The freedom that Zimbabweans enjoys today was not delivered on a silver platter, for there are sons and daughters of the peasantry, who sacrificed limbs, eyes and mental well-being for this beauty of a country formerly known as Rhodesia.
As enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the right to be, or not to be part of a political outfit or ideology, was not offered through puppetry, neither was it a reward of mere utterances of preparedness “to die for this country”.
Thousands of the indigenes: liberation fighters and their supportive masses alike, paid the definitive price by dying, and not merely pledging to die as some political grandstanders theatrically do in front of flashing camera lights.
The zenith of such sacrifices, where the fish and the water suffer the same fate, came on November 23, 1977, when the settler regime led by the racial bigot, Ian Douglas Smith, attacked Chimoio Camp, Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA’s) military headquarters in Mozambique. ZANLA was ZANU’s military wing.
The air raid code-named “Dingo”, which persisted for two days, was aimed at thwarting the liberation movement’s claim, on behalf of Zimbabweans, to their heritage, the land, and the quest to correct colonial imbalances prevalent in Rhodesia.
The operation, whose intent was to demoralise the guerrillas, exploited the concentration of forces during the morning parade. The Rhodesian security forces used 96 Rhodesian SAS and 48 Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) paratroopers in addition to 40 helicopter-borne troops for the raid. Six mothballed Vampire jets were also used in the operation.
As part of a deception plan to scatter the guerrillas, assuming it to be a false air raid signal, a Douglas DC-8 airliner was flown over the Chimoio camps 10 minutes before the airstrike.
Consequently, when the evil-intentioned aircraft approached the freedom fighters and their charges were caught unawares.
Poisoned biscuits completed the rout of innocent children, whose only crime was being born black in the land of their forefathers.
It was such a devastating massacre that claimed the lives of thousands of freedom fighters, women and children.
Located about 20 kilometres to the north-east of the town of Chimoio, the capital city of the Mozambican province of Manica, the camp site accommodated 20 000 people. It comprised 14 camps; for both guerrillas and refugees, which included Chaminuka, Chindunduma, Chitepo, Nehanda, Parirenyatwa, Pasi Tigere, Percy Ntini, Takawira, Tamba Wakachenjera and Zvido Zvevanhu.
This month, 43 years on, collective memory recalls the blood splattered voyage embarked on to free the Motherland from the clutches of colonialism; a heinous phenomenon blind to the plight of the feeble and vulnerable. Collective memory recalls, also, that Chindunduma was a school camp for children of freedom fighters at Chimoio.
On that sad November incident, more than 3 000 men, women and children perished, and their bodies were interred in mass grave shrines at the site of the camps, a constant reminder of the voyeuristic nature of the white man’s dark heart, which drew excitement from the suffering of black people.
The mass grave shrines and other many shallow graves, disused mines, caves and rivers that consumed gallant sons and daughters of the Motherland are symbolically embodied in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National Heroes Acre.
Their heroism is celebrated through the beautiful and symbolic artwork, which keeps the spirit of liberation and collective suffering intact.
Because they did not die in vain, those that lost their lives at Chimoio, Nyadzonya, Tembwe and many other battlefields across the country, are commemorated on Heroes Day, and their spirit of sacrifice was resplendent on November 15, 2017.
On that November day, Zimbabwe reverberated with the songs that liberated the nation from colonial shackles, as the people’s army, true to its liberation war promise, sought to restore the legacy of the struggle that had united a people keen on mapping its own destiny.
They may have died hundreds of kilometres away from home, as they fell under a barrage of enemy shells, mauled by predators and glided into the unknown void below, but the soil remembers them and their gallantry. The sod of soil of the land of their ancestors does not forget its own.
This month of November, therefore, should be a relentless reminder of the essence of unity and sacrifice to the people of Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans should be alive to the fact that whatever the concept of democracy constitutes, it essentially excludes selling out one’s birth-right to earn a constituency.
The West, with its own forms of democracy, is fraught with problems of its own, among them the hypocrisy that comes with it.
Smith massacred Zimbabweans, in a genocidal madness that remains etched in the national psyche today with the help of sellouts like Morrison Nyathi, yet he believed to be doing it to protect the rights of a minority white Rhodesians. To him and his fellow white die-hards across the Western hemisphere, Chimoio was a non-event in terms of the loss of life, because, after all, they were only black lives. It was simply another bad day in the office.
Instead of killing the fighting spirit in the freedom fighters, and robbing them of the support of their fellow oppressed compatriots, the Chimoio massacre, like Nyadzonya and Tembwe annihilations cemented their resolve to fight to the bitter end, for the common good.
It is such selflessness of sacrifice that Zimbabweans celebrate each year on Independence Day and Heroes Day. It is the same selflessness that the nation revels in this November as citizens commemorate the coming of age of an African, nay Zimbabwean dream, fashioned on blood, sweat and psychological traumas characteristic of war.
What makes the month even more significant is that it has ushered in a new dispensation of hope, prosperity and shared vision under President Mnangagwa.