By Mashingaidze Gomo
RETIRED Brigadier-General Dr Felix Ngwarati Muchemwa is gone.
He has joined many other fallen heroes who in their afterlife are probably recognising his face as the last one they saw as he tried to save their lives to keep the liberation battlefield manned.
They were contesting Rhodesian barbarism perpetrated by the likes of David Coltart, Iain Kay and Mike Campbell, among others.
In a strange sense, Brig-General Muchemwa’s passing brings other heroes of his time to life.
One is reminded of the legendary Simon ‘Chopper’ Chimbetu, whose famous hit ‘Ndarangarira Gamba’ now suddenly sounds a perfect tribute to the General. The song defines what must have been the General’s everyday war experience.
It defines haunting memories of distant battlefields and mortally wounded men looking into his eyes and selflessly urging him to attend to the less wounded with better chances of survival.
Urging him to take their weapons and ammunition.
Urging him to be brave and proceed with the war.
Listening to Chimbetu, now singing from beyond the grave, one wonders how many times the General must have reminisced – unable to forget:
“Ndarangarira musi watisiya gamba
Mwana wenyu amai; amire panguva yakaoma; handikanganwe kwete
Chionaika Cde; ini ndave neropa pachipfuva; zvino topesana muupenyu; shinga Comrade
Ndarangarira musi watisiya gamba
Mwana wenyu amai; amire panguva yakaoma; handikanganwe kwete
Katanurai zvikasha zvangu zvose; muende mberi nehondo
Rambai makashinga Comrade muchiti ZANU, ZANU”
And, it is people who are unable to forget who can be relied upon to tell when the revolution has lost direction.
It is people like Brig-General Muchemwa who always looked into the eyes of dying combatants who can be relied upon to tell kuti zvakafirwa nemagamba iwayo hazvisisiri izvo.
While it is the saddest thing that has hit us since Cde Alexander Kanengoni’s passing on earlier this year, one feels that (as in Cde Kanengoni’s case) the loss is not absolute.
Brig-General Muchemwa has left an indelible mark on the land and nation of Zimbabwe.
He has left us: The Struggle for Land
in Zimbabwe 1890 -2010, a history masterpiece edited by Dr Rino Zhuwarara and the late Cde Kanengoni and published by Heritage Publishing House (2015).
The Struggle for Land in Zimbabwe 1890 -2010 is the guerrilla medical practitioner’s forensic dissection of the history of land tenure in Zimbabwe that exposes and corrects the racist distortions that have been used to sanitise and sustain a gross crime against African humanity by the Western-sponsored Rhodesian settler community.
But, most critically, especially in the context of his death, at a time white settlers are now being compensated for both the land and the improvements on the stolen land, Brig-General Muchemwa’s book takes on a new meaning.
It now comes across as an indictment of how the liberation struggle waged to get back every square inch of stolen land should now uncharacteristically fizzle out into a reform process that subverts the very ‘revolutionary’ expectations of those who went to war.
It is as if after faithfully enduring a protracted liberation struggle and illegal sanctions trying to do the right thing, we suddenly capitulate at the winning point and start appeasing the Rhodesians, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other international financial institutions to relent on anti-Zimbabwe sanctions.
This is how the book nags the conscience of the nation.
It nags the conscience of a nation that contested racist genocide to recover stolen heritage.
I am listening to Simon Chimbetu as I write this obituary and I cannot imagine a dying comrade urging the guerrilla medical practitioner to remove his ammunition belt and take his weapon and bravely proceed with the war with the aim of winning it and then compensating the Rhodesians.
I cannot imagine a dying comrade urging Cde Muchemwa to win the war and then compensate his Rhodesian killers for improvements on the stolen land.
I cannot imagine all fallen heroes wanting their bereaved parents and children to wring their war-impoverished lives to compensate those who impoverished and bereaved them.
I cannot imagine any dying comrade achishevedzera to his brothers-in-arms kuti:
Chionaika Cde ini ndave neropa pachipfuva zvino topesana muupenyu, shinga Comrade
Katanurai zvikasha zvangu zvose muende mberi nehondo
Rambai makashinga Cde muchiti: ZANU! ZANU!
‘Rambai makashinga Comrade, kana makunda mozoripa mhandu dzatora upenyu hwangu’.
I cannot imagine that, because it couldn’t be so.
It disturbingly defies logic.
It is an insult to the fallen heroes.
The idea of going to war was to wrest the land back into the hands of the original owners and not to compensate the robbery.
If all the heroes who fell in the struggle for Zimbabwe could be resurrected and asked what they died for, I am dead certain that none would say they died to win the right to buy back their stolen land.
For them, the ultimate goal had been defined by Cde Herbert Chitepo when he said:
“I think everybody who knows about revolution knows that revolution has been about land everywhere in the world. It is about land because land is the thing on which you live. You build your house on it; you get your food from it. Life is sustained on the land and without it you are really facing death. That is what revolution is about.”
And then he said:
“We don’t merely seek a so-called rough change in society in Zimbabwe. We are seeking what we sometimes describe as a systemic change. We want to change the whole system. We want revolution. By revolution, we understand a turning of the wheel. We want to turn it right over. To get an entirely new society based on no exploitation, true equality and true justice for all. It is this vision which our people have been fired with – so fired with that vision they have been prepared to take up arms to fight against the regime that oppresses them, in the hope and for the purpose of establishing a new Zimbabwe, a new country, a new justice, a new economic system, a new society.
I think that in honour of those who paid the ultimate price in The Struggle for Land in Zimbabwe 1890 -2010, it is not too late for those who survived the Rhodesian genocide to read Brig-General Muchemwa’s book and find justification to refuse to pay the racist settlers anything.
If it has to be considered a ‘humane’ imperative to put a price on improvements made on stolen land, the same logic should surely make it infinitely more imperative to consider the pricelessness of the African lives destroyed by the Rhodesians to retain the stolen land by force of arms.
Legally a contract based on a lie is a nullity and therefore voidable.
By the same token, improvements on stolen land are equally null and voidable.
If anything, those crying for compensation should be charged with ‘receiving stolen property’ from their thieving ancestors.
What price would we put on the mangled remains of fighters and villagers in the Chibondo mineshafts?
The lives of desperate black people who were interrogated in acid baths by Selous Scouts?
Would it be fair to say their lives are worth less than Iain Kay’s tobacco barns that were built using the forced labour of our ancestors?
Yet, that is exactly what any compensation to Rhodesians says loudly and clearly. And, that is the question Dr Muchemwa’s book mutely asks.
Is it fair?
Is it fair for a black Government born of liberation struggle to compensate a Rhodesian murderer for the loss of a tobacco barn and ignore the loss of his abused black victim’s (freedom fighter’s) life?
Surely it defies all logic to ask those who recovered their land on the battlefield to compensate the defeated robbers.
That is not the law of war.
Reparations are not paid to losers.
It is losers who must pay for damages caused.