Zimbabwe’s brave fighters forgotten

Zimbabwean war veterans who had gathered to demonstrate against a faction within the ruling Zanu pf party, reportedly led by the First Lady Grace Mugabe, vent their anger after they were dispersed by police using tear gas and water cannons in Harare, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. Mugabe was instrumental in the ouster of Zimbabwes first deputy President Joice Mujuru in 2014. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Disgruntled war veterans

ONE of the vilest and far-reaching violations of human rights was colonialism, which in Rhodesia meant oppression of the black majority at the hands of the minority settler regime.
Through violence, colonialism stamped out all forms of physical resistance, and applied psychology and indoctrination to rob the vanquished of self-worth, asserting the worthiness of the oppressor and the unworthiness of the oppressed.
Indigenous people were reduced to mere beggars in their motherland due to economic dominance by the minority whites.
Thus defeated and tamed, Zimbabweans became lost in their own skin, strangers in their own land. Herded into stony, barren reserves, the victory of the oppressors seemed guaranteed.
Yet despite decades of unrelenting oppression, a small spark from the dying amber of our humanity and dignity glowed stubbornly.
Fanned by the desire to see people free, their ideology spread: That the oppressed majority were not beggars but masters; that theirs were not the crumbs that fell from the table, but the fat of the land and its benefit; and that their place was at the table in their father’s house.
And so in the 1970s, the fire caught on and boys and girls as young as 15 years left school and took up arms all for the dream: The dream to take their rightful place and assume their rightful posture as masters of their own fate, as free men and women.
Years of bloodshed and toil brought about the much-needed independence for the Republic of Zimbabwe, bringing an end to white minority rule and ushering black majority rule.
A veteran of the war of liberation, Takaipa Muzavazi was one of the fortunate ones who plunged into the war of independence and came back home alive but obviously not without wounds.
His narration of how he joined the war left me dumb-founded as I doubted I would have put my life on the line for the cause of the struggle.
Born and bred in Shamva’s Bushu area in 1960 in a family of nine, Muzavazi, whose Chimurenga name was Hunter Mabhunu, dropped out of primary school to attend military training in Tembwe, Mozambique, at the age of 16 years.
After completing training, Muzavazi was deployed in Buhera and Manicaland province to fight against the enemy.
He speaks passionately about his encounter with enemy soldiers near an area called Chiturike under headman Rambanepasi in Buhera on October 14, 1979.
“I was 19 at that time and fresh from training. We fought the soldiers for about 30 minutes around 7pm. We were ambushed but I played a sterling role in that battle because I helped my fellow comrades to escape using a road I had designed. Unfortunately, I was left alone and that is where I had a brush with death. My attempts to retreat and escape where dealt a major blow when I was tripped by a wire that was used as a fence and fell down. As I fell head first, a bomb that was thrown exploded some metres away from where I was and the fragments injured my leg. That’s why I walk with a slight limp.
“I played dead and remained motionless on the ground and they fell for it. I had to find my way around to safety after they left. It was a near death experience that I still recall vividly. It was all because of our beloved Zimbabwe,” he said.
Takaipa belongs to a group of dedicated Zimbabweans who tirelessly fought for the liberation of this country. Some were not fortunate to live to this day, while others could not be accorded decent burials and their remains are scattered across the country and in neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia.
April 28, 1966 saw a group of seven ZANLA fighters, David Guzuzu, Arthur Maramba, Christopher Chatambudza, Simon Nyandoro, Godfrey Manyerenyere, Godwin Dube and Chubby Savanhu sneaking into the country from Zambia on a mission to destabilise the settlers. Unfortunately, the seven perished after running out of ammunition as they relentlessly fought Rhodesian security forces who had superior weaponry and air power. They are said to have downed a Rhodesian helicopter during the battle and killed 25 soldiers in what has famously come to be known today as the Chinhoyi Battle.
Their dedication to see an independent Zimbabwe is undoubted. They were determined to confront the enemy.
Zimbabwe celebrated its Independence on April 18.
However, today, 36 years after independence, thousands of these battle hardened men and women are languishing in destitution in a land they believed would flow with milk and honey. Unfortunately, the milk and honey has been enjoyed by a few, while those who wrestled them from the colonisers have been reduced to paupers.
A quick glance around Harare’s City Sports Centre on the occasion of the much hyped meeting between President Robert Mugabe and the war veterans made my heart bleed. Many wore shoes —nay — worn out shoes with toes  protruding like a sore thumb. They donned tattered clothes, held together by patches.
This is the sad story of those who put their lives at risk to free Zimbabwe but are now a subject of ridicule, with some in the ruling party calling them uneducated, drunk taxi drivers and even threatening to physically deal with them.
A former fighter within the war veterans’ leadership had no kind words for these fellow party cadres.
“These young boys say they want to fight us. They say we are uneducated and should shut up when educated people are talking, forgetting that it is our blood and sweat that allowed them to get the education that they are using to shut us up. We did not go to the bush so that the ones we liberated can make fun of us,” he said.
The country might be in an economic quagmire but that should not stop us from taking time to bow down and acknowledging the sacrifices made by our heroes both dead and alive for without them we would not be enjoying the independence we have today. – By Tendai Makaripe

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