TWO notable military men died this January, one a gallant son of the soil known as Colonel Harold Chirenda and the other a swash buckling gunslinger known as Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli Prime Minister.
By Tendai Biti
There are few lying at the national shrine who genuinely deserve the label of “hero”, never mind “national hero” .
The little acre near Warren Park in Harare has been reduced to a privatised burial ground for Zanu PF opportunists and other villainous characters who, by hook and crook, have worked themselves up on the ladder of patronage and bootlicking.
The motley of criminals buried there do great disservice to the genuine heroes whose remains are interred thereto.
Burying Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi, Border Gezi and others at the same space that Joshua Nkomo and Solomon Mujuru lie is an insult to the gods.
Equally, how can it be called a heroes’ acre when the likes of Ndabaningi Sithole, Canaan Banana, Sarah Kachingwe, Walter Kamba, and others, are conspicuous by their absence?
Elliot Masango as Colonel Chirenda was known was a founding Zipra cadre who was among the first group of 90 comrades trained in Algeria before later being deployed to Morogoro where he cut his teeth as a trainer in the distinguished company of Nikita Mangena, the under-stated Ambrose Mutinhiri and the god father Tapson Sibanda.
This Wanachi had the privilege of being in regular touch with him during the golden era of Black Rhinos Football Club.
He was a humble, affable character, who was extremely perceptive and intelligent.
This was a time when football was still football and Black Rhinos was the Chelsea of Zifa Division One, delighting thousands of us with the majestic skills of the late and great Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma, Jerry “Dzungu” Chidawa, Maronga “The Bomber” Nyangela, Fanny Nyamkapa, Langton “Govender” Matimba, Simon “AK” Mugabe, Jimmy Mbewe, Hamid “Muzukuru” Dhanah, Mike “Maburugwa” Abrahams and his imperial highness Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa.
His tales of the war and the training camps were legendary and the one failure of these heroes is that they are dying without telling their tales.
In these days of ghost writers this is regrettable. In fact it was he who named the army team Black Rhinos from a wrist watch he had which had a rhino engraved in the same.
Like his friend and student General Mujuru (may his soul rest in peace), his love for the bottle was the stuff of legends, but like Winston Churchill before them, both men knew their limits.
He was simply too honest and too disciplined to last in an army that was increasingly becoming partisan and no wonder they retired him on the rank of a mere colonel. He truly was a gentleman and an officer. Those of us who knew him will surely miss him.
The same cannot be said of Ariel Sharon, who died on January 11, after eight years in a coma.
To put it, Sharon was a war monger, but brilliant military commander involved in historic battles such as the assault of the Sinai in the Six-Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the War of Attrition and the 1982 Lebanon War.
In the 1982 Lebanese War, Sharon hit his highest level of notoriety when he ordered the slaughter of 3 500 civilians, mostly Palestine and Lebanese Shiites in the Sabra compounds and the nearby Shatila refugee camp in Beirut on September 16, 1982.
International law defines the innocent massacre of unarmed civilians in a war as a war criminal and to many of us Sharon will always remain one.
The man was a master charmer, but behind the smile lay a cobra.
He was the master connoisseur of back-stabbing who took Machiavellian principles to another level.
You keep your friends closer and your enemies even closer.
But history is full of ironies and Sharon himself was one.
Despite the fact that he spent his life encouraging and pushing illegal settlements in Gaza and the West Bank as Prime Minister, in 2005 he bravely pulled Israel from the Gaza.
Cynics would argue that he took Israel out of Gaza, but not Gaza out of Israel.
Palestinians would angrily say he took Israel out of Gaza, but planted it in the West Bank.
Any visitor to the Palestinian capital of Ramallah would be shocked by the long man-made wall that was built in the West Bank to keep Palestinians out of Israel.
The visitor too would be shocked by the number of Jewish settlements that are being built every day in the West Bank, many of them unoccupied.
Ramallah itself, compared to Tel Aviv, is a shanty town comparable to the inner city of any African capital. The Palestine/Israel situation needs an urgent lasting solution.
One that recognises the equal rights of both the Philistines and the chosen tribes. One that recognises the rights of both Jew and Muslim to live side by side.
The two-State solution thus has no viable sustainable alternative.
Israel must pull out of the West Bank and formally recognise a Palestinian State. Equally radical fundamentalists, particularly from Gaza, must recognise that terrorism does not work and dialogue and peace are the way forward.
The citizens of Israel have a right to live peacefully without the threats of suicide bombers or rockets coming from Gaza.
They too are also entitled to a State of their own.
Equally the Palestinians are also entitled to peace and not the threat of bombs from the Tel Aviv administration. Much falls on the shoulders of the current Israel leadership. Courage is required on the part of Benjamin Netanyahu of doing the right thing and move towards the two-State solution.
John Kerry’s efforts deserve reward. It is in this regard that sadly and ironically the world will miss the departed Sharon. For he would have had the courage of doing it.
This, Wananchi, can only be called the revenge of history. Zikomo!
Tendai Biti is the secretary-general of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai, who served as Finance minister in the Government of National Unity. He writes in his personal capacity