Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Revolution, History and Collective Identity

Revolution, history and collective identity

From Reason Wafawarova in SYDNEY, Australia
Zimbabwe Herald

ZIMBABWE just celebrated 30 years of independence on April 18 and to Western media this seemed to be about who has led Zimbabwe for the past 30 years more than it was about a 30-year journey away from the brutal yoke of colonialism.

It is understandable when the British and their Western allies focus on celebrating and highlighting the problems and challenges faced in Zimbabwe over the past 10 years; but it is clearly worrisome when exaggerations and propaganda are employed to take away the entire meaning of our liberation.

It is more disturbing when our own people are bought into this diabolical crusade that demeans the history of our liberation and independence as a history whose context is entirely occupied by failure, corruption, violence, poverty and suffering.

When God assigned Adam to name all creation the philosophy and psychology behind that exercise was dominion or domination. Those who allocate themselves the power to name things allocate themselves dominion over whatever they name.

In 1994, Cde Nelson Mandela was this smiling and reconciliatory gentleman who smiled away the renaming of South Africa to Azania and could not even see the hurry in renaming Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban.

Those who applauded his sense of progression as legendary statesmanship organised for him accolades and awards that have given birth to the almost unAfrican Mandela Foundation — a corporate symbol of tolerating and preserving the privileges of the colonial legacy in the name multiculturalism and reconciliation.

This is essentially how that great revolutionary and son of Africa jailed in November 1962 was stolen from us and then paraded before us in the image of the smiling man of peace we welcomed on February 11, 1990. The African revolutionary was renamed the Western-oriented statesman right before our own eyes and the conversion has become legendary.

Alexander Kanengoni already did a thorough piece on the Mandela legacy in The Herald last week and this writer will rest this matter for now.

Some Zimbabweans want to think that they have got university degrees and other excellent qualifications because they are smart, because they passed in high school, or because their parents afforded for them a good education in private schools.

We had people capable of passing in high school from the day the first formal school was set up in Zimbabwe and we have had parents capable of affording to look after their children in the best possible way since time immemorial.

However, these people were trampled upon by the oppressive settler system and they could not even be allowed into high schools or be given the opportunity to look after their own families in the best possible way.

In this regard, it is not personal achievement that one passed in high school after independence; that one graduated with this or that amazing degree or diploma, or that one was promoted into this formerly whites-only job and had a paradise of a life with family and friends.

This is because people who did not pass through any high school put their bodies and their lives on the line to see that we got where we are today as Zimbabweans. It is people who could not and cannot be promoted into any high ranking corporate positions who put their lives on the line so that others could be promoted.

If Zimbabwe was to be recolonised today it is the same people who will be up in arms to restore the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. We cannot sensibly agree that we do not owe these people anything.

This writer was in Canberra on April 20 for belated celebrations of Zimbabwe’s 30 years of independence. Driving for 300 kilometres from Sydney was so easy because of the value I place on the liberation legacy and the whole meaning of independence to my country.

The event was organised by the Zimbabwean Embassy headed by Ambassador Jacqueline Zwambila and it lasted no more than an hour. There was the singing of selected choruses from the national anthem, otherwise done excellently by a talented young Zimbabwean girl who gave it her best in Shona, English and Ndebele.

The little girl was the only feature of anything related to the liberation legacy and to how independence came to our country, albeit made to skip the relevant verses to that part of our history. This writer thought whoever had organised this was scandalous but worse was to come.

Oh yes; the ambassador was clad in a Mbuya Nehanda dress and this writer thought that was really relevant and important for the occasion, and I was a little disappointed she did not mention the legendary heroine anywhere in her speech.

Up came the ambassador with her prepared speech and we all waited as she stood side by side with Australia’s Chief of Protocol.

She gave a detailed narration of the negotiations that led up to the signing of the GPA in September 2008, how Mr Morgan Tsvangirai was later sworn in as Prime Minister, which ministries were awarded to the MDC-T, how Minister Biti did the STERP conference in Victoria Falls, improved economic performance, drafting of a new constitution, the Commissions so far sworn in Zimbabwe, the politics behind the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, the sanctions issue and Mr Tsvangirai’s pending trip to Europe.

There was nothing about when Zimbabwe got independent, nothing about how that happened, nothing about who played what role in that period, nothing about thanking the liberation war veterans, nothing about what independence means to the present generation, nothing about the countries that helped us attain independence and nothing about heroes and heroines departed through sacrifice for our own cause; absolutely nothing.

Rather, Ms Zwambila chose to single out Botswana "for its support to the people of Zimbabwe", and there was no mention of Tanzania, Zambia or Mozambique; the countries that took the flak for hosting and training our freedom fighters.

On sanctions, she boldly asked the West to consider lifting
"restrictive measures on certain companies like the Zimbabwe Agricultural Bank, which is administered by the Ministry of Finance."

This is how a representative of Zimbabwe chose to celebrate 30 years of independence for her own country and we still expect others to take us seriously.

At the time of writing this article, April 25; it is Australia’s ANZAC Day, the equivalent of Zimbabwe’s National Heroes Day, and this writer hopes Ms Zwambila will attend the commemorations somewhere there in Canberra.

They hail their military achievements for some of the wars that many justice-seeking people of this world will never bless. They are in a no compromise drive to elaborate the importance of their war veterans and what their contribution means to Australia.

The Australians remember their foundation, regardless of how that foundation is viewed by the critics of Australian history, and surely none of their ambassadors will ever promote a sanctions regime on Australia on ANZAC day, or any other time.

Talking about sovereignty and the liberation legacy is not a game played so well by Zanu-PF politicians and their supporters. It is a matter of identity and identity is very important for any people.

So the West wants to give our legacy a new identity and this is very important for purposes of destroying what we have so far built and of course creating in us a sense of hopelessness and perpetual dependency. This is why we are told we are supposed to be remembering suffering, dictatorship, poverty, violence, hyperinflation and all the negatives we read mainly in the Western media, especially the BBC.

We are told this is the history of Zimbabwe for the last 30 years. We are told all we have achieved is to destroy the "wonderful country" that Ian Smith and his white friends created — the wonderful country that blocked our way to universities, that banned us from walking in some of the streets in our own homeland, that took away our right to vote, that took away 75 percent of our productive farm land, and a system that stopped us from rising into management positions in the corporate world.

This is the wonderful country that exported Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth to Britain so that it could cause traffic jams in London while our people languished in poverty and disease.

The West is well aware that history creates a shared identity in a people. They know it is based on that shared identity that people act collectively. So they plot to take away that history, to degrade that history so that they can degrade that sense of shared identity.

They know history is the basis upon which people behave collectively to reach their goals and this is why re-writing history is so important for the West.

On our part as Zimbabweans, there is this tendency of social amnesia. We forget the debt we owe to past and future generations. We misinterpret our accomplishments as solely our own individual achievements.

We forget history and claim we owe nothing to those who fought for what we have become today. We make a few dollars here and there in this and that organisation and we think we are a self-made people.

So we forget not only those who have departed, but also those coming after us. We have no plan for the future generations to benefit from the achievements of those who sacrificed for our present privileges and we have no strategy to maintain those privileges.

Many of us act like the revolution is temporary and not permanent. Well, the revolution is permanent. We forget our history and forget who we are and then lose our obligation to the past, to those who made our success possible and we do not fulfil our obligations for those to come — some of whom will be our own individual sons and daughters.

When a people suffer from social amnesia then what normally happens is the people begin to identify with abstractions. They begin to say I am a global citizen, I am a human rights defender, even with no idea what human rights are all about, I am a democrat; even in opposition to people based policies like independent nationalism.

This is sterile and abstract identity. What is a global citizen for example? What is a democrat or a human rights defender? Whose democracy? Whose human rights?

People identify with abstractions so as to escape empty lives, to escape feelings of hopelessness, and they are often cut off or detached not only from themselves as persons, but also from their own people.

They use their abstract identity to escape their responsibilities to their own people and to escape the pain and struggle that happens today under the imperially dominated world order.

This explains the inexplicable way of commemorating independence that this writer witnessed in Canberra recently. We identify with abstractions and we end up empty and fighting hard to escape our own responsibilities.

History is about locating oneself in time and space. It is a grid that guides a person to locate him or herself in reference to other points in the world. With the knowledge and appreciation of our own history we can easily locate ourselves in the global time and space without so much of the confusion that we often see today.

The challenge to build Zimbabwe is inescapable for us Zimbabweans and we need to realise that our revolution is not an event or something temporary. It is a permanent challenge linking our present to the past and to the future.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death.

--Reason Wafawarova is a political writer and can be contacted on or reason@ or visit

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