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Heroes Day – When traitors celebrate

By Rawlings Magede

Lieutenant General Joseph Arthur Ankrah led the coup against Kwame Nkrumah in early 1966 while he was away in Vietnam attending a Peace Initiative in Vietnam which sought to end the war between America and Northern Vietnam.

President Robert Mugabe and some of his generals
President Robert Mugabe and some of his generals

Nkrumah’s crime they said was of making the African people politically conscious about their resources among other things. His book that he had published in 1965, Neo Colonialism, The last stage of Imperialism”, had caused a lot of hype and debate especially in Western governments. His vision was to have an African society that utilised its resources and enjoyed equality.

Nkrumah survived several assassination attempts on his life; the last being the one attempted in 1964. This coup attempt brought a raft of changes in his administration. He fired several army generals whom he didn’t trust anymore and he formed a new regiment known as the Presidential Regimental Guard which had the sole mandate of ensuring his own security.

In 1966 after the successful coup, he sought exile in Guinea and while there, he wrote several books which explained his ideals and vision for Africa. Back home his supporters were beaten and tortured in the streets.

According to the Editor of the Ghanaian Insight Newspaper, Kwesi Pratt, the coup was one of the worst moments in the history of the entire African continent.

While the “victors” celebrated such victory, those who knew what Nkrumah stood for, could only watch in anguish as Africa had taken a turn in the worst direction. Today we remember Nkrumah as a Pan Africanist whose ideologies and vision helped shape Africa. His ideals have also been twisted by successive African leaders who have wrongly used his ideals to justify and perpetuate dictatorships.

Today we are in the same Africa where the little progress made so far in the actualisation of Nkrumah’s vision cannot be a feat or an achievement. It’s an Africa that has Xenophobia in the South while in West Africa; Boko Haram has destroyed and shaken the very same foundations of a peaceful and tolerant Africa which are essential for development.

Regional groupings such as SADC and African Union seem to have shifted from the founding principles that gave birth to Africa. Coup attempts still take place in Africa but these regional groupings have been left exposed and questioned over their capacity to take Africa forwad. Diseases and poverty have become a norm in Africa.

Year after year during Africa day commemorations, we set unrealistic targets that lack follow up and will from African governments hence the underdevelopment.

Today, 43 years after the death of Nkrumah, Africa still grapples with primitive practices such as doctoring constitutions to remain in power, no rule of law, rampant corruption, and killings. What a pathetic tribute to heroes such as Nkrumah who envisaged a prosperous Africa which had capable leaders who would advance Africa’s cause and agenda on the international scene. It’s sad.

The propensity to revel in past glory

Monday the 10th of August is Heroes day. It’s a day when the country celebrates the sacrifice given by gallant sons of Zimbabwe when they took up arms to dislodge the colonial government. It’s also a time when history lessons of bravado and “macho-man” like adventures will be given to all who care to listen.

It’s a also a time when the public media together with all its affiliates take breaks and interjections in between programmes to share the history of fallen cadres who liberated this country. Beffiting tribute indeed!

Heroes’ Day offers an opportunity to acknowledge the selfless sacrifice by our brothers and sisters in ensuring that we attain independence. The living and independent today still acknowledge the effort by fallen heroes.

Some of us have even gone a step further by having portraits of our fallen heroes in our houses. To me they are a symbol of joy and success.

However while we can revel in the success of enjoying our hard fought independence, I think that much justice has not been devoted to ensure that what these slain heroes stood for is realised. Today the government continued to skirt with rehearsed precision on issues of the gains of Heroes’ Day.

Year in and year out, the same history lessons are told to everyone who cares to listen. What should be the starting point should be an introspection of how far we have gone as a country in ensuring that the whole package that comes with independence is realised.

Independence was supposed to herald economic growth, free health and education among others. But alas, in all this hopus copus, our leaders portray independence as a mere day to remember the dead but not evaluating if the same independence has also brought positives to the living.

What also lacks during heroes commemorations is the underlying and collective debate of what a new Zimbabwe should herald. Our national leaders tend to twist and hide this reality from us. The propensity to live in the past poses a bigger danger to society where the living fail to understand the real meaning of independence.

Independence should never be about narrating horrific incidents meant to coerce and trick people into believing that independence is an unattainable feat but it should be about shaping national discourse on what the living should do to develop and take the country forward. The Future! Why doesn’t the government take an introspection of how far it has gone in achieving the vision of slain heroes? Surely these heroes had a vision for Zimbabwe which regrettably is parallel to what is obtaining.

All African countries to say the least have gone through radical transformations and some have made economic strides since they got independence.

For Zimbabwe, the once bread basket of Southern Africa, is now fallen to become a basket case for Africa, needing annual grain imports from countries such as Zambia whom we never thought would assist us in times of need.

Populist policies have been developed which have delivered nothing. Thousands if not millions are now vendors who have been rendered jobless by insane policies that have defeated the same sacrifice of our slain heroes. Everything has virtually collapsed! Everyday people wake up to saddening news about retrenchments that have seen the elite dismissing workers willy-nilly after the Supreme Court ruling.

The centre cannot hold!

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, as William Butler Yeats would put it in his poem, The Second Coming. Heroes’ Day also offers an opportunity to also reflect on the new heroes who have been born since independence. These ones are resilient and have endured and withstood the effects of the harsh economic environment for the past 15 years or so.

Zimbabwe, once considered as a bastion of progress and a developmental darling, has taken a nose dive plunge. Its collapse has seen the elites making rich pickings from the poor and vulnerable. Corruption which has become the most reliable friend of our government continues to ravage and thrive undisturbed.

The recent Supreme Court ruling has advantaged employers and this has seen the remaining and “viable” companies retrenching thousands at alarming rates. A careful analysis of who these “employers” are reveals that the majority of them are actually politicians.

While President Mugabe has distanced himself from the job cuts and made a last minute plea to halt the job cuts, the damage is already done. Many today have been rendered jobless and the courts are not even a viable option since they are the ones that triggered the madness.

DIASPORIANS ARE HEROES TOO!

According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe statistics, in 2012, total remittances from the diaspora amounted to US$2, 1 billion while in 2013 they totalled US$1, 8 billion. The amount could be higher given that a substantial amount of diaspora remittances continued to be transmitted through informal channels.

This means that Diasporians have a key role to play in economic revival. Besides being forced to leave their motherland due to varying reasons which include economic collapse, Diasporians have even started developmental projects back home.

They also send money for the upkeep of their families back home. Surely some have been doing this for over 15 years now and for them the hope of a new Zimbabwe spurs them on. The hope to come back and contribute to nation building remains a cry and dream that remains there no matter what.

For sure they are also our heroes of our time who have had to put up in foreign lands where a lot of risks exist but the desire to feed families drives them on. As the nation celebrates Heroes Day, I personally salute all Zimbabweans abroad who have continued to support those back home and have remained resolute in supporting their families who are suffering under the scourge of unemployment.

Although they are denied the right to vote, they have contributed greatly to nation building. They remain key stakeholders who are key to economic revival. Salute!

Vendors, our new local heroes

In my final analysis I wouldn’t have done justice without mentioning this very important grouping that has defied all odds and developed survival tactics that allow them to see the next day.

These people are the new heroes in Zimbabwe, they sell wares all across Zimbabwe from which they fend for their families, educate their children and give children shelter.

Of course this grouping of survivors has suffered at the hands of Municipal authorities and politicians but their “die-hard” nature leverages them. With running battles with our corrupt officials, they continue to strive under harsh and trying conditions. They remain a very resilient grouping whose feats and exploits deserve recognition. Long live VENDORS!

In this battle of survival where the ordinary worker always wakes up to uncertainty and insecurity over their job, for sure Heroes Day is an opportunity to reflect and commend ourselves for resilience and endurance. It’s a time to also project our hopes and aspirations towards the future, a future where our leaders can be able to account and use resources to further and champion the causes of citizens. Happy Heroes’ holiday!

Rawlings Magede is a writer based in Nkayi and he writes in his personal. You can reach him on [email protected]

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