Free Zimbabwe? By Batsirai Webster Katsande
During the armed struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe, there were high hopes among the populace that once freedom was achieved a new period of prosperity for everyone would be ushered in. This spirit of positive expectancy ignited a contagious blaze of enthusiasm among the people who saw everyone, except a few people, doing their bit to hasten the liberation that had proved to be elusive for a long time. Having endured the dehumanising conditions under Ian Smith’s UDI government, many were prepared to risk their very lives to improve the lot for themselves and for posterity.
The liberation struggle was spearheaded by Zanla and Zipra forces, which succeeded thanks to the support of the members of the public, without whose contribution hopes of emancipation would have remained a pipe dream. Indeed every member of the society played a crucial role in bringing the Rhodesian government to its knees. The trained liberation cadres came back from Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique with AK rifles, bazookas, rocket launchers and grenades, but for reconnaissance they relied on the Chimbwidos (girl collaborators) and Mujibas (boy collaborators), many of whom perished when they were caught in cross fire or when they were set upon by the Rhodesian soldiers. Countless others, including innocent civilians, lost their lives when the all-night political education sessions (pungwes) were ambushed by the security forces.
Unlike the Rhodesian forces who had enviable and limitless supplies of choice of food conveniently presented in state-of-the-art containers such as squeezy tubes of cheese and butter, tinned beef and others, the freedom fighters had no such supplies and lived off the plain country fare supplied by the community. Members of the community were not rich and could hardly feed themselves, but they had to share the little they had with the fighters, who often complained that vegetables were not a good, enough accompaniments for sadza (thick porridge made with maize meal) and demanded other more palatable relishes. The cadres craved delicious meals and that led to many villagers parting with their prized chickens, goats and even imported dried fish, as Zimbabwe is a land-locked country and does not have its own natural supplies of fish. Buoyed by the prospect of one day living in a free Zimbabwe where their lives would improve and where they would be rewarded for their efforts, everyone endured the hardships of the time, believing it was a passing phase.
Little did the people know that once independence was attained, those in power would turn their backs on those without political power. By all accounts, every person of no consequence was consigned to the dustbin of history. Top party officials were given powerful government positions from which they could siphon funds into personal bank accounts, in addition to the fleets of gleaming long cars they accessed at the expense of the taxpayer. These were to acquire multiple farms later, with the likes of Ignatius Chombo and Mugabe himself reportedly owning more than fifteen and twenty-nine farms each. The frenzy of the self enriching orgy has been shifted into overdrive, with most government officials amassing wealth that is thousands of times more than their salaries allow. Mugabe, the chief culprit, reportedly has mansions strewn across the world and has billions stashed away in external banks.
With the advent of independence, some of the fighters were co-opted into the Zimbabwe national army, but others were demobilised. The war veterans association was formed, with a deafening silence on the mujibas and chimbwidos. On several occasions the war veterans were rewarded for their role in the armed struggle with tens of thousands of dollars, which they blew on beer and other non-essentials, only to demand some more. Suddenly the role of the collaborators, who were judged not worthy of a single cent, was made to look unimportant, as if the war could have been successfully prosecuted without their help. When the war veterans began grabbing farms the collaborators were ignored as the land was parcelled out to those who had carried the guns, although everyone has the right to land. Collective amnesia had set in, with the top echelons of ZanuPF forgetting the pivotal role played by the members of the public in ensuring that the war was won. Now the importance of war credentials is reiterated ad nauseam by those who purport to carry them, including some dubious war veterans such as Chinotimba and Jabulani Sibanda.
Now the events on the Zimbabwean political scene have taken an unlikely twist, with the police, CIO and state-sponsored Zanu-PF thugs working hand-in-glove to declare a war on the population, including the chimbwidos, mujibas, mothers and fathers, all of whom supported the war. They have descended on the defenceless people of Zimbabwe with brute force. Their only crime is demanding their fair share of the national cake. Disillusioned and dehumanised, the entire nation of Zimbabwe is calling for an end to human rights abuses.
This is not the free Zimbabwe that the Zimbabweans envisaged when they took part in the war of liberation. The sad thing is that they find themselves oppressed by their own brothers and sisters who claim to be their liberators. They find that they have to fight another war, the war to free themselves from their very own people.