Yes, we're the real heroes

HARARE - One Zimbabwean, a veteran of many economic and political squabbles, says all of us who are alive today must be regarded as the true heroes of this country, considering how we have survived 34 years without committing hara-kiri.

His primary theory is that since independence in 1980, most of us have suffered privation on a huge scale. Today, the unemployment rate is one of the many “unmentionables” for which even the most blue-eyed supporters of the ruling party dare not whisper to each other.

Another crisis not subjected to much crucial debate is the health delivery system. There is a huge number of mothers dying in childbirth and of still-born births.

There may be statistics favouring a decrease in the number of HIV/Aids casualties. Still, the battle against any rise in the incidence of the disease has achieved little of what we would describe as its alleviation.

By the way, my theme today is the Heroes’ holiday, or the existence of the Heroes’ Acre, of which we are all proud — if not a little embarrassed when the government fails to pay the beneficiaries what is due to them.

There are people at the shrine whom I knew very well. One of the most notable was Edgar Tekere, who was buried last year. We knew each other from the beginning of the 1960s, long before he and Robert Mugabe journeyed to Mozambique to join the struggle. 

Others include my political mentor, George Nyandoro, Joshua Nkomo, George Silundika, Edward Ndlovu, Willie Musarurwa, Bernard Chidzero, Maurice Nyagumbo, Nathan Shamuyarira and Eddison Zvobgo.

But Tekere was always going to be special for me. I met him in Mufakose, where we were pioneers of the new African residential area in Salisbury.

Tekere almost didn’t make it to the shrine. At the time of his death, he was no longer a member of Zanu PF, after his memorable clash with Robert Mugabe. His famous remark that “democracy is in the intensive care unit” had angered his former colleague to the extent that he was expelled from the party.

Although the very concept of a heroes’ acre had its detractors from the beginning, there can now be some merit for its existence: it symbolises the sacrifice of the people for their independence.

This is, in fact, even accepting that there are people whose conduct does not deserve interment at the shrine. Chenjerai Hunzvi conducted himself with such arrogance that he was a controversial choice.

There are others buried there who performed so little of what deserved the tag of “heroism” they ought to have been asked to pay to be interred there.

But what really ought to be examined closely is the finer essence of heroism in terms what Zimbabwe has achieved since 1980.

That there is a scandalous lack of balance in the equity of the distribution of wealth among the people can no longer be disputed. The ruling class has grabbed a major share of the wealth and seems determined that there will be no equitable redistribution.

There is now poverty on a huge scale. At the same time, there is mounting evidence that the people at the top are shameless in their quest for more and more obscene wealth.

The arrogance with which they respond to these charges is shameless and insulting to all who know that the meaning of our independence has been undermined irrevocably by the looters.

The poor are the real heroes. One day, they will assert their rights to the heroism.

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