THE month of August is sacred in Zimbabwe. It is the month when the country collectively reflects, memorialises and celebrates the heroic acts of the sons and daughters of the soil who fought for the country’s independence from colonial bondage.
There are three artistic things that remind us of that period. These are: Pictures of the tomb of the unknown soldier and two songs — Xavier’s Tormented Souls and Zanla’s Nzira Dzamasoja. This article will reminisce on these three and what they mean to Zimbabweans.
There is something unsettling about the tomb of the unknown soldier. It is the iconic statue that graces the National Heroes Acre monument. This is an expansive piece of work that captures a lot about the liberation struggle and the miseries experienced during the colonial era.
In simple terms, it is a sum of the liberation and our collective aspirations as a people.
However, there is one unsettling thing about the statue. It depicts three unknown soldiers, two male combatants and a female. The ratio 2:1 may be true from many historical facts and accounts. The female combatant uncharacteristic of soldiers is wearing a long flowing skirt.
It is one subject of the statue that is not discussed openly. Was it a mistake or the enduring patriarchal system that wanted to diminish the women’s role in the country’s liberation struggle? How can a soldier fight wearing skirts?
Surprisingly, I have not encountered much criticism of the statue from female ex-combatants for the gross portrayal of their image during the crucial epoch of Zimbabwe’s history. Unfortunately, that “mistake” is cast in stone and no-one seems to care to have it rectified.
The second is the heart-rending Xavier’s song — Tormented Souls — that is synonymous with a hero’s death whenever one hears it on the radio.
This is a song that many Zimbabweans are not even aware of who sang it. I’m not suggesting that it be changed but it has to be popularised and the people get to know what it means.
Celebrating a foreign artist only shows the collaboration that was enjoyed in the region — Southern Africa Development Community — long before the new breed of leaders started trying to divide the people.
It is the same spirit that should be re-cultivated among the people that our independence was made possible by regional collaboration.
The last piece, and far more important to me, is the Zanla song — Nzira Dzamasoja.
This is one song that has a stern warning to combatants, a sort of the biblical 10 commandments on waging the war of liberation. Combatants had to follow the values religiously.
The song was adapted from the late former Chinese Communist party leader Mao Tse-Tung popularly known as Chairman Mao’s military doctrine: “Three rules of discipline and eight points of attention, developed as a code of conduct for the Chinese Red Army.
The principles focused on respect of citizens and property rights, particularly of the ordinary people and peasants who contributed to the war effort.
Among the principles were the respect for the rule of law, no to arbitrary appropriation of people’s property, return of all property looted from the enemy and talking to masses in a disciplined manner so that they would understand the need for liberation.
The combatants had also to pay fairly for all things they bought, return all things looted and not to be cruel to prisoners of war.
These principles were good. However, over the years, the liberation fighters and ex-combatants have departed from these cardinal principles with disastrous consequences to both social and economic development.
What is the citizens’ property? Citizens property comes in two forms — private and public. In the past two decades we have seen the arbitrary appropriation of private property by the leaders with impunity. Many citizens have lost their land, homes, mines, factories and machinery to Zanu PF honchos and apparatchiks.
To make matters worse, these leaders have unashamedly looted public property. The public property includes asset stripping of State-owned enterprises, abuse of public funds through tenders or misuse of public resources.
The annual Auditor-General audits of ministries, local authorities and parastatals reveal a sad state of public leadership. Year in, year out, senior public officials are implicated in looting and no sanction is taken against them.
Public services like health, education, transport and water have been seriously affected. Many are dying without any medical attention. Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren have been denied a decent education and millions of households have no access to potable water and sanitation facilities.
Unfortunately, leaders no longer have pride and with a straight face repeat the lie that people’s socio-economic life is getting better using some dubious figures and statistics.
What happened to the virtues in the song Nzira Dzemasoja? This becomes pertinent in the face of the November 2017 coup that created the so-called Second Republic. Is the military happy with the state of affairs or have they completely lost the values espoused in the timeless Nzira Dzamasoja song?
Is President Emmerson Mnangagwa an embodiment of Nzira Dzamasoja? Is this administration, that claims to be of our liberators, living up to the ideals of the song, a song that gave hope to many and made us love our liberation fighters?
Why are citizens being abducted and treated inhumanely by their liberators against the well-founded principle of respecting the masses?
Was the song meant to pacify the masses? Are the military and liberation fighters irreparably divorced from the ethos they stood for?
Collectively, the nation should listen to the song and ask if we are still committed to those ideals. Can we start living the song and remove the corruption among leadership and develop our country, both socially and economically, so that next time we all listen and sing to Nzira Dzemasoja with patriotic pride.
The leaders should respond and hopefully do so positively.