By Sibanengi Dube
Zimbabweans celebrated their 40 years of independence in mourning.18 April 1980, marked 40 years of Zimbabwe’s independence from British rule. The independence of Zimbabwe did not come cheap. Zimbabweans paid with their lives, blood, limps and long detentions.
Some of us were still toddlers but everyone who was an adult or teenager in the 1960s and 70s contributed immensely to the liberation of Zimbabwe. In the late 1970s, I remember my mother used to leave us alone with sisi (helper) every night taking food to the mountains with other mothers in the village. She will however be on her bed every morning by the time we wake up.
I and my little brother Thembi would happily join her. As compensation for being away, she would allow us to enjoy the comfort of her bed as we narrate reports of our cattle and goats in the kraal.
My father was a rare sight at home. He was always absent. He would tiptoe home at night when were asleep and glide out before we wake up. At times we would bump into him by luck and ask when he came back even though he would not have traveled. That was the norm of our lives.
At times mom would sneak us into the bushes kubemberero at Imbahuru Mountain to have lunch with my father who seemed to be in hiding. The man was on the run, just like all other young fathers in the village. I even believed that was a normal way of living for every adult male.
We were even coached on how to respond if asked where dad was. We would even tell his own brothers that dad was taken away by some people long ago even though we might have shared lunch with him the previous day.
These Comrades, liberation fighters were putting our lives at risk by daily thronging our home for sadza with chicken and tea with bread. At times these gorilla fighters would demand farmers’ shoes, jeans and caps.
As a local businessman, dad was duty bound to make sure that the gorillas tasted bread, which was a luxury commodity by then. We had to eat leftovers after vana mukoma vadya. Our neighbours also helped out with chicken, goats or cows to feed the freedom fighters.
My dad had two Pfaff sewing machines, which he used to mend the tattered camouflages of the freedom fighters. Our yard was always green with crops as we had irrigation equipment which allowed us to have leafy crops in the field throughout the year including sugar-canes.
Liberation fighters used our ever green fields as cover to hide and conceal their armaments. As time went on only senior commanders were allowed to frequent to our home for meals, while juniors were fed from the bases, notably Chehondo, Mutete or Federation.
The level of risk was astonishingly high and as I grew up, I then began to understand why dad had to be in perpetual hiding. At times I would ear-drop on my parents’ deliberations and my father would always throw in phrases like.”.kana ndafa muhondo..’
I was wondering why he expected to perish in a war when he was out of combat, but I later released that civilians who actively supported magandanga were far much at risk than their trained and armed comrades.
Our home was subjected to routine raids by Ian Smith’s soldiers acting on tip-offs from vatengesi (sell-outs). It became common knowledge that our pamba kwaMudhara Sicino was the favourite port of call of liberation fighters.
All other families within the villages were bearing the same brunt of feeding, entertaining and camouflaging freedom fighters, but were not spied as much as our home.
Five hundred metres away from us a comrade was being nursed at a relative’s home pababamukuru baba Tsungirirai after he accidentally shot himself as he was cleaning his gun in our field.
This was a huge risk. Harbouring a ‘terrorist,’ as freedom fighters were referred to, by the colonial government was a capital offence whose sentence was death in the hands of a firing squad. He however recouped over time as his hiding spot was a relatively safe zone.
One comrade was enjoying tea in our bedroom when mom stormed in to alert him that soldiers have surrounded our home. What he did in front of us wrecked our young and innocent minds.
He sneaked in our bed with his boots, gun and khaki military outfit. He then pulled a female wool hat and covered his head and face. He instructed mom to tell the soldiers that he was our ill aunt recovering from a miscarriage. That was typical of a movie script.
The trick worked, but the risk was too high. Mom would have been subjected to a firing squad apart from having our home burnt down. A few days before this incident soldiers had torched Baba Janet’s huts after being accused of being a mujibha wamagandanga.
The sole objective of the villagers who risked their lives was to bring freedom to their country of birth and end segregation and oppression.
Forty years later, there is nothing to put a smile on the faces of the majority Zimbabwe villagers who had to duck and dive bullets and snake bites in the mountains. Instead oppression only changed colour. White oppressors were replaced by black ones. Their own liberators transformed into more shrewd oppressors who intensified the same style of the previous oppressors.
Only Zanu PF chefs got independent, the majority of Zimbabweans are still to be independent. My dad who risked his family ’safety and donated all his limited resources to the liberation struggle died in 2011 an angry man.
His frustrations are shared by many other villagers dotted around Zimbabwe who spared no cow to the keep the liberation struggle on. Some families do not even know where the remains of their children were buried. The sacrifices they paid are not in sync with the gluttonous and murderous conduct of the regime.
There was absolutely nothing to celebrate on the Independence Day on 18 April 2020 but instead Zimbabweans mourned at such a monumental betrayal by their own liberators.
Dirges hooted in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mberengwa, Zvishavane, Chivhu, Tsholotsho, Chiredzi, Gwanda and all other parts of Zimbabwe.
Coronavirus made the situation no better and the presence of soldiers in the streets nostalgically brought back their experiences in the hands of Ian Smith.
In Bulawayo where soldiers ran amok on Independence Day in the name of enforcing a lockdown rules came as ghastly reminders of the gukurahundi massacres.
Only a few are eating on behalf of the majority. Kwanzi maivepi tichiifira nyika iyi? Yet they are alive and not dead. The general populace has been starved into their skeletal frames.
So why would anyone celebrate an Independence that never was. As it stands Zimbabwe surely belongs to a few clowns within Zanu PF, the masses’ liberation is still to come.