Better to abandon culture of heroes

HARARE - For the last 32 years, we have been grudgingly celebrating Heroes’ Day.

It is better for us to abandon the culture of heroes as it continues to be severely abused.

One time Zanu PF favourite son, Vladimir Lenin, said, “All our lives we fought against exalting the individual, against the elevation of the single person, and long ago we were over and done with the business of a hero...the glorification of one personality. This is not good at all...”

“We” declare only those affiliated with the war of independence as heroes. To make matters worse, all the people who lie at the Heroes’ Acre are so honoured by one man and his party at the exclusion of all others."

Zimbabwe’s definition of a hero has caused the verbal abuse of otherwise deserving heroes and heroines buried at the national shrine.

All the people who are buried there are politicians, most being of dubious credentials.

My sense of moral imperative, coupled with the exclusion and absence of alternatives, prompt me, once again, to address the issue of national heroes.

The situation is made worse by the fact that Zanu PF’s politburo, a party appendage composed of Mugabe’s hand-picked stooges from his political party, decides who is and who is not a national hero. The result is the Heroes Acre has been slowly filled up with mediocrity as “entry requirements” are always altered for political expediency.

Zanu PF says heroes are those who “subordinated their personal interests to the collective interest of Zimbabwe. They accepted and endured pain, suffering and brutality with fortitude even unto death”.

Even if we take Zanu PF’s warped definition, how many of those at the national shrine today “subordinated their personal interests to the collective interests of Zimbabwe?” and how many “accepted and endured pain, suffering and brutality with fortitude even unto death?”

The MDC, which has now abandoned its “attend this funeral and not that one” game, says hero status must be conferred by an all-stakeholders’ body with no single subjective interest in the conferment of such national status on any individual.

But, I do say, and I submit for your judgment, the fact that if Zimbabweans can be allowed to offer a binding definition of a national hero, about 80 percent of the “heroes” lying at the National Heroes Acre would be demoted, with most carted away for reburial elsewhere.

Many are not even heroes to Zanu PF itself. Keep in mind this politburo only considers awarding such statuses after its party’s district or provincial committees or structures have recommended to them that the deceased be considered for such an honour.

Meaning you have to be Zanu PF.

The politburo is really a non-essential group that is neither a government body nor is it national and is not adequately representative of Zimbabwean society.

It has no constituency, but it decides who is a hero as if heroism is negotiable.

Zanu PF finds no heroes outside itself. Most people at the Heroes Acre are lucky to be there. I do not believe in luck myself. I believe people make their own luck.

Josiah Tongogara, Joshua Nkomo, Herbert Chitepo, Jason Moyo, Leopold Takawira, Jairos Jiri, Nikita Mangena and a host of others made their own luck.

They did not need to be declared national heroes by Zanu PF because they were heroes even before they died; their heroism is self-evident.

Today, the presence of some people at the national shrine highlights the unjust omission of others. Conversely, the absence of some well-deserving people at the Heroes Acre mocks the presence of many people buried there.

The manner in which Zimbabwe’s national heroes are identified and declared is fraudulent in intent, in design and in execution.

Attending the National Heroes’ commemoration last week, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said it is his view that we must now begin as a nation to broaden the spectrum of our national heroes.

“There are patriotic Zimbabweans in the arts, in business, in sport and in other spheres who have equally served their country with distinction and who deserve recognition,” said Tsvangirai.

Fine but he also misses the point and is only fighting for inclusion. Heroism is not bestowed; heroism is earned and cannot be denied. It is born from the selfless yielding of one’s own self to one’s people.

We should forget about declaring people heroes because we know who our heroes are. The government has no business declaring national heroes. Not Zanu PF, not the MDC.

We ought to be reminded “the legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example".

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