BY TENDAI RUBEN MBOFANA
When renowned pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey famously said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”, he had a very valid point, as indeed, a people’s history is the anchor and foundation of their nation – yet, the people of Zimbabwe have, on numerous occasions, found themselves on the uneviable, and rather precarious and unstable position, of having their own past, origin, and culture severely distorted and bastardized, at the hands of selfish, crooked, and corrupt leaders, who have sought to enhance, exaggerate, glorify, or even lie, in order to magnify their own role in the country’s shaping, whilst belittling, mocking, or even blotting out the part played by their adversaries.
The history of Zimbabwe, and Zimbabweans, has been debated and distorted ever since the pre-colonization times – characterized by the question over who exactly built the Great Zimbabwe monument, and other similar structures – to, what role was played by whom during the country’s liberation struggle.
As much as the accurate recording of any country’s, or people’s, history naturally involves indepth research, which inevitably requires thorough debate and questioning – nonetheless, what we have, unfortunately, witnessed over the past decades, has been nothing reflective of sincere investigation, but rather a deliberate and callous attempt to bastardize our past, in the self-servicing objective of painting certain sections of our nation as “heroes”, whilst others being reduced to either “insignificants”, or even downright “traitors”, and “enemies”.
As the nation commemorates the passing on of one of the greatest heroes to ever emerge from Zimbabwe, Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo, on 1 July 1999; and celebrates his life of gallantry and astute nationalism, in his fight for this country’s independence from the yoke of British rule – one can not help being reminded over the many versions and variations of the giant stateman’s part in the liberation struggle, as told by the ruling ZANU PF leadership – dependant on whether they were on good terms with him, or were in conflict with him.
Who can forget when, soon after the country attained her political independence in 1980, the two nationalist parties – ZANU (then led by the late ousted Robert Gabriel Mugabe), and ZAPU (led by Nkomo) – formed a unity government, whereby, Nkomo, and all those from his party, were affectionately referred to as ‘Comrade’ – an endearment term borrowed from the communist world, who had supported the nationalists’ armed struggle – yet, when the two parties fell-out, with the subsequent advent of the Gukurahundi genocide against mostly Ndebele-speaking people of the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces (who were supposedly ZAPU supporters), by the ZANU government, Nkomo and his colleagues, suddenly ceased being fellow liberation comrades, but “traitors” and “sellouts”?
Literally overnight, the valiant role played by Nkomo and ZAPU was either erased, trivialized, or even twisted to portray a grouping of cowardly people, who spent most of their time hiding, than fighting the Rhodesian forces.
The previous heroic stories, such as the ZIPRA (ZAPU’s military wing) orchestrated downing of a Rhodesian airplane in the Zambezi region – in a joint operation with South Africa’s liberation movement, ANC – and, numerous other brave and decisive engagements, were immediately rendered non-events, insignificant, or even simply regarded taboo.
Throughout the Gukurahundi massacres, ZAPU was disingenuously referenced as nothing more than an appendage of the apartheid South African regime – being used as a destabilizing force to dislodge the ZANU PF regime, through terrorist activities – resulting in the mass arrests of most of the party hierarchy, as well as the expulsion of former ZIPRA members, who had been incorporated into the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
Nkomo, himself was disparaged, and referred to with the most unsavoury, vulgar, and unprintable words.
However, soon after the signing of the so-called ‘Unity Accord’ on 22 December 1987, between ZANU and ZAPU, to form ZANU PF – which, Nkomo and his comrades were reluctantly ‘forced into’, as the only way to stop the barbaric butchering, persecution, torturing, and mass raping of the Ndebele people, and members of ZAPU – just as suddenly as before, Zimbabwe’s history was again changed, to re-establish, and reinstate the former ‘enemy’, as a bona fide liberation movement, led by valorous men and women of impeccable credentials.
Notwithstanding all this, even today, the part played by ZAPU and ZIPRA during the struggle for independence has never been wholly, truthfully, and fairly told – as there has been an unbalanced, deliberate, and unverifiable bias towards ZANU, bordering on exaggeration and fables.
Would I be lying that, whenever the history of Zimbabwe is being told, or taught in schools, ZANU/ZANLA’s participation receives an unjustifiably significant portion, whilst ZAPU/ZIPRA is relegated to a mere sideshow?
Then again, ZANU PF itself, has a revolting propensity for misrepresentating the historical role playedby its own lieutenants – purely based on how favorable their standing would be within the party structures.
Who can ever forget how the nation was continually told how the then ZANU PF and Zimbabwe vice president Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru downed a Rhodesian military helicopter – all on her own, and using a simple AK47 assault rifle?
Yet, after ZANU PF went through it first major catastrophic post-independence factional split – whereby, Mujuru was unceremoniously sacked from both party and government, at the instigation of then first lady Grace Mugabe, in an unholy alliance with current president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, who was then gunning for the vice presidency – this story was abruptly dismissed, and was viciously replaced by a more damning version of her alleged infidelity, and less than moral rise up the hierarchical rungs of power.
Mujuru is far from being the only one in the ruling ZANU PF to fall foul to this wanton distortion of history – as others, such as the former secretary general Edgar Twoboy Tekere, war veteran Margaret Dongo, and many others, have had their fair share of less than flattering accounts publicized, after falling out with the party leadership.
One can just imagine which history would be rolled out about people like Mnangagwa, and others from the current political elite, once their frolicking with the party is ended.
Needless to say, any nation, or people’s history should be based on unequivocal scientifically verifiable evidence and facts – and, as such, can never be altered or twisted, to suit some selfish political, social, cultural, or religious malicious agenda.
This entails the immediate recording of the true history of this country – especially, by all those who played a role in this country’s building, or who possess such essential knowledge – as, failure to do so, would only leave the door wide open for those with nefarious objectives to continue on their destructive, dangerous and unpatriotic mission.
As a writer, I am very prepared to assist all those who may want to tell, record, and immortalize the real, unbiased, and verifiable history of this nation – whether based on their own personal experiences and roles, or any other knowledge they may possess – be it, during the Rhodesia era, the liberation struggle, or post-independence Zimbabwe.
This could be in any facet of our nation’s building – political, social, cultural, religious, or any other aspects that may have a significant impact on our country, its past, present, and future.
All those who would want my involvement in this writing down of our beloved country’s genuine and truthful history, should feel free to contact me, as indeed, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”.
©Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He writes here in his personal capacity. Mbofana is contactable on WhatsApp/Calls: +263733399640 / +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975 /+263788897936, or email: [email protected]