When 'liberation' becomes problematic

LONDON - Some years ago, there was a young university student called Lawrence Chakeredza. He was known as “Warlord”.

Chakeredza was enigmatic, deluded, perhaps.

He led a dodgy outfit named Sangano Munhumutapa, carried a walking stick, and at one time, went on a hunger strike on First Street to protest the state of affairs in the country.

Not many took him seriously. He was more of a caricature than a serious dissenter. At one time, Larry, as he was also called, made a rather preposterous remark.

“These people should just take their independence back so we can go and fight for our own liberation” or something to that effect.

Preposterous because of the obvious impossibility to reverse time.

By “these people”, he was referring to those that claim to have liberated Zimbabwe. To suggest that liberation can be problematic as he implied is, of course, paradoxical. For, how can something emancipating ever be troubling that a young man in contemporary Zimbabwe would desire the impossible?

The British colonialists are no longer here. Who wants to have their country colonised, be subjugated, and be subjected to indignity on the basis of colour?

To pomp and ceremony, a black government took over in 1980.

Why then should liberation be problematic? But beneath Chakeredza’s asinine remark was a crucible of pertinent exasperation. He was expressing the frustration of a generation.

Deconstructed, Chakeredza’s generational frustration boiled down to: our problem was colonialism, our problem now is “liberation”.

Now, to question a vaunted “liberation” is to attract vicious accusations along the lines of the desire of the questioner to return to colonial subjugation.

How can someone ever question a liberation upon which “blood was spilt”? Interrogating it constitutes sacrilege.

Chakeredza did not expect bouquets, nor do I.

But such accusations are just convenient, pre-emptive strikes to foreclose pertinent debate with emotive reincarnations.

In fact, what constitutes the first problem with “liberation” is that throttling narrative of a past war. The narrative (takarwa hondo, takasunungura nyika) semantics (ropa rakadeuka, chimurenga music) and institutions (Heroes Acre, war veterans) of a past war have overwhelmed us into inaction.

Together with this, the iconography of that war (TV documentaries) is invoked ceaselessly to numb us into perpetual and unquestioning  submission.     

This narrative of the past war and its accompaniments has created the bigger problem with “liberation”.

The liberation struggle has arrogated a sense of exclusive ownership of a country to a political party.

This sense of ownership is at the centre of Zimbabwe’s contemporary problems. Everyone else does not seem to have a stake, the cause of the generational frustration expressed by Chakeredza.

For starters, anyone who claims ownership of something does as he pleases. Vice President Joice Mujuru may be singled out for corruption, but the sense of possession of a country has allowed many more within the ranks to benefit inappropriately.

The narrative of “liberation” has carried the pretence of  benefitting us all, yet its beneficiaries belong to an exclusive “club”.

It is the same narrative that is used to discredit both the opposition and now, former colleagues.

This sense of ownership means dissenters and opponents must be expelled, beaten up or even killed. That sense of possession does not brook change.

It may be self-contradictory, but indeed, “liberation” has been problematic. It is at the very core of our problems today. 

We allowed the war narrative to thrive, be abused and misappropriated without challenging it. We must question whether our personal, political, economic and social circumstances comport with a  genuine sense of freedom and liberty in the 21st Century.

That can only begin by discarding the fear to interrogate contemporary elitist misdemeanour that draws from a past, no matter how glorified that past is.

We need to challenge Zanu PF to use the narrative of liberation for the benefit of all.

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