Thursday, November 24, 2016

November 25, 2016
Opinion & Analysis

Thirty-nine years ago, on November 23, 1977, one of the most heinous crimes against humanity was committed by Ian Smith’s Rhodesian security forces when they bombarded Chimoio Camp, a vast facility housing innocent men, women and children in Mozambique.Scars from the Chimoio attack remain at the pivot of the nation’s conscience, without necessarily belittling the other attacks by the racist regime in Mozambique, Zambia, and here in Zimbabwe, where thousands of people — young and old; male and female perished, while thousands others lost life and limb.

Speaking to The Sunday Mail a few months ago, Commander at Chimoio Camp, Cde Midson Gomba Mupasu, whose nom de guerre was Cde Norman Bethune said he vividly remembers the events of that tragic day on November 23, 1977: “The bombardment and the subsequent massacre started around 7:45am and went on until past 12 noon — bombing, shooting and killing.”

All surviving war veterans of the Chimoio attack recall every detail of what they experienced on that tragic day, and those who have managed to tell their stories speak of horror — now and then, because for many, the trauma sometimes gives them sleepless nights. Everyday looks like the dastardly attack is being replayed through the nightmares they have.

Notwithstanding these attacks, and the mass graves that are now a symbol of the evil from the white settler regime, morale among the surviving freedom fighters did not wane.

They fought on until final victory, and in 1980 Zimbabwe attained Independence. Apart from the political emancipation, the war veterans went on to fight for economic emancipation through the land reform programme — for land was the issue, then and now.

Four decades on as we reflect on the Chimoio attack and others, the first question we raise is whose responsibility is it to ensure that these days are commemorated every year, with the historical, political, social and economic value being passed on from generation to generation?

Is this burden supposed to be carried by the very people who fought and freed the country from colonial bondage?

When we seem like people who have forgotten massacres that made news headlines the world-over, barely 40 years after it happened, what does it say about us as a people?

What does it say about how we value the vision of the thousands that perished during the Chimoio attack? Do we really care, or we cannot be bothered to worry about historical events when the future beckons?

Have we become a selfish people who cannot even spare a minute of silence to remember these fallen heroes?

The irony is that the Rhodesians who participated in this deadly air force operation codenamed “Operation Dingo” commemorate it every year, because for them, it was a day they believed they had paralysed the liberation struggle.

What is saddening about this also is that the same Rhodesians and their kith and kin, scattered around the globe had also commemorated the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Ian Smith of November 11, 1965, five decades on. And they will continue to commemorate these aspects of their history, when we cannot be bothered; when also we are saying “each man for himself, and God for us all.”

We are cognisant of the fact that during the early years of our Independence, these massacres used to be remembered with a lot of dignity.

What then stopped us from continuing to be our brothers’ keepers, especially when they are departed brothers? How do we expect future generations to know and value the sacrifices made for their freedom?

The past few years have seen some in the ruling Zanu-PF party (the cradle of the struggle) creating a number of irrelevant side-shows that are far removed from that which is central to the revolutionary party’s ethos — the waging of the liberation struggle against an intransigent enemy force, and prevailing despite the challenges.

Some of these people are taking advantage of the current economic challenges to side-track people’s vision for the nation, forgetting as they have done the Chimoio attack and others that it was the land reform programme that brought sanctions to Zimbabwe. They quickly forgot what Henry Kissinger said about the illegal sanctions; they should make Zimbabwe’s economy scream.

It is a democratic right to fight for positions and/or claim positions of power, but lest we forget; we have the Chimoio, Nyadzonia, Tembwe, Mkushi attacks and many more. We have thousands of families that never saw their loved ones come back to a free Zimbabwe, and claim their space.

President Mugabe’s meetings with war veterans and other affiliate associations is a stark reminder that we have forgotten our first love, and the detour we have taken can wipe out the history of this nation from our collective memory!

There is so much about these tragic events that we need to know and understand so that we appreciate why Zimbabwe is the way it is right now! Maybe then, we would realise that it is within our rights to make the Rhodesians pay us reparations.

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