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Zimbabwe: A nation of heroes – Luke Tamborinyoka

By Luke Tamborinyoka

Today, Zimbabweans celebrate Heroes Day; that day when we remember the huge sacrifice that went into liberating this country from the yoke of repression and colonialism. 

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka

Yet, the biggest national folly over the years has been to regard heroism as only limited and confined to the gargantuan sacrifice associated with our liberation struggle.

Heroes Day should be a day to celebrate national heroism in all areas of endeavour including sport, the arts and even the new heroes that have emerged in our current political struggle to complete the unfinished business of our sacred war of liberation.

True, our national war of liberation will remain an epic chapter in our national story considering that our national independence did not come cheap. Zimbabweans—both villagers and the liberation war fighters—combined as fish and water to swim the nation to political independence in April 1980. It will always remain a unique tale of national heroism that this country waged a brutal war of liberation to subdue racist and colonial repression.

Many paid the supreme price. Thousands of the patriotic sons and daughters of this land lost their limbs so the collective national whim could walk again. Today, we remember their heroism that delivered a whole nation and its sovereignty.

The tragedy is that we have narrowed down this great day only to the celebration of our political achievement. Heroism is not just political. As a nation, we have exhibited and displayed valour in many other spheres that ought to be included in such moments that we cherish national heroism. This fixation with heroism as depicting only the story of our liberation struggle has led to the tragic folly in which an organ of a political party determines and declares heroes in our country.

True heroism, even if a nation decides to go for declaring it, should have such declaration and conferment done by a multi-stakeholder national committee that looks at excellence beyond our war of liberation.

Zimbabweans know that the current democratic struggles are an attempt to complete the unfinished business of the liberation—the reason being that in 1980, we achieved political independence without the necessary freedoms.

Yes, independence came alone, unaccompanied by the requisite freedoms that should have ensured that citizens were protected by their own government. That inadequacy of our independence was exposed through the brutal murder of Zimbabweans in the western parts of the country soon after independence during the dark period of Gukurahundi.

And even if politics were to be the yard-stick of heroism—which it should not–heroes are not necessarily found in Zanu PF. All those patriotic Zimbabweans including Ndabaningi Sithole, are also national heroes. I do not want to mention Morgan Tsvangirai lest I am accused of being subjective.

But the truth is that the people of Zimbabwe regard him as their hero. Hate him or love him, the people of this country indeed regard this patriotic son of the soil as such. No sane Zimbabwean can be under any illusion that the man has left his own indelible imprint on the sands of our national story.

But that is a story for another day.

Yes, we may sit in our motley political group called the Politburo and claim to be “declaring” national heroes. Yet the truth is that true heroism is never declared or conferred by anyone. True heroism is attained in one’s lifetime; the cherished memories human beings live behind in the course of the journeys of their lives.

Nelson Mandela died a few years ago and was buried in his home village of Qunu, not in any special acre or hectare reserved for heroes.  Yet world leaders, including United States of America President Barrack and our very own Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, descended on that village as the world saluted the global icon.

No politburo sat anywhere to confer him any hero status but his funeral in that village grabbed world attention and left no one under any shadow of doubt that true heroism is never conferred. It imposes itself.

As Zimbabwe celebrates Heroes’ Day today, we must reflect on whether we are doing justice to the demoralization of national excellence. One would have thought this is the moment to cherish our country’s sons and daughters in all spheres whose works and capabilities have shone through the mediocrity of our time.

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Heroes go beyond politics. We all have our frailties as mortal human beings but I will hazard a personal view and say today we ought to be celebrating our national heroes such as Peter Ndlovu, Kirsty Coventry, Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi, Byron, Wayne and Cara Black.

This day should be broadened for the nation to spare a thought for Proud “Kilimanajaro” Chinembiri, Afonso Zvenyika, Jairos Jiri, Joyce Mujuru, Margaret Dongo and other sons and daughters of this great land whose achievements we must all cherish across the racial, political, religious and ethnic divide.

We should remember Joshua Nkomo, Rekai Tangwena, Hebert Wiltshire Chitepo and even our Mighty Warriors who are one of only two teams representing the African continent at the Rio Olympics in Brazil. They are in Rio de Janeiro representing not even national but continental excellence.

Heroes’ day should be about celebrating the broad successes and achievements of this nation’s sons and daughters in their various zones of distinction.

Given our painful national moment, I wish to conclude by saying today should be about celebrating every Zimbabwean within and outside the country.

Indeed, we are a nation of heroes and heroines.

When you have millions of people slugging out a living every day with whole families surviving on less than US$1 a day, they are heroes.

The rest of us are vendors and small-time traders, honestly earning a living through the rigours of honest, hard work.

Indeed, we are national heroes.

Those millions selling wares on the pavements of our cities need to be celebrated today. They chose a life and honesty and not chicanery.

Indeed, they are national heroes.

Millions have left the country to do menial jobs but collectively, they remit every year billions of dollars that are aiding national sustenance.

They are national heroes.

Those old men and women in the villages queuing for food handouts without raising a whimper of the indignity of it all are true national heroes.

Those remaining workers in our few companies, civic and political outfits who have gone some for two years without a salary—are national heroes. They are honestly working and praying for a new dawn for the country that they love.

The rest of the civil service who toil every day and wait patiently at the end of the month while government prioritizes those with bombs and guns are national heroes.

They deserve to be celebrated today.

Not everyone is in the cockpit of power and can afford fleecing taxpayers and struggling parastatals as is the case with the few connected, particularly the kleptocratic lot in the Office of the President and Cabinet.

The rest of us are hard-working, valiant citizens who continue to work and live honestly in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. Indeed, we are nation of heroes and we need to celebrate our own chastity today.

Yes, every Zimbabwean is a national hero.

Luke Tamborinyoka doubles as Presidential Spokesperson and Director of Communications in the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai. You can follow him on both facebook and twitter.