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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Heroes everywhere

Today is Heroes Day. And heroism, valour and gallantry manifest themselves in various ways and in diverse areas of endeavour outside the narrow realm of Zanu PF politics and politicians.

In the week of the death of the great arts doyen Continueloving Mhlanga, known simply as Cont, who was denied national hero status by this stubborn regime, this nation ought to take advantage of this day to sit back and reflect on the true meaning of national heroism as well as how it is recognised and conferred in this beloved land of our birth.

They may have denied him hero status, as they did to others such as Morgan Tsvangirai, Gibson Sibanda, Edgar Tekere and Ndabaningi Sithole, but Conte Mhlanga will always be the citizens’ undisputed hero—for his footprints stand indelibly imprinted on the sands of the arts history of Zimbabwe.

As the economy bites and as whole families in this country survive on less than US30 cents a day, heroism has sprouted everywhere in our communities as the majority of the citizens continue to live a life of honesty and chastity, even as it becomes more tempting to cut the corners by resorting to crime.

In our villages, in the urban areas and elsewhere in our communities and even in our families, there are these many great men and women who have retained their fidelity in honesty and sheer hard work to feed their families. They are heroes who deserve to be honoured and remembered today.

As the ruling elite and their oligarchs pillage, loot and plunder our national resources, the rest of us continue to choose the rigour of sweat and the grind of personal industry. Everywhere across the country, one finds a citizenry that always opts for the slog of hard, honest work.Indeed, heroism has become ubiquitous even amid great temptation to veer off the moral rails.

Fine, there are some who stand out more than others when it comes to national contribution, but the majority of Zimbabweans are heroes in their own small and special way. For to be able to survive under this repressive and clueless regime is unto itself an act of gallantry, not to mention Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole who have become the stoic human expressions of the tenacity of the Zimbabwean spirit. They too are heroes.

But in a puny way, in our own families, there are those who stand out for their unparalled love and care for others. In my family, three great aunts stand out for the huge umbrella of their love and care that they continue to extend to others.

My aunts Maria Gombera, Priscilla Makumbe Chimbwanda and Pelagia Makumbe Mujawo are conspicuous for their unstinting and enduring love for others. They are my personal heroes and I salute them on this special day.

In this day and age, and in this economy, just having the filial love to care for the huge assortment of grandchildren, nieces and nephews as these three great women do is an act of unbridled heroism. I salute them. I honour them. May the good Lord bless them. For me, they have passed the test of that epic sermon on love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.

Indeed, many Zimbabweans in various spheres deserve to be honoured today. On my part, I republish, by demand from the many who have come through my inbox, a Heroes Day epistle that I wrote a few years ago:

Zimbabwe : A nation of heroes

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. And 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 of independence (even though it remains contestable whether we are truly independent or not). 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 and Nelson Chamisa lest I am accused of being subjective.

But the truth is that the people of Zimbabwe regarded Tsvangirai as their hero. Hate him or love him, the people of this country indeed regarded this patriotic son of the soil as such, both before and after his unfortunate demise . No sane Zimbabwean can be under any illusion that the man 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 tenuous 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 then 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 Madiba with any hero status but his funeral in that small 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 celebration 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.

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 the Ndlovhu brothers Madinda, Peter and Adam, Kirsty Coventry (if only she had not ventured to the tricky political world outside the swimming pool) , Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi (at least he was accorded hero status), 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, Titus Majola, Archieford Chimutanda 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 at one time were one of only two teams representing the African continent at the Rio Olympics in Brazil. They were 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 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 for a measly pittance 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 connected to 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 a nation of heroes and we need to celebrate our own chastity today.

Yes, every Zimbabwean is a national hero(ine). And next year in 2023, they will do a masterly heroic act that will finish the sports.

Luke Tamborinyoka , a citizen from Domboshava , is a journalist and an ardent political scientist . He is the interim deputy secretary for Presidential Affairs in the Citizens Coalition for Change ( CCC ). You can interact with him on his facebook page or via his twitter handle @ luke_tambo.

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