By Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka
Next week, Zimbabweans celebrate Heroes Day; that day when we remember the huge sacrifice that went into liberating this country from the yoke of racism, repression and colonialism.
This is an important day for us in the MDC and we join the nation in celebrating Heroes month.
But we believe one day is not enough to celebrate the gallantry of the sons and daughters of this land. For us in the MDC, August is heroes month.
When we become government soon, we will declare and dedicate the whole month of August to the celebration of the gallantry and bravery of the heroic citizens of this country.
A day is not enough.
Our other 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’ festivities should be an occasion to celebrate national heroism in all areas of endeavour including sport and the arts. Our celebration of national valour should include even those 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.
Many paid the supreme price. Thousands of the patriotic sons and daughters of this land lost their limbs so that the collective national whim could walk again. This month, we remember their heroism that delivered a whole nation and its sovereignty.
The tragedy is that we have narrowed down and confined the glorification of heroism only to the country’s political achievement.
Yet heroism is not just political. Zimbabweans have displayed unparalleled valour in many other spheres that ought to be included in these moments that we cherish national heroism.
Heroes go beyond politics. 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. 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, George Shaya, Moses Chunga, Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi, Byron, Wayne and Cara Black.
This day should be broadened for the nation to spare a thought for Proud “Kilimanjaro” Chinembiri, Afonso Zvenyika, Jairos Jiri, Joyce Mujuru, Margaret Dongo, Charles Mungoshi, Dambudzo Marechera 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, Lookout Masuku, Rekai Tangwena and Hebert Wiltshire Chitepo.
The doyens of our nation include Ndabaningi Sithole, Morgan Tsvangirai, Gibson Sibanda, Dumiso Dabengwa and Edgar Tekere.
They were and will remain true national heroes.
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, even if that liberation was very important for all of us.
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 yardstick of heroism—which it should not–heroes are not necessarily found in Zanu PF.
And as I have argued above, heroes are not just politicians. True heroism goes beyond the straitjacket of politics.
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; it is the cherished memories human beings leave behind in the course of the journeys of their lives.
Nelson Mandela died a few years ago and was buried in his home village in Qunu, not in any special acre or hectare reserved for heroes. Yet world leaders, including then US President Barrack Obama and our very own Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, descended on that village as the world saluted the life of Madiba, an undisputed global icon.
No politburo sat anywhere to confer him any hero status. But his funeral in that remote South African village grabbed world attention and left no one under any shadow of doubt that true heroism is never conferred.
It simply imposes itself.
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 it out a living every day, with whole families surviving on less than US$1 a day, they are heroes.
We are a nation of 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.
They are national heroes.
Millions of our fellow countrymen have left the country to do menial jobs in foreign lands. Collectively, those patriotic Zimbabweans every year remit billions of dollars that are aiding national sustenance.
They are national heroes.
We have those old men and women in the villages queuing for food handouts without raising a whimper about the indignity of it all.
They are true national heroes.
Those workers in our few companies, in civic and political outfits who have gone who have gone for over a year without a salary. They are honestly working and praying for a new dawn for the country that they love. They continue to give our economy a heart throb.
They are national heroes.
Our patriotic civil servants, including our men and women in uniform, who toil every day and wait patiently at the end of the month for salaries that can barely fill a fuel tank deserve recognition today.
They are national heroes.
We are not talking here of the heroes of corruption; the villains and archbishops of avarice who have milked this country day. Those men and women, including Emmerson Mnangagwa who plundered our diamonds in Marange, indeed those legends and heroes of kleptocracy whose names well documented in the UN report of 2002 for having plundered minerals in the DRC are not our subject of discussion. Those are villains who deserve the firing squad, in a serious country.
We are not talking about those who want to fleece the taxpayer; those keen kupfumira pamari yenyika—–vana Mupfumira (no pun intended).
We are talking here of the hard-working, valiant citizens who continue to work and live honestly in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
Indeed, it is those honest men and women who are the true national heroes.
This month we doff our caps to their chosen lives of honesty and chastity.
Yes, every Zimbabwean is a national hero.
This is your month!
And on Friday, 16 August 2019 in Harare, the nation’s gallant citizens in Harare will pull off another heroic act.
Indeed, Zimbabwe is a nation of heroes!
Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka is a multiple award-winning journalist and an ardent scholar of political science. He is the deputy national spokesperson of the MDC. You can follow him on facebook and on the twitter handle @luke_tambo.