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A perspective on the Heroes celebrations in Zimbabwe

By George Makoni

Today (Monday 8 August 2016) is supposed to be a day to recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle to fight for an independent Zimbabwe.

Supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe carry a portrait of him and his wife Grace during a gathering to honor the country's dead heroes, at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. The commemorations are held annually to honor the southern African country's dead heroes, particularly those who fought in the 1970s independence war. Leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, who broke away from the 92-year-old president in July, boycotted the event. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe carry a portrait of him and his wife Grace during a gathering to honor the country’s dead heroes, at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. The commemorations are held annually to honor the southern African country’s dead heroes, particularly those who fought in the 1970s independence war. Leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, who broke away from the 92-year-old president in July, boycotted the event. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Whilst the role they played to liberate Zimbabwe is cherished by many Zimbabweans, it is worrisome that this day has been politicised for the selfish political reasons of President Mugabe and his ZANU PF party to continue to cling to power since 1980.

To many the day has been reduced to yet another platform to enhance the hegemony of the ruling party, as they monopolize the claim to have liberated this country. Any dissenting voice to the ruling party views is deemed a sellout or an agent of regime change agenda and on that basis such a person does not qualify to be a hero.

It is only ZANU PF which has the terms of reference to a hero. The case of Ndabaningi Sithole, a Mugabe political rival, failing to be buried at the national shrine besides being the founder of ZANU PF is a clear testimony of how biased the issue of heroes has been. As long as one is likeable to Mugabe, then his/her place at the national shrine is guaranteed.

People with questionable history and political credentials were as a result buried at the national shrine, these include Chenjerai Hunzvi, Border Gezi and Elias Kanengoni who all had blind loyalty to Mugabe. One can therefore safely conclude that its Mugabe who determines whether one is a hero or not.

It is as obvious that they will be tomorrow, that if Grace Mugabe, the president’s wife dies she will be declared a hero, as opposed to Christopher Mutsvanga, a genuine war veteran, simply because Mutsvangwa is now a political rival to Mugabe.

National commemorations such as Independence and Heroes Day should be used to unify Zimbabwe, than platforms for Mugabe to launch attacks against all the dissenting voices. Stakeholders such as civil society, church and political parties should be meaningfully involved in national commemorations without any whims and caprices.

It is a fact that Zimbabweans from all walks of life played a role in the fight against colonial bondage and it is therefore foolhardy to imagine that some are  more equal than others when it comes to the narrative of the liberation of Zimbabwe.

The most consistent way of celebrating our heroes and our hard won independence is to act in way which is different from the erstwhile oppressors.There is need to respect what the sons and daughters of Zimbabwe were fighting for.

This includes, but not limited to the demand for one man one vote, fundamental freedoms and civil liberties and equal access to national resources. To what extent are these being adhered to? How different is our government to the Smith Regime?

The rule by law as opposed to rule of law is the order of the day in Zimbabwe for instance the draconian Public Order and Security Act. This is synonymous to Smith’s use of Law and Order Maintenance Act which inhibited any political activities by citizens opposed to Smith’s rule.

The persecution of war veterans, protests groups such as Tajamuka and Occupy Africa Unity Square for opposing Mugabe’s rule is a clear testimony of the government’s dictatorial tendencies in a typical colonial approach.

The president recently fired a salvo at Evan Mawarire, a cleric who pioneered #This Flag Campaign for questioning the capacity of the Zimbabwean government to tackle a myriad of challenges being faced by the Zimbabweans. Attempts by the government to tamper with social media networks and threats against those who are abusing it also shows how autocratic this government has become and it’s a shame.

Against the above background ,it can be concluded that in 1980, it is only the white rule which ended in Zimbabwe, however all the totalitarian traits remained in place, if not exacerbated. In this regard the Zimbabweans still have an uphill task to be free from autocracy.

Zimbabwe is being held at ransom with a cabal of its erstwhile liberators, who have turned into monsters who are now making the poverty of citizens, their political economy. The use of a cocktail of strategies by the ZANU PF government which are coercive and non coercive to cling to power has maintained the regime in power. Zimbabweans should unite, if ever they have a desire to be free.

Sophistication in dealing with ZANU PF is a major requirement, if it is to be removed from power. It is a fact that, the removal of such a well knit system will be a stroll in the park.

This article was written by George Makoni, the Vice-Chairperson of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition(CIZC). He writes in his own capacity. He can be contacted on [email protected]    

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