FORTY years is a long time in the life of a nation. In the Bible, a story is told of the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, eating quail and manna en-route to the Promised Land. Life begins at 40, so goes yet another old adage.
It has also been another 40 years ever since the country’s liberation war collaborators were promised compensation for the role they played in liberating Zimbabwe from a century of colonial bondage. These collaborators were the young and agile boys and girls, ranging from as young as eight upwards, who carried out reconnaissance activities and provided information to guerrilla war cadres fighting to liberate Zimbabwe in the 1970s. These people also cooked and delivered food, water, medication and clothes, while also carrying the guerrilla war fighters’ weapons from one point to another.
It has also been 40 years that Zimbabwe has waited to taste real peace and prosperity, which have been so elusive that many have passed on dejected and disgruntled at never really getting the opportunities to enjoy peace and prosperity. So it is with all this background in mind that we wish to interrogate the rationale behind us as a nation to keep dwelling in the past when our present and future is so hazy? While we do not begrudge the country’s war collaborators who are set to be compensated by government, through an Act of Parliament, for their efforts to help birth Zimbabwe’s independence, we feel the idea is now so outdated that it is going to cause serious bedlam. Given past experience of what happened when the liberation war fighters were compensated, we shudder to imagine the brouhaha that will be generated by the process of identifying the real war collaborators. The process is surely set to be fraught with serious challenges because many of the war collaborators have since passed on and the suggestion has undoubtedly seen a lot more waiting in the wings to replace them and claim compensation. If, at one point — in one of the processes to compensate the guerrilla fighters for their war injuries, some were declaring more that 100% disability, we cannot even start to visualise the sort of people who will claim to have been war collaborators.
Pardon us, but should Zimbabwe really be dwelling in this yonder past? Besides, if the philosophy of the struggle for independence was that the people acted as the water, while the guerrilla fighters were the fish, is it then not true that everyone living in the 1970s was a war collaborator because they helped protect the bush war fighters? Would it not be better for nation Zimbabwe to redefine its present and future by burying the past and move on into the future, instead of seeking to recompense some chosen individuals? Will the rewarding of these now obscure war collaborators have any bearing on our peace and socio-economic prosperity? Will this planned move not only plunge the country into more problems, given what the liberation war fighters’ reparations caused to the Zimbabwean economy in the late 1990s? The economy crushed because government used money it did not have to reward the freedom fighters. Given the state of the country at the moment, it would be downright foolhardy for government, for whatever reason, to pump out money it does not have.
In God’s name, Zimbabwe needs to move on by not prioritising issues that worsen an already precarious situation. For the sake of generations to come the war collaborators should not act as mercenaries because everyone who was alive in the 1970s did play their role, however small it may seem.