Through their words, Zim was inspired to fight oppressors

Ranga Mataire

Group Political Editor

AN anonymous war strategist once said, “no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic.”

A simpler explanation to this quotation is that it exhorts nations never to forget or take for granted the cost of freedom and unity.

Just as it was during the struggle for Zimbabwe, words or speeches from leaders were so impactful as to raise or awaken the consciousness of people to rise against a repressive colonial regime.

Before combat, words were the first instruments of war that inspired generations to rise against the Fascist colonial regime. From Mbuya Nehanda to Herbert Chitepo, words were the bulwark that conscientised the masses to understand what was at stake. It was through what they said that multitudes were inspired to join or support the liberation struggle in their various capacities.

As the nation gears up for this year’s national independence celebrations in Buhera, we compile some of the inspiring words from prominent political figures that have remained as rallying reference points in the nation’s collective memory.

Charwe or Nyakasikana, the spirit medium of Mbuya Nehanda is famed for her final words before “crucifixion” by her captors that her “bones will rise again.” 

Born around 1962, Mbuya Nehanda was one of the major spiritual leaders of African resistance to white colonial rule during the 19th century.

 She was killed on April 27, 1898 after refusing conversion to Christianity but declared to her captors that while they were able to destroy her physical body, her spirit will rise to inspire generations to rise.

Indeed, the spirit medium of Mbuya Nehanda became an inspirational reference point to most nationalists and combatants. 

Her words were so powerful that they inspired a whole generation of nationalists to realise the importance of African spirituality in waging a war of liberation.

In fact, for most early nationalists, wearing a hat made from animal hides like the leopard skin hat became the quintessential headgear for African nationalists. 

The hats were both spiritual and resistance symbols adorned by nationalists like Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe including pro-African historian Terrence Ranger. 

They all presented themselves as cultural nationalist and men of the people who cherished African cultural heritage.

The understanding and appreciation of spirit mediums by freedom fighters is seen through their incorporation in the war camps. At almost every training camp or refugee camps especially in Mozambique, there was a special space or area reserved for spirit mediums of masvikiro. 

The importance of this can be traced back to Mbuya Nehanda and other spirit mediums that resisted early colonial conquests in the First Chimurenga.

In the Second Chimurenga, it was arguably Cde Herbert Chitepo who succinctly explained the main grievance of the war as that of land deprivation.

In a speech presented on a trip to Australia as chairman of ZANU in 1973, Cde Chitepo told his audience that: “I could go into the whole theories of discrimination in legislation, in residency, in economic opportunities, in education. I could go into that, but I will restrict myself to the question of land because I think this is very basic. To us the essence of exploitation, the essence of white domination, is domination over land. That is the real issue.”

The issue of land became such a popular national grievance in the war and numerous songs were composed based on this issue. It was also one of the sticking issues at the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference in 1979. Years after independence, the Zimbabwe government decided to take the bull by its horns by embarking on compulsory acquisition of land without compensation.

In educating both the masses and the combatants, ZANLA commander, the late General Josiah Magama Tongogara constantly made it clear that the liberation war was a fight against a racist system and not necessarily a fight against individuals. He said this during an interview in Mozambique when he said that: “What some of us are fighting for is to see that this oppressive system is crushed. We don’t care whether, I don’t even care whether I will be part of the top echelon in the ruling, I am not worried but I’m dying to see a change in the system, that’s all, that’s all. I would like to see the young people enjoying together, black, white, enjoying together. In a new Zimbabwe, that’s all.”

This statement from Gen Tongogara inspired the combatants to appreciate the need for selflessness in order to bring about a non-racial, socio-political order in a new Zimbabwe. It also allayed fears that the victorious ZANLA would go on a vengeful mission against the white colonial rulers.

On the need to never give up, Cde Tongo wrote a letter to an A. Kumbirai on 25 October 1977 assuring him that, “The mission of the enemy was to destroy completely or capture the leadership…neither of the two was achieved.” 

He also assured his wife not to worry despite the destruction of his tapes and radio. “I am just a lonely man with nothing. Don’t worry, I have survived so many dangerous accidents.”

It was also important that progressing forces that were supporting liberation movements get a better appreciation of why an armed struggle was necessary to dislodge the racist colonial regime.

As ZAPU external affairs secretary, Cde George Silundika explained how Dr Joshua Nkomo had been involved in numerous negotiations but these had not yielded any positive results.

“And nothing is more logical to a person of such great experience than to conclude that all these negotiations that had gone-by and those that are taking place are not touching the real problems, they are sterile. 

“It is only logical not for Mr Nkomo alone but for the liberation movement as a whole to resort to the only method that can deal with the violent situation,” said Cde Silundika in an interview with a journalist. 

The vital sacrifice of both nationalists and combatants is captured by the late national hero and former ZAPU vice president, Cde Jason Ziyapapa Moyo who said heroes will never die as their deeds will live forever.

“Inspirational figures, if you die for Zimbabwe, you live forever and not a minute without movement, not an hour without the people, not a day without the struggle, Zimbabwe must be free at all cost.”

The quest for unity, which also culminated in the signing of the 1987 Unity Accord, had its roots in the liberation struggle. Former Vice President Nkomo alluded to the importance of unity in an address to progressive forces in 1978, New York when he said; “We, in the Patriot Front recognize the fact that unless Zimbabwean fighting forces unite under a revolutionary banner against Rhodesian fascism, the struggle against Rhodesia cannot succeed.”

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