Mt Darwin: Bedrock of the struggle
Formed in November 2022, the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Children Association (ZLWVCA) states that its mandate is to highlight challenges faced by children born to war combatants during the war at refugee or training camps outside the country. According to ZLWVCA chairperson, Cde Gloria Kaisa, (G.K), the other mandate of the association is to preserve for posterity the legacy of the liberation struggle, which gave birth to a free and independent Zimbabwe. Zimpapers Group Political Editor, Ranga Mataire, (R.M) held a detailed conversation with Cde Kaisa on how the association intends to execute its mandate. She also speaks on the upcoming independence celebrations scheduled for Mt Darwin, Mashonaland Central province.
R.M: Zimbabwe is this year commemorating 43 years of independence and for the first time, the celebrations are to be held in Mt Darwin, Mashonaland Central. What does the holding of the celebrations in this province mean to you as children of war veterans of the liberation struggle?
G.K: First, we thank His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde ED Mnangagwa for paying tribute to the masses of Zimbabwe for their ultimate sacrifices during the war as shown by choosing Mt Darwin in Mashonaland Central province as the venue for this year’s independence celebrations.
The masses of Zimbabwe were the greatest shield during the war as their assistance contributed to the successful execution of the war. Theirs was like fish and water – an unbreakable relationship that has survived to this day. As children of war veterans, this is a historic and auspicious decision as it shows appreciation of the role the masses of Zimbabwe played to liberate this country.
Unity of purpose, coupled with high spiritual guidance, were the cornerstones of the war. It is in rural areas where most people faced the full brunt of the war through atrocities perpetrated by the Rhodesian Smith regime. Mt Darwin’s symbolic bravery and sacrifice is exemplified by the first shots fired at Altena Farm to mark the beginning of the war in Centenary.
Recognising Mashonaland Central as an independence celebrations venue has high historical relevance to the young generation for them to appreciate what the gallant sons and daughters sacrificed for us to become a free people.
It is in Mt Darwin where remains of more than 600 people were exhumed at Monkey William Mine in Chibondo, revealing the extent of cruelty of the Smith regime that killed innocent civilians. This is a reminder for us to safeguard what the older generation fought to bring and the most difficult step was to physically fight to bring our freedom. For us it is our duty to be part and parcel in pushing for economic freedom and we applaud the various developmental projects implemented by His Excellency the President Cde ED Mnangagwa under the New Dispensation. Every generation has a duty and this is ours. This means a lot to us as children of war veterans
R.M: You represent children of the war veterans who paid the ultimate price in the liberation of Zimbabwe. How big is your membership and briefly summarise your mandate?
G.K: We are still in the process of compiling our membership dotted in all the country’s provinces. But we already have a national executive of which I am the chairperson.
We feel proud to be children of war veterans who fought for our country. I equate the sacrifice given by the masses and veterans of the liberation struggle of this land to how Jesus sacrificed his life for sins. Gallant sons and daughters sacrificed their lives for freedom. It is a difficult decision to join the war without knowing if you would come back alive, hence so much blood was lost because of war.
It is also more of a difficult decision to join a war if you are not aware of the time frame it will take. This becomes our mandate to safeguard the gains of the revolution and instil a sense of patriotism in the youth.
R.M: What peculiar challenges are faced by children of war veterans born during the war outside the country in refugee or training camps?
G.K: This group of children of war veterans born in the liberation struggle outside Zimbabwe in training camps have unique challenges which vary from social to economic. The bombs and poisonings which happened in war affected them. The same conditions exposed to the war veterans were the same conditions which affected our members as they were born in war. Currently, we have members who are living with disabilities as a result of bombings at Nyadzonia and Chimoio and other places in Zambia and Tanzania.
Some of the children lost their parents and as a result they cannot identify themselves with any paternal or maternal relatives. Some of our members have remained in custody of churches.
For example, some children were raised by the Roman Catholic Church in Zambia and we are in the process of strategising on how they can come home to search or be reunited with their families. Other members cannot identify themselves with any paternal relative as some of the mothers died in war. Our members suffer from neglect and society colloquially referred to as children without any totem- “Vazukuru vaNehanda”.
Being born in the bush also brought many challenges to our members as they carry various health conditions which emanated from lack of proper neo and post-natal care to war veteran mothers and malnutrition during the war. When the war ended there was a process of integrating war veterans back to civilian life, but some had children brought from war who needed medication.
Most parents remarried and the child remained a loner. The greatest challenge is that this group of children of war veterans have never been talked about yet they exist carrying scars of war. They are not talked about even in the Constitution and it is our daily cry for some sort of recognition or acknowledgement.
The Government has implemented different programmes but this group appears side-lined because of its age range. They no longer fall under the age range of below eighteen years.
We, however, thank Cde ED Mnangagwa for recognising us by becoming our Patron. Spiritually and culturally these children experience and carry a burden of needs of departed comrades still yearning for proper reburied and more than thrice we have had issues of members who are troubled by dead war veterans departed spirit demanding reburial.
R.M: What do you think should be done especially in the education sector to ensure that the history of the liberation struggle is immortalised?
G.K: The education sector has a responsibility to educate the nation at large on our past, present and future. Everyone goes under schooling and it is during the young age that children can be moulded into what they would be in adulthood. It is in schools that children can be educated to have the love of self, community and country through a curriculum rich in teaching issues of identity.
The environment also has an effect. The curriculum should involve the history of our country in a deeper sense and in school museums and historical artefacts should be put.
It is sad that the generation of war veterans is passing yet we have not gathered enough historical information on our liberation struggle. Every subject in school should carry a historical topic linked to the subject. In school, I have read most of Alexander Kanengoni’s novels, George Orwell, Ngugi waThiongo and other writers bringing our rich history to light. We should safeguard our own history by studying what is of value to us.
R.M: Kindly highlight some of the programmes being initiated by your association to empower children of veterans of the liberation struggle?
G.K: We have initiated programmes which are empowering our members both economically and historically. We have initiated a programme on responsible social media awareness where we are teaching our members to responsibly use social media to better their lives and bring the correct image of themselves, families, communities and country.
Our intention is for the Government to recognise our members as a unique group of people that must be considered for affirmative action when it comes to the issue of land and general economic empowerment. We need to be well organised in putting our perspective to the powers that be. I have no doubt that our patron, President Mnangagwa, will heartily assist us in ensuring that we not only preserve our parents’ legacy, but also participate in all facets of mainstream economic activities.