Lessons from Cde Kanengoni: Part One

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By Dr Rino Zhuwarara

THE fact that Cde Alexander Kanengoni was declared a Liberation War Hero and buried accordingly on April 15 2016 at his farm in Centenary is a good indication of his lifetime achievements.
Much has been said already about his role as a teacher, guerilla fighter for our freedom, a short story writer, novelist, newspaper columnist and Deputy Editor for The Patriot.
Put simply, Cde Kanengoni was a courageous and multi-talented individual whose many roles in life speak for themselves.
It is therefore appropriate for us to draw out as many lessons as possible from heroes such as Cde Kanengoni so that his lifetime achievements continue to inform our national perspectives.
What has so far not been highlighted about Cde Kanengoni is the fact that he was acutely aware that when Zimbabwe attained its independence in 1980, its population had been subjected to war experiences which were not uniform throughout the country.
He assumed, correctly, that those who resided close to our borders and in most of our rural areas bore the brunt of the liberation struggle more than those in cities.
He also assumed that this unevenness in our exposure to the war, in our participation in that war and in our understanding of the implications of the same liberation war, posed a unique challenge in our attempts to build a sense of national cohesion.
And then there were those who willingly, and mostly out of genuine misreading of our interests as an oppressed black people, supported whites in that war and were on the wrong side of history.
All these, Cde Kanengoni believed, posed a challenge which needed to be addressed in one form or other, before a credible and therefore durable sense of nationhood could be achieved.
It is not surprising that Cde Kanengoni remained very much alive to most of the issues about our uneven levels of national consciousness, about our sometimes fragile comprehension of our collective history as a people and a race and how, because of this, we remain vulnerable to Western manipulation in areas which relate to our economy, politics and ideology.
In my numerous discussions with him, Cde Kanengoni continued to hold the firm view that Europe would always remain a predator to Africa for the simple reason that Africa has all the resources which Europe desperately needs.
That Western Europe, with its embarrassingly puny geographical size and vast population of over 500 million people, would always continue to be the blackman’s burden.
That its appetite for African resources would always remain as voracious and demanding as it has always been from the time of African enslavement by Europeans in 1450 right up to the present neo-colonial era – now masquerading as globalisation.
He also believed that imperialism as an ideological phenomenon, as an integral aspect of capitalism, would always remain a potent force, always destabilising our sense of nationhood and pan-Africanism, always brainwashing our people and dividing them for purposes of weakening us and exploiting us as a country and as part of a vast and richly endowed African continent!
And Cde Kanengoni would always back up his assertions about Europe’s economic dependency on Africa by citing how Europe and the US ganged up to kill Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, destroy his strong government, replace it with a puppet pro-Western government in order not only to plunder its vast oil resources, but to access its vast quantities of fresh water which lie under the harsh Libyan desert.
And Cde Kanengoni was not wrong in his assumptions either.
It is now turning out to be correct that Western military intervention in Libya in 2011 may have to be followed by another intervention again soon in order to consolidate Western control of this vast African country.
Why?
In order to expand the looting of Libyan resources such as oil and gas, fresh water and guess what, in order to harvest vast quantities of sunlight that Libya is endowed with throughout the year and turn it into cheap solar energy for the rest of Europe.
It is obvious the largely grey skies of Europe cannot produce enough sunlight for the clean energy that Europe is now hungry for.
And worse, this European blueprint for the exploitation of Libya is actually a prototype of a bigger blueprint for the re-colonisation and exploitation of the rest of Africa by the same predatory Europe.
One can argue Cde Kanengoni’s solid grasp of the national, continental and global context within which Zimbabwe exists and the challenges it faces largely defined his professional and creative career.
After all, he had physically fought against the monstrous beast of imperialism which manifested itself at the local level as Rhodesian racism with all its economic exploitation of black people and attendant injustices.
During that liberation war, he came to realise how local Rhodies like David Coltart, Roy Bennett, Iain Kay and many others were part of a larger white tribe which benefitted from colonialism which, in any case, is just a local version of imperialism.
He also came to realise why thousands of mercenaries of British, American, German, Irish and in general of Western stock, flocked to fight against our guerilla forces during Zimbabwe’s liberation war.
Instead of regarding imperialism as a natural order of things which could not be defeated and tamed as some of us mistakenly tend to do, he believed that Zimbabwe could respond to all these challenges first, by forging a strong sense of nationhood and second, by linking up with the rest of Africa on the basis of pan-Africanism.
On the basis of the above stated beliefs and principles of Cde Kanengoni, one begins to understand why he wrote his short stories and novel the way he did.
He believed that Zimbabwe could become strong and united only if it came to terms with and understood well the kind of war experiences that its people had gone through before the triumph of 1980.
He went further and assumed that a thorough grasp of this liberation war and the aspirations which motivated its execution right up to the end would constitute a solid foundation for building a strong sense of nationhood, this sense that we all belong to a particular geographical-cum cultural space called Zimbabwe, that we belong to each other and therefore needed to live as one family and that we should never forget what we had gone through by way of suffering and that all of us had an obligation to generate meaning and make sense of all that suffering not only for ourselves as the current generation but for future ones as well.
One way to understand Cde Kanengoni and his thinking better is to go through some of the articles he brought together and edited in The Patriot, a paper he helped to establish much later on, a paper which unfortunately, should have been established right at the onset of our independence.

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