Zim@40: Nothing to celebrate

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Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana

MOST probably, there will never be another day that will be as momentous as April 18, 1980.

Those who were too young to comprehend events and those who were not yet born need a strong power of imagination to conjure up the ecstasy. Citizenry were in seventh heaven.

Stored among my treasured memories is the privilege of witnessing the heady Zimbabwe independence festivities four decades ago. There was optimism galore. Citizenry were confident that the land of milk and honey was back in the hands of the legitimate indigenous people.

It was heartening for the majority, the blacks. At long last they had secured the basic human dignity inherent in equality with other races. Hence, they were rhapsodic, on cloud nine that nationhood was destined to raise their livelihoods to ever loftier standards of living.

Zimbabwe’s independence was deserving of rapturous jubilation. It came after a protracted war of attrition that was gallantry fought. It claimed lives, legs and limbs of many combatants. A hero’s welcome awaited those who survived battles in bushes and trenches.

Finally, sovereignty was attained following a lengthy spell under colonial rule. There was every reason to be happy, given that blacks had long been regarded as an inferior class of citizenry.

By its nature, racial segregation is not amiable. It is a despicable human practice.

Inevitably, attainment of independence was a time of national merriment. People spoke in different languages, closely akin to the New Testament day of Pentecost. It was a celebratory occasion that warranted citizenry from all walks of life to stand side by side. Even various political, ethical or religious shades that ordinarily polarise people, are temporarily suspended to give room to celebration. As I see it, it was momentous to witness the oneness of humanity that prevailed as history was in the making.

However, joy and happiness did not last long. Tables were gracelessly turned while the aura of independence was still the in-thing. Like a bolt from the blue, the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe shrugged off virtues of reconciliation he preached in his inaugural speech.

He launched Gukurahundi massacres in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces. It was unimaginable how a liberator who humbly received the mantle amid a galaxy of world leaders could become a grand persecutor of people he freed from shackles of colonialism. It never ceases to surprise how he got sufficiently bloodthirsty to massacre civilians. All the euphoria for independence was forthwith hushed. It made way for an inconsolable outpouring of grief and tears for the slain victims, some from the same family.

Gukurahundi massacre became the precursor of State-sanctioned brutality. Sadly, Mugabe died without revealing what had maddened him. Thereafter, the country has never known peace and prosperity. It was poetic justice that he yielded to the sword he habitually wielded. There has never been harmonious co-existence as State-sanctioned heavy-handedness became the norm. There is no accommodation for disputants. All strikes, be they by civil society, labour, or the opposition, are predictably quelled by brute force than by arbitration.

Even within the ruling Zanu PF party, brutality has since time immemorial been the optimal modus operandi of resolving disputes. With Mugabe ultimately militarily ejected from the helm, the party is to all intents and purposes, conspicuous by intermittent intra-party battles. It was in the furtherance of the loathed culture of repression that President Emmerson Mnangagwa beefed up the police repression apparatus when he assumed office. As I see it, the true history of Zimbabwe is that of institutional State sanctioned brutality.

Sandwiched between Gukurahundi and the most recent infamous August 1, 2018 shootings which led to the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission are many victims, including mere vendors, who encountered nasty experiences at the hands of State apparatus.

Yet, ever since government started a countdown on Zimbabwe@40 independence anniversary, one observation that is conspicuous by its prevalence is that of falsification of history. It is utterly disdainful that it is deliberately avoiding all accounts of its seamy side.

Mnangagwa, then 35 years old, was State Security minister when Gukurahundi was unleashed. He obviously has detailed institutional memory of the horrific massacre. He stands in good stead to recount from an informed backdrop.

While in Gweru on his impromptu visits to assess compliance to lockdown, it could have been an act of Statemanship if he had talked about Gukurahundi. But, he deemed it worthwhile to wax about the first Zanu congress which was held in Mutapa Hall in Gweru in 1962.

A fable has it that when an axe with a wooden handle was taken to the forest, all trees expected a happy reunion with the handle that was cut from one of the trees. But is was not to be as the handle had returned not as a tree, but as a device for cutting trees. Like that wooden handle of an axe, our liberators returned as tormentors. Obviously, editorial space limitations do not allow an elaborate account of victims, save to underscore that names of those who were killed, assaulted or abducted are in the public domain.

Despite demands of COVID-19 scourge, Mnangagwa must have spared time to delve on the dark side of the country. He owes it to himself to demonstrate that he is well and truly wise, brave and honourable enough to deserve the position of power and influence he occupies. Inherent in the Presidency is a heart respectful of life. As I see it, Mnangagwa will rue the missed chance to create a momentous occasion which the youth might have cherished just as us, the old cherished the former one. He could have been a revered a patron saint.

There could never be a credible narrative of Zimbabwe without an admission of the brutality government committed on civilians. Most assuredly, the 40th anniversary was most opportune for Mnangagwa to offer an appeasement by opening the government closet.

 Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana is a public speaking coach, motivational speaker, speechwriter and newspaper columnist. He writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted onmuketiwa@mmsb.gmail.com mobile +263776413010

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