By Tapson Muchena
My Sekuru Munya is a war veteran. He saw bloody fighting in Manicaland during the liberation war and his badge of honour is his left calf which has a chunk of muscle missing. Since independence, he has supported Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF with the fierce, unwavering loyalty born in combat among brothers in arms. But last evening, as we shared a beer under the stars, his face was grim and his shoulders stooped as he confided that he would never vote for ZANU PF again.
Munya was 17 when he first killed a man — a Rhodesian soldier who thought it was safe to defecate among some thorn bushes but the thorns did not protect him from a quick burst of AK-47 fire. The helicopters came and Munya and his group hid among the kopjes by day and travelled swiftly by night. Only metres short of the Mozambique border fence, one of his companions stepped on a land mine and a flying piece of shrapnel mutilated Munya’s leg.
It is only in recent years that he has begun to tell me of the horrors of the fighting and the terror of being hunted. However, for the past 37 years, he would tell anyone who would listen of the greatness of Robert Mugabe and the freedom brought to our people by ZANU PF. As I grew up, he made it plain to me where my allegiance should lie.
Last night there were tears in his eyes as he spoke of his unashamed love for the povo, for the villagers who hid the freedom fighters and tended to their wounds, for the children who carried food and messages into the bush, for the people he was fighting to liberate.
His eyes shone brightly through his tears as he told of his elation and hope at independence. People expected Mugabe to deliver food, houses, farms, employment, decent wages, schools, clinics and hospitals and, above all, peace.
But then those bright eyes clouded over as he described his painful realisation that what Mugabe has in fact delivered are murders, farm seizures, Gukuruhundi, Murambatsvina, starvation, economic ruin for both black and white Zimbabweans, and a ruling elite whose privilege is a given and whose sole purpose is to exploit others with a sense of entitlement and impunity.
He expressed a deep sense of betrayal as he acknowledged that, on Mugabe’s watch, from being a relatively prosperous country, Zimbabwe is now wedged between political instability and economic doldrums. The country is in ruins because of systemic corruption, extended periods of political repression and economic mismanagement.
We mused about Mugabe being called to account, not only to his Maker and the spirits of his ancestors, but also to the spirits of Josiah Tongogara, Herbert Chipeto, Joshua Nkomo, George Rutanhire, Wilfred Mhanda, Edgar Tekere, Solomon Mujuru, and Border Gezi.
How will he explain to them that he hijacked the struggle, stole a political party, stole a country, rebranded it, reflagged it and kept it for himself? How will he explain the astonishing lies that he spread about liberation history, exaggerating roles played by peripheral individuals and minimising the roles of those giants on whose shoulders he stood?
As my sekuru stood up to go inside to bed, he uttered words that I never thought I would ever hear, “I am done with him.”
I stayed there, sitting under the stars, listening to the night sounds and breathing in the scents of my beloved Zimbabwe as I pondered our conversation.
There must be many other war veterans and members of ZANU PF who share Munya’s disillusionment. They are experiencing guilt because they feel that they are being disloyal to a comrade but they have come to realise that Robert Mugabe was never a comrade at all.
Julius Nyerere famously cautioned Mugabe in March 1981, “You have inherited a jewel in Africa. Don’t tarnish it.” That jewel has been demolished and destroyed by the greed and corruption of Mugabe and his ZANU PF chefs. They have created a new Zimbabwe ruin — I hope and pray that it does not endure like the ancient ruins that have given their name to this country.
Mugabe inherited a modern economy, world-class infrastructure and systems in place for continued economic progress and national development. Cleaning up the legacy of Mugabe and ZANU PF is going to be like trying to get dog shit off your shoes.
Tapson Muchena is an academic and a keen observer of the Zimbabwe situation. He can no longer remain silent. [email protected] @TapsonMuchena