Chimoio must never be forgotten

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THIS week an academic wrote to me.
“Germany after the First World War was struggling economically and socially, the people’s morale was down.
“Adolf Hitler appeared and in three years German was a super power.
“He unified the country, provided jobs and opportunities for thousands of people.
“Yet today no publisher will touch a book glorifying Hitler or the concentration camps without being labelled a Nazi lover or worse going bankrupt.
“The world turned its back on Hitler’s achievements as they looked instead on his atrocities to this day.
“Ironic that today we in Africa have a similar situation.
“When the foreign press arrived at Chimoio in November 1977 after the operation code-named ‘Dingo’ they saw rows of bodies lying on the parade ground reminding one of a field of mown corn, nearly a 100 young teenagers being buried, there were remains of 20 young teenage girls in one grave.
“Over 2 000 people were dead.
“Yet somehow the nation is told to forget about it for the sake of progress.
“After all, did the settlers not bring about civilisation.
“Genocide yes, but we are reminded without them we would not have the sky scrapers or even the paper that we now write on.
“So they can write books glorifying one of the most painful experiences in our history, they get upset when we badmouth the monster buried at the heart of Matopo Cecil John Rhodes and his gay partner Star Jameson.”
This week marks the 36th anniversary of the Chimoio attack.
To many Zimbabweans, the attack is personal and 36 years on, the memories are still fresh.
We have all lost someone we knew or at least shared a conversation with and their death becomes a personal experience.
That is the same with the November 23 1977 attack.
One thinks of those people whose life was cut short and never had the opportunity to see Zimbabwe’s birth.
Some were just civilians caught up in a war situation, others we had rubbed shoulders or shared a joke.
36 years on I sit down with a group of youth as a heated discussion on the war legacy builds up.
We the generation that is fast being reminded of our mortality, we who carry the burden of history especially the significance of the Chimoio want to know if that legacy is dying with us or the next generation will carry on our behalf.
So I pay attention to their sentiments and correct the narration where I can.
After all, they will be the ones telling our story long after we are gone.
We have fought and our children seem not to fully grasp why we did it in a world that is constantly telling them to look ahead and forget the past.
For some of them, Chimoio will remain in their text-books a simple illustration of genocide in Zimbabwe.
They fail to find a connection with it 36 years later as even though it was a national loss they did not lose a comrade like we did.
Therefore it remains in their textbooks and national memory without it becoming personal.
We are taken back on that day when a mother who looked in the horizon for her son or daughter to return home that day broke down never to be the same again.
We remember the wife that waited for her husband who had gone that day to work in an area near the attack that was shot on his back as he tried to pedal home as fast as his bicycle would allow him.
That is what that day means.
It must never be forgotten.

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