Today, Zimbabweans celebrate Heroes Day; that day when national valour is honoured and cherished on our land.

It is that day when we remember, salute and commemorate the huge sacrifice that went into liberating this country from the yoke of repression, oppression, indignity and colonialism.

This year we celebrate this day like no other. For the day comes when the unarmed heroic citizens of this land have done it again. They have pushed the kleptocratic elite in government into a corner. And now the whole world is sonorously reminding those on the seat of power, whose hands are dripping in the blood of innocent citizens, that#Zimbabweanlivesmatter.

By the mere threat of exercising their democratic right, Zimbabweans have invited a morbid response from the citadel of power. The inept regime has inadvertently paraded its murderous traits on the streets and in the villages. Unarmed—and by dint of a mere threat to streetify their anger through peaceful action—the heroic citizens of this land have baited out this callous regime.

And indeed, in brutal fashion, this government has now successfully debunked the myth that they are a Second Republic. They have proved to all and sundry that this is in no way a new era but a new error. Nay, a new terror for in our case the real terrorists are in government. They they have shown they are not a Second Republic but a more brutal and lethal version of the First!!

Through the people’s heroic act of inaction, the Mnangagwa regime has repressively shown it is fearful of the very people from whom he and his inner circle steal every day. Baited by mere threats from the heroic sons and daughters of this land, Mnangagwa streetified the roguenes of his illegitimate government which came into office through a coup in 2017 and pilfered its way again into office in 2018.

Even in the middle of a lockdown actuated by a global pandemic, the regime has unlocked its full wrath on the citizens. As masked citizens go about their innocent business to feed their families, by their mere threat of action, they have successfully unmasked and de-masked this murderous beast masquerading as a President.

We are a nation of heroes.

The milieu of armed soldiers and police officers harrassing and arresting citizens on the streets and the spectre of unbridled avarice and unmitigated corruption in the ruling elite have all conspired to betray and expose the murderous and clueless lot steering the ship of the State.

Unbeknown to this regime, the essence of power has evolved over the years. Power has shifted from its traditional condign and brutal expression through guns and armies to the benign parlance of charm, diplomacy, non-violence and persuasion. Indeed, the world has largely moved from hard power to embrace the utility of soft and smart power. The world in the brave 21st century has largely moved from coercion to persuasion, from harm to charm. The notion of hard power as expressed through guns, gunfire, batons, tear smoke and military tanks is no longer in vogue.

Analogue Mnangagwa does not know that in this brave digital age, any regime that rains live bullets on defenceless citizens legitimately shouting to be heard and that sexually abuses women, including an Honourable member of Parliament, will invoke a torrent of international outrage and condemnation.

It was Armitage and Nye (2007) who posited that while militaries were well-suited to fighting States, they are often poor instruments in fighting ideas. One can’t use the military to fight ideas.

And in Zimbabwe the desire for change is a big idea so embedded in the national psyche that it can’t be fought by traditional weapons such as guns, batons and tear smoke. Martin van Creveld (1991), in his seminal work called The Transformation of War, makes a poignant argument about the futility of traditional weapons in the evolving arena of Strategic Studies. And someone must tell this analogue regime that you don’t kill poor people to fight poverty; that military power and brute force are now grossly unsuitable to fight ideas and opinions.

The fast-changing world has proved to be quite a challenge to rogue governments such as the Mnangagwa regime whose fixation and dalliance with violence for political survival is Machiavellian, if not Fanonian.

Like the dinosaur, rogue regimes such as ours are inextricably caught up in a time warp. They run the very serious risk of extinction due to their failure to adapt to a dynamic and rapidly changing world.

The world has now embraced the utility of soft power. And those still stuck up in the age-old penchant for military prowess will find it difficult to cope in this brave century of twitter and Instagram. How do you fight unarmed civilians with brute force and guns? Just how do you cope with complex nuances that don’t call for violence but that have a huge potential of changing the world and redefining human circumstances?

This explains why simple, non-violent expressions have left indelible footprints in the people’s daily struggles for dignity and respect. You don’t shoot your way or brutally curtail rights and get away with it anymore. Nowadays simple gestures of soft power carry the day and can change the terrain and manner in which a country is governed

She did not carry a gun but on Thursday, 1 December 1955, Rosa Parks, a black simple taylor’s assistant sparked the famous Montgomery bus boycott when she refused to stand for white passengers as was the norm in the USA then. The black woman refused to stand for her white compatriots in a solemn historical gesture that engendered a tectonic historical impact and redefined governance in America. Rosa remained glued to her seat and refused to stand up for whites. She remained seated so that the dignity of the black people could stand again.

The simple gesture by Rosa Parks phenomenonally challenged the racist status quo and the United States would never be the same again Sometimes it is the simple non-violent gestures that do it, such as the mere threat for action that baited the beast in the regime in Harare and attracted international condemnation in a manner that could redraw a people’s despondent circumstances.

SADC leaders have voiced their concern and the United Nations has expressed its outrage. By the seismic repressive consequence of a people’s heroic threat for action, the AU chair is now deploying his emmisaries to Harare through a mission whose sincerity we are still to evaluate.

The fact remains that we celebrate this year’s Heroes Day when the valiant people of this land have successfully and tactfully brought world attention to the brutality and to the human rights crisis in Zimbabwe—-a crisis engendered and authored by those who claim to have fought for the country’s independence.

So today we commemorate this Heroes Day with the world’s eyes firmly trained on Zimbabwe.

On another note, I have often said the biggest national folly over the years has been to regard heroism as only limited and confined to the gargantuan sacrifice associated with our liberation struggle. As a nation we ought to seriously reflect on this monumental handicap.

Heroes Day should be a day to celebrate national heroism in all areas of endeavour including sport, the arts and other non-political vocations. Even the new heroes that have emerged in our current political struggle to complete the unfinished business of our sacred war of liberation deserve recognition.

True, our national war of liberation will remain an epic chapter in our national story considering that our national independence did not come cheap. Zimbabweans—both villagers and the liberation war fighters—combined as fish and water to swim the nation to political independence in April 1980.

It will always remain a unique tale of national heroism that this country waged a brutal war of liberation to subdue racist and colonial repression.

Many paid the supreme price. Thousands of the patriotic sons and daughters of this land lost their limbs so the collective national whim could walk again. Today, we remember their heroism that delivered a whole nation and its sovereignty.

The tragedy is that we have narrowed this great day only to the celebration of our political achievement. Heroism is not just political. As a nation, we have exhibited and displayed valour in many other spheres that ought to be included in the moments that we cherish national heroism.

This fixation with gallantry as depicting only the story of our liberation struggle has led to the tragic folly in which an organ of a political party determines and declares heroes in our country.

True heroism, even if a nation decides to go for declaring it, should have such declaration and conferment done by a multi-stakeholder national committee that looks at excellence beyond our war of liberation.

Zimbabweans know that the current democratic struggles are an attempt to complete the unfinished business of the liberation—the reason being that in 1980, we achieved political independence without the necessary freedoms. Indeed, independence came alone, unaccompanied by the requisite freedoms that should have ensured that citizens were protected by and from their own government.

And even if politics were to be the yard-stick of heroism—which it should not–heroes are not necessarily found in Zanu PF. All those patriotic Zimbabweans including Ndabaningi Sithole, Edgar Zivanai Tekere and Morgan Tsvangirai are national heroes too. I do not wish to include Nelson Chamisa lest I am accused of being subjective. But he too has left his own indelible footprints on the sands of this country’s history.

But that is a story for another day.

We may sit in our motley political group called the Politburo and claim to be “declaring” national heroes but the truth is that true heroism is never declared or conferred by anyone. True heroism is attained in one’s lifetime; it is the cherished memories human beings leave behind in the course of the tenuous journeys of their lives.

Nelson Mandela died a few years ago and was buried in his home village of Qunu, not in any special acre or hectare reserved for heroes. Yet world leaders, including the then US President Barrack Obama and our own Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai descended on that village as the world saluted the global icon.

No politburo sat anywhere to confer Madiba with any hero status but his funeral in that village grabbed world attention and left no one under any shadow of doubt that true heroism is never conferred. It imposes itself.

As Zimbabwe celebrates Heroes’ Day today, we must reflect on whether we are doing justice in the way we cherish national excellence. One would have thought this is the moment to celebrate our country’s sons and daughters in all spheres whose works and capabilities have shone through the mediocrity of our time.

Heroes go beyond politics. We all have our frailties as mortal human beings but I will hazard a personal view and say today we ought to be celebrating our national heroes such as Peter Ndlovu, Moses Chunga, Thomas Mapfumo, Alick Macheso, Byron, Wayne and Cara Black.

On Oliver Mtukudzi, we did well by granting him the highest national honour.

Heroes Day should be broadened for the nation to spare a thought for Proud “Kilimanajaro” Chinembiri, Afonso Zvenyika, Jairos Jiri, Margaret Dongo and the many sons and daughters of this great land whose achievements we must all cherish across the racial, political, religious and ethnic divide.

We should remember Joshua Nkomo alongside Rekai Tangwena, Hebert Wiltshire Chitepo and even our Mighty Warriors who in 2016 were one of only two teams representing the African continent at the Rio Olympics in Brazil. They were in Rio de Janeiro representing not even national but continental excellence. We must always cherish their achievement.

Heroes’ day should be about celebrating the broad successes and achievements of this nation’s sons and daughters in their various zones of distinction.

Given our painful national moment, I wish to conclude by saying today should be about celebrating every Zimbabwean within and outside the country.

Indeed, we are a nation of heroes and heroines.

When you have millions of people slugging out a living every day with whole families surviving on less than US35 cents a day, they are heroes.

The rest of us are vendors and small-time traders, honestly earning a living through the rigours of honest, hard work. Our daily grind may have been curtailed by a fearful regime hiding behind the Covid-19 pandemic but vendors and all informal traders are national heroes.

Those millions who survive by selling wares on the pavements of our cities need to be celebrated today. They chose a life of honesty and hard work.

Indeed, they are national heroes.

Millions have left the country to do menial jobs but collectively, every year, they remit millions of dollars that are aiding national sustenance.

They are national heroes.

Those old men and women in the villages queuing for food handouts without raising a whimper of the indignity of it all are true national heroes.

Those remaining workers in our few companies, civic and political outfits who have gone some for months on end without a salary—are national heroes. They are honestly working and praying for a new dawn for the country that they love.

The rest of the civil service who toil every day and wait patiently for inadequate tokenism at the end of the month while government prioritizes those with bombs and guns are national heroes.

They deserve to be celebrated today.

Not everyone is in the cockpit of power and can afford fleecing taxpayers and struggling parastatals as is the case with the few connected, particularly Mnangagwa’s inner circle and the kleptocratic lot in the Office of the President and Cabinet. The rest of us are hard-working, valiant citizens who continue to work and live honestly in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

We are all part of this nation of heroes.

Yes, every Zimbabwean is a national hero and today I particularly take note of the unarmed Zimbabweans who have invited world attention to this murderous lot in government merely by threatening to exercise their Constitutional rights. The cornered regime is flailing and squeaking as the whole world shouts out for peace in Zimbabwe, thanks to a simple heroic threat by the unarmed citizens of this land.

We are national heroes.

Spon. And very soon the heroic people of this land will free themselves from the clutches of repression.

Hope springs eternally in us. We, the people, are the very people we have been waiting for.

Indeed, we are a nation of heroes.

Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the MDC Alliance led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa. He is a multiple award-winning journalist who once served as the elected secretary-genersl of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and was also spokesperson to the country’s democracy icon, Morgan Tsvangirai. Tamborinyoka is an ardent political scientist who won the Book Prize for Best Student when he graduated with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Political Science at the University of Zimbabwe. You can interact with him on Facebook or on the twitter handle @luke_tambo.