Of heroes betrayed, forgotten

Source: Of heroes betrayed, forgotten – The Standard April 21, 2019

Mathabelazitha/The anvil BY ZIFISO MASIYE

When, in the fullness of time, the lies can hold no longer, when the frail bottom of deception falls off, when the foggy morning dew of orchestrated media smokescreens withers and gives way to the power the solar element and, as they say when the cows come home, the truth, in all its enduring patience, in its illustrious fortitude and notorious defiance — the inevitable truth of the real Zimbabwean story shall rise to the surface for all to see like the summer sun defying darkness in the morning. That day, among many other heroes unsung, a story shall be told of one Misheck Ntundu Velaphi.

In the infant pages of my Zimbabwe, The Untold Truth, I do acknowledge my obvious limitations of access to data, my deficit of factual validity while my bias is obvious. But therein, the protagonist Misheck Ntundu Velaphi’s life account is a freshly gripping unravelling of the tumultuous birthing of Zimbabwe, the accompanying complicated labour pains of 1980, the conflicted midwives and the resultant stunted, down syndrome notion of a nation that 39 years later still hardly knows her way to the loo! Let alone how to manage her waste! Collected in drips and drabs for over 30 years since my university days ,the tale of Zipra and the flip-side of Zimbabwe is told in the cultured first voice of a courageous and supremely disciplined soldier and old time veteran of the liberation war.

It is in the voice of Che Guevara, an unwavering patriot of unbending integrity and singular loyalty to the ultimate cause human freedom. It is a story told in the tone of a cadre who suffered immensely at the hands of white minority rule, sacrificed life and limb to rid his country of that shame — but ever since suffered worse personal shame at the hands of black majority rule. Rejected the daunting temptation to grab his personal loot and, like the rest, run with self — and stood true, shamed and humble, where many of his ilk had fallen false.

In queer respects, Misheck Velaphi is as much my greatest friend, my hero and personal life mentor as he is my sworn political foe. Coming out of university guns blazing, thrust onto a moribund economy that spit on my siblings and capped colleagues unto unholy capitals of the world in independent Zimbabwe — a decidedly corrupt black government system of looting cartels and the targeted persecution of himself and all his kith and kin by people he fought to free, I always found it absolutely bizarre, having continuously experienced his personal trauma and betrayal by his own, that the man I call dad would so fervently support Zanu PF his unabashed, repeat tormentors.

Today I am in tears writing this from his miserable hospital bedside .

His cherished country at 39, himself at 82, the tough soldier and indefatigable revolutionary Misheck Velaphi looks and feels so much like his godforsaken country. The unparalleled veteran of the war lies supine, frail, pale, forlorn, derelict, emaciated by multiple combinations of economic and organ malfunctions. Let alone his beloved government, none of his military or party cadres are anywhere in sight of his sickly, elderly painful need. The only physician available has a mother of queues of more urgent emergencies to attend, while there’s no evidence of broken limbs or blood gushing out his head, Misheck may gasp and wait, there is only two broken wheel chairs to be shared by the crowd of incontinent invalids. The gasping, breathless Misheck Velaphi must not only wait in my arms for his turn on the wheel chair, but once on it, with little command of his faculties and zero control of his limbs, he is Shona-instructed to lift his legs off the ground since the wheelchairs do not have foot-stools! From dressing, to drip, from pampers to catheter, from pillows to cafenol, Misheck Velaphi must virtually bring his own hospital to the government hospital.

The three-hour wait ends with a frank and candid piece of advice from the compassionate doctor “This is your dad and I need to be frank with you. While his incontinent condition does require that we admit and monitor him, the honest truth is that the hospital is so overwhelmed with similar and worse cases that an 80-year-old is likely to be exposed to new complicated infections without necessarily getting better care than your home and family can afford him!” My mom screaming and kicking, I had to take my invalid hero back to his home!

On the 39th anniversary of the Zimbabwe that he so valiantly fought for, the public health institutions are virtual shells and carcasses that could not care for my father, Misheck Velaphi. But the revolutionary soldier is as defiant as ever :

“My son, you may give me a thousand examples of just how my comrades, old and new, true and fake have fallen by the wayside and betrayed me and the cause for which I have fought and sacrificed all my life. It makes them bad people and perhaps it makes me a failure in your eyes — but it does not make my great cause wrong or any less urgent!”

When, as is usual our quarrels escalate, the soldier in Misheck is quick to remind me of his dear friend who was shot next to him at war. The fellow said “it would be stupid for them both to die. Rather, lay me nicely against this log, cover me with grass, take my gun and run!” Similarly he dismisses me with “I’m a soldier, like all of them that left me, you too can leave me to die! ”

I have stolen tiny thoughts around my hero and barely living legend because it pains my heart to watch a country betray its heroes and wax lyrical only over their graves. All in a breath, Misheck Velaphi is my greatest example of life’s conflicting messages and enduring principles in both the irreplaceable value of human freedom and independence and the hollowness and hopelessness of the same; the immensely fulfilling satisfaction of grave personal sacrifice, humility and passionate deference of self to common good and the pain of betrayal and thanklessness of society. He is my earnest example of the futility of self-denying martyrdom, the damning crossroads between sincere selflessness and shameless hypocrisy. Soon, on truth day I shall tell the fuller story of this Great Malaba of Mambale.

Zii Masiye (ziimasiye@gmail.com) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.