COMMEMORATION OF THE UNSUNG HEROES OF THE LIBERATION STRUGGLE
I will begin with a quote from Joshua Nkomo on the occasion of Lookout Masuku‘s burial on 12 April, 1986 – “Any failure to dedicate ourselves to the ideals of Masuku will be a betrayal of him and all those freedom fighters whose graves are not known. Our country cannot progress on fear and false accusations which are founded simply on the love of power.” Today, I will be speaking to you about the Unsung Heroes of our country.
The subject matter on heroes and heroism is dynamic and contentious and has been so for quite some time and will continue to be so. A lot of research has been put up by various scholars on the subject matter, and naturally, they could not find one common answer because of its dynamism. Naturally and historically all stages and levels of struggle produce their own heroes. In the Zimbabwean context, Ndebele warriors who fought against occupation and colonization produced their own heroes.
For example: At the Lalaphansi battles, Insukamini battle, Gadade battle, where Chief Mtshana Khumalo and the Mbizo regiment exhibited their bravery, and the Phuphu battle, where the Jameson Raid was completely annihilated. This bravery ran in the blood of the late heroes of ZPRA who fought for the liberation of this country – they fought and performed impressive fits of bravery. This bravery also ran in the blood of the normal civilians who aided the guerrillas during the liberation struggle and in countless, and mostly still unrecognized, heroic acts of bravery sacrificed themselves, their lives and their livelihoods for the realization of the country’s independence.
WHAT IS HEROISM?
Heroism is an act of bravery and selflessness that calls for supreme sacrifices where one puts one’s life into danger for the service of others or for one’s nation.
WHO IS A HERO?
These are men and women who are known to their comrades and organizations for having crossed the line and performed feats that were above what normal duty called for. Some of them died in action, in the line of duty, whilst others survived the heat of the struggle. The act of heroism is both historical and factual. It just cannot simply be earned by future occurrences or happenings. However, in the Zimbabwean context a unique scenario exists where heroes are not recognized and acknowledged or declared by one individual or a clique of dubious characters selected as an authentic committee. Some hard-headed people, like us, don’t approve of this, whilst divisive power mongers get immediate benefits from temporal political patronage.
THE ROLE OF HONOUR
The liberation struggle for independence produced its own heroes – both military and civilian. We, of course, had our ZPRA commanders Nikita Mangena, Lookout Masuku, Akim Ndlovu and Todd Mpisi (Peter Ndebele) who commanded the North-Eastern Front. During the early sabotage stages of the struggle we had people like Johnson Ndebele who was blown up in Highfields whilst trying to time a bomb, which had to be placed in a white’s only section of Salisbury’s (Harare’s) Main Post-Office. Then there was Bobbylock Manyonga who was intercepted and arrested between Victoria Falls and Lupane whilst ferrying weapons from Zambia.
When the struggle shifted to guerrilla warfare there were more heroes who emerged. For example, during the Wankie Battles, J.D. (Charles Ngwenya), and during the Sipolilo battles our living legend hero, Moffat Hadebe.
Later we had the likes of Ethan Dube who was kidnapped in Botswana, Francistown and tortured to death in Rhodesia. His remains have not been found. Probably, there are amongst those that are in the Mount Darwin mass grave, which was a mineshaft. As some of you may know, Mount Darwin is where the Selous Scouts had their main camp for torturing people to death during the liberation struggle.
There was also Mtimkhulu a legend ZPRA engineer who courageously disarmed 20 landmines and was killed by the 21st one. Kenneth Ndlovu who, during the Rhodesian pre-emptive strikes of ZPRA forces in Zambia was injured by a landmine whilst disarming personnel and anti-tank landmines in the Kariba area. His eyes were permanently blinded by the blast. Jane Tshabalala (Ratidzo) who refused to shoot down her subordinates as was ordered by the Rhodesian troops when they bombed and raided Mkushi Girls’ Camp in Zambia. She was aware of the consequences that naturally follow when there is noncompliance of such orders, but deliberately crossed the line.
We also have heroes of other races, such as Jeremy Brickhill (who performed above expectations in NSO) and Leo Baron (who lost his life during the struggle), both crossed the line and, out of normal belief, joined our liberation struggle and fought against their white colleagues. As well as Judith Todd who was arrested and detained on a number of occasions. In doing so, they also risked their families’ lives. We also have Ronnie Patel who actively joined the ZPRA forces as a driver and mechanic and after receiving his military training was one of the drivers for the Sipolilo operations, and in this way helped us with the struggle.
They were also traditional chiefs. For example, Chief Mangwende of Murewa who, because he was a member of ZAPU, sacrificed his chieftanship, which was withdrawn by the Rhodesian government. Chief Khayisa Ndiweni who showed the ethics of chieftanship and had a strong cultural background.
Chief Maduna Mafu who was imprisoned ten times both during the Smith regime and the Mugabe regime. There are many heroes who need our recognition and acknowledgement both dead and living.
Our true liberation history ought to identify in each province all those brave men and women – civilian and military – who contributed so much to our struggle. The role they played in assisting the guerrilla units was highly commendable. They were the water that made the fish survive. We should not also live out other leaders of the liberation struggle who contributed to the independence of this country, such ZANU members, James Chikerema, Ndabaningi Sithole, Tekere, and others. What we suggest is that each province must identify and maintain a roll of honour for all those that sacrificed for the liberation of our country. Such that, on Heroes’ Day, it is these people that should be remembered.
Again, I want to close with a quote of what Nkomo said as he closed his speech at Lookout Masuku’s burial, “He is not being buried at the Heroes’ Acre. But they cannot deny his status of a hero. You don’t give a man the status of a hero. All you can do is to recognize it. It is his. Yes he can be forgotten temporarily, but the young people who do research will one day unveil what Lookout has done.”
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