Lest we forget our past

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EVERY year on April 18 we celebrate Zimbabwe’s Independence Day amid calls by President Robert Mugabe to safeguard our territorial integrity.
This is a very important call.
The President’s call to keep our country safe and to forever be vigilant and be on the lookout for detractors may be treated lightly by the less informed, but it is a call taken to heart by those who grew up during the brutal Rhodesian era.
Black people experienced untold suffering and made sacrifices.
Some lost relatives, others lives and limbs during this horrific period.
They may have forgiven the Rhodesians, but they have not forgotten.
For Harare-based Kudakwashe Mhaka, who was in her teens then, independence is a time to celebrate the many notable achievements that were brought by the efforts and sacrifices of the sons and daughters of the soil.
“Before Independence there was serious segregation, the kind that made life not just hard, but miserable for black people,” she said.
“The girl child suffered more and did not have opportunities worth mentioning, but that changed with the coming of independence on April 18 1980.
“The fact that blacks were not allowed to walk in First Street, Harare might not appear to be something big, but it highlighted how we were viewed as a people. “We could not walk in the street where dogs belonging to whites could stroll.
“So gallivanting up and down the street is something that we treasure.
“We treasure our independence and will always celebrate it with gusto because we suffered and endured pain, we do not only recall the injustices but the pain as well, pain that only came to an end as a result of independence.”
For one Joseph Khumalo from Bulawayo, lack was a constant companion in Rhodesia.
“There was a lack of everything,” he said.
“Lack was a dominant sense so to speak.
“We could not do or become what we wanted to be because the black person at any given time lacked something to qualify for whatever he or she wanted to be.
“Either one lacked education or the requisite skills for something, the biggest ‘lack’ being the white skin; we literally could not do what we desired.
“It was the attaining of independence that stripped away that ‘lack’.”
Khumalo said there was only one university in the country at the time and entry for the black person was impossible.
Denford Chikwati from Harare said before independence, black people could not live in leafy suburbs in Rhodesia.
“Even if you had the money to purchase a house in the low density suburbs such as Borrowdale, one could not simply because they were black,” said Denford Chikwati.
“There were blacks that owned businesses, but they could not get properties in these leafy suburbs despite having the money and it was maddening that we could not do as we pleased with our monies.”
The Mbare flats, said Chikwati, were single quarters that only housed working men and not their families.
“The bathrooms were communal and not far away, whites rolled in luxury,” he said.
“When we attained independence, we knew it was over.
“For the first time, the notion that we could live anywhere we wanted became a reality, no more restrictions.
“Many of us value independence for it is not just a day we do not go to work, it is not just one of the many holidays we have.
“It is a day packed with meaning and emotion, a day we get to take stock and be grateful.
“We are grateful for the sacrifices made by those that died, in many ways, physically and psychologically for us to be free and where we are today.”
Indeed April 18 is more than a day of merrymaking and drinking.
“It a day to look back and take stock.”

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