes it clear that Defence forces or any other security institution must refrain from either promoting or demoting any political interests but should serve the nation professionally, in a non-partisan manner.
For the record, I as Morgan Tsvangirai and the party I lead will not create a new army, a new police force and a new intelligence unit. We will depend on the patriotic sons and daughters of this country who continue to serve their country in these security institutions with both honour and distinction.
We know that our security structures do not want to be abused but are national institutions committed to strictly abiding by their roles and responsibility as stipulated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
What some in the army did in 2008 remains a shame beneath the dignity and mandate of a national Defence Force. The active participation in the subversion of the people’s will through outright violence and assaults was beyond the mandate of a professional soldier sworn to defending the country’s citizens and their rights.
Loyalty to the country and the zeal to serve the country should reign supreme rather than any political or partisan interests. We know that our security institutions have no wish to serve individuals, particular leaders or political parties but they wish to only serve their country.
As a party that will soon be in government, we remain worried about the welfare of our men and women in uniform and we pledge to look seriously into the welfare of those who protect this nation and its people.
We have noted with serious concern that most of these respected men and women have torn uniforms and worn-out boots unbefitting of their dignity while their salaries and benefits remain woefully lower than the magnitude of their national responsibility.
Lastly, our fallen heroes must rest in peace in the full knowledge and comfort that we, the citizens, do not take for granted their sacrifice and the dignity they bestowed on the people of this country.
To the living heroes, rest in the comfort that we cherish your contribution to the making of this country called Zimbabwe.
I wish all Zimbabweans a blessed Heroes and Defence Forces holiday!
Morgan Tsvangirai is the President of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change