Remembering a gallant son of the soil
A DARK cloud hung over Zimbabwe on the morning of August 15, 2011. The nation had lost a gallant son of the struggle, one of the finest to emerge in Africa.
The social media was abuzz with people calling, tweeting and texting before the sad news had even been confirmed. The news had swiftly travelled all the four corners of the global village, before the sun had even risen that day in this part of the world. The people’s interest to know what had befallen the valiant commander and the first black Army General of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was profound.
Condolence messages were already pouring in from all corners of the world.
Why did the passing on of this simple man attract so much attention at home and abroad? Why was this man; born in the rocky, dusty reserve of Chikomba where his parents had been forced to settle by the white European invaders, such a phenomenon? This man was one of the many cadres who, at a very young age, had put his life on hold and taken it upon himself to go and fight the injustices of the white racist regime of Rhodesia.
This selfless man sacrificed all to go and join the liberation struggle that brought total freedom and Independence to Zimbabwe in 1980.
As Bernard Bwoni rightly acknowledged; “Zimbabwe has a unique and complex history; apartheid and segregation; displacement and theft; a bitter armed liberation struggle; heroism and greatness of the pioneers of the liberation movement and that priceless day on April 18, 1980.”
This is a unique country, founded on the principles of freedom and emancipation on the backdrop of a lethal liberation war against a system that deliberately and ruthlessly segregated and mutilated on racial grounds. Independence is that exquisite feeling that has given all citizens of Zimbabwe options to make decisions and to define their destiny as a sovereign people. As Zimbabwe celebrated 34 years of independence, it is regrettable that many are now associating the hard-won freedom with the economic problems currently bedevilling the country.
That the gallant spirit and selfless sacrifices of those sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who went into that unforgiving bush with that bona fide raison d’être to truly liberate the country is lumped together in the same small corner as the indiscretions of some self-serving individuals without an ounce of the patriotic marrow in their bones is disheartening to say the least.
There are many heroes who just fly beneath the radar, fought gallantly in the bitter liberation struggle and to this day, largely go unnoticed as they get on silently with their lives and in some instances, encounter ridicule from the very same people they helped liberate from the draconian laws and racist regime.
They are not celebrities, they are not on the conference main stage yet they give and have given of themselves for the greater good of Zimbabwe. Their lives inspired and continue to uplift, their spirits transformed the political landscape and yet we deliberately forget to acknowledge their totally altruistic forfeiture for the liberation of the majority.
These are men and women who put their lives on hold to fully commit themselves to liberating the country from the darkest depth of colonialism and the racist apartheid system to the revered pedestal of the liberties and freedoms we enjoy and take for granted today. These are the men and women who have been through the mud and mire, enduring unimaginable distress and privation for the love of Zimbabwe. There are many such men and women in Zimbabwe and they all deserve our respect, recognition and reverence, precisely because they did not ask for it, they earned in ways we can only imagine.
Nowadays you often hear statements like “Ian Smith and Rhodesia was better” or “take us back to when we were under colonial rule”. This is from people who now have that right to vote, that freedom to walk, freedom to exist and freedom to be human beings. This is not playing the “colonial card” but hard facts that things were never ever breezy, cheery and rosy under Ian Smith and his racist henchmen.
Rhodesia was a beautiful country for Rhodesians and not the descendents of Changamire Dombo and Lobengula.
That is precisely the reason why arms were taken up against that regime. Rhodesia had some of the most repressive and discriminatory laws which reduced the black Zimbabweans to the bottom of the heap with impunity.
The Rhodesians, some of them still among us because of the reconciliatory hand of President Mugabe, mercilessly maimed and mutilated innocent blacks and today they don the sheep’s clothes as champions of democracy and human rights in independent Zimbabwe.
These are the very same people who poisoned wells and sanctioned the indiscriminate massacres at Chimoio, Tembwe, Nyadzonia and many others.
Zimbabwe’s Independence Day is sacred as blood flowed continuously through the beautiful landscape for us to enjoy the freedoms some of us take casually today. Thanks to President Mugabe we have forgiven the Rhodesian atrocities but will never forget, must never forget.
Discrediting April 18, 1980 and demeaning the liberation struggle is morally defunct.
April 18, 1980 has no price-tag and is free for all present and future generations to cherish. The liberation war heroes of Zimbabwe already put the price on their tab for all present and future generations to enjoy without limits.”
This is why this simple man was so loved by the masses at large. He loved and stood for the people. He fought for equal rights for everyone. Songs were composed for him. In return and to pay their last respects a capacity crowd thronged the national shrine to bid the former guerrilla a befitting sendoff which captured the imagination of the world.
Bidding farewell to the son of the soil, President Mugabe said: “Rex Nhongo, We believed in you yesterday when you led the trouncing of the whites (mabhunu).We celebrated with you, you played a great part in politics, you executed your role well as a Member of Parliament. You were a farmer of note. You ducked bullets and land-mines during the liberation war. Even lions and snakes failed or hated to get you. I was afraid that Rex would be shot and killed during the war of liberation. Go well son of the soil. The very soil that you liberated in 1980 is the very soil that will consume you today. Rest in Dear peace beloved Commander of Commanders,” The President said.