I was quite young – a grade two, eight-year-old boy, in 1981 – when the ZANU choir, led by the late Comrade Chinx (Dickson Chingaira), came to sing at Torwood Hall (Redcliff), whereby they stayed at our home for the duration of their tour – since my late father was a very active member of the ruling party (who had also suffered the humiliation of being blacklisted from his teaching profession for his anti-colonial activities).
Very young, I was – but, I can still remember the excitement of those boys and girls – fresh from the protracted gruelling and brutal war of independence, but now high on immense optimism for the bright and prosperous life as an independent people, masters of their own destinies, and owners of their country.
So excited were they that, they ended up damaging some of our bathroom wall ceramic tiles – much to the chagrin of my mother – nonetheless, it was all soon forgiven and forgotten, what with all the independence euphoria, and the honour of hosting those boys and girls, whom we always listened to on the radio (Voice of Zimbabwe) every night, during the war days (with the volume so low, we had to gather round the speaker in total silence).
It was such a humbling experience watching them in person, singing those great tunes as, “Maruza Imi”, “Nzira dzaMasoja”, “Ruzhinji reAfrika”, and so many others that I can not immediately remember – but, were so captivating that I would sing them to myself for years to come.
I also remember my father and mother attending both the Harare (then, Salisbury) 17 April 1980 independence celebrations, and when the then ZANU leader, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, visited Gweru (then, Gwelo) – whereby, he (my father) returned home with only one shoe, after losing the other in a stampede (with the subsequent throwing of tear gas by security forces) to have a good view of their revolutionary icon.
Again, such an unfortunate event could never dampen the unparalleled joy and sense of unlimited hope in a new Zimbabwe.
At times, I look at the photograph that was taken of my father with his friends, proudly donning ZANU t-shirts (with their right fists proudly, confidently, and defiantly raised in the air) – as they believed that their years of oppression, segregation, and subjugation were over, and that the majority would finally share equally in the national cake.
If only my father had still been alive today to see what had become of that independence.
Having passed away on 30 August 2000 – after drowning in a local Redcliff dam, whilst fishing (his lifelong passion) – he, at least, had began to see what that independence had done to a country and its people, who once carried so much hope.
As much as he remained committed to his ZANU PF party – nevertheless, he was beginning to have serious doubts and misgivings over its leadership’s capabilities, and dedication to the cause of those Sons and Daughters of the Soil (including, members of that choir), who has sacrificed everything for Zimbabwe.
He had watched, barely two years after flocking Rufaro Stadium overnight on 17 April, barely two years after losing his shoe in Gweru welcoming Mugabe, and barely a year after Cde Chinx and his choir stayed at our home – the liberators had swiftly morphed into oppressors… seemingly at a far much grander and more sinister scale than the Rhodesians they had replaced.
They had already cold-bloodedly and heinously massacred over 20,000 innocent civilians in the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces, they were already in the process of imposing a one-party dictatorship (much to the contrary of the democracy that they had preached during the liberation struggle), and they were already severe economic challenges, as nationalized enterprises were being looted dry by the ruling elite, prices of basic commodities were unaffordable, and shortages had become the norm.
As a matter of fact, my parents would furtively inform and forewarn all those Ndebele-speaking Redcliff residents, whom they had heard had been identified for brutal atrocities by ZANU militia and thugs, during the Gukurahundi period – so that they could have enough time to flee, if possible – as he strongly believed that such hatred and evil was not what the liberation struggle had been about.
Yet, those in power were only getting fatter and fatter – siphoning and looting state resources with shocking impunity, even in the midst of their so-called “Leadership Code”, which was supposed to curtail any greed and capitalist tendencies.
My father had watched helplessly as his, and my mother’s, salaries (a teacher and nurse, respectively) had their values depreciated at an alarming rate – a salary that, at one point, had enabled them to purchase a low density suburb each (my father’s in Msasa Park, Kwekwe, and my mother’s in Redcliff).
However, by the time he passed on – one year after retiring – a teacher, and a nurse, could no longer afford even to rent a few rooms in the high density suburbs.
As much as my father never openly admitted it – the pain and disappointment was evident, and he tragically died a very dejected man, just two months after the June general elections (whereby, ZANU PF was nearly beaten by a nine-month old MDC party).
Why had all those intrepid men and women – most having left behind family and friends, and abandoned school, in the hope of a better Zimbabwe – placed their lives on the line?
Why did those gallant Sons and Daughters of the Soil lose their lives in the bush – in unknown and unmarked graves, without so much as a decent burial and closure for their loved ones?
They sacrificed for what? Can those in power today, please explain to us?
In fact, can the ruling elite, please, tell me why my father forewent nearly fifteen years of his precious life, in the professional wilderness, as a result of his anti-colonial activities?
Zimbabwe deserves better – and, those phenomenal liberation struggle heroes and heroines certainly deserve a political leadership worthy of their grand sacrifice.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: email@example.com