Mainstreaming the liberation story: Part One …let the story be part of our children


THE Heroes’ Day for 2016 has come and gone and already some of us are thinking about how to commemorate the next one in 2017.
Why not?
This once-per-year national ritual is a must, something that demands we congregate in large numbers both at national and provincial levels and pay our respects to those who died fighting for our freedom and to all those whose deeds in one way or other helped us to acquire our independence in 1980.
There are many who lie at the national shrine, at provincial heroes’ acres, many more scattered in unmarked graves all over the country and others who lie mostly in unrecognised graves in almost all of our neighbouring countries.
And there are many combatants who are still alive as if to bear witness to the kind of sacrifices they had to make in order to give birth to Zimbabwe.
The liberation war, like all wars, was a deadly conflict which left in its wake many thousands dead, more thousands wounded in both physical and spiritual terms.
And there are many who were left moral cripples and never to recover, ever.
It is almost impossible to audit and come up with neat figures pertaining to all categories of casualties we sustained during the liberation struggle.
All those casualties were people nursing their own ambitions, motivated by ideals relating to freedom, independence and human dignity among other aspirations.
The key question is: How do we, as a nation, make sense of such losses?
How do we recover from such suffering, such losses, the kind of meaning and/or value precious enough to bequeath to our children and grandchildren? This is the task before us?
What is important, however, is that there is a national consensus about the legitimacy and relevance of this national narrative of the liberation struggle.
There might be differences pertaining to details about interpretation of, or approach to, this national story, but the central theme remains the same, that is, liberation.
In many ways Zimbabwe is lucky in that there are very few people whose lives were not affected in one way or other by the war of liberation itself.
This common element partly explains why all those who spoke about our history during the commemorations at the national shrine recently came across as sincere.
However, the major challenge we face is how to make the liberation narrative our personal story; how to make the story a living force which shapes how we look at ourselves and at others around us, including those who belong to the so-called global village.
And there are many lessons from this liberation war that should be guiding us:
First, the war itself was like a David and Goliath story, one side powerful and supported by the whole West, our side weak and poorly resourced.
The fact that we emerge from being the despised and easy to dismiss class to that of triumphant victors should speak volumes about our self-belief then, our pride and determination to wage a war against all odds – all aspects which we now need as a nation.
Second, in successfully fighting the highly asymmetrical warfare, our fighters had to be original, creative and resourceful in as many ways as the enemy was always cunning and lethal.
It is not as if there was a military manual out there specifying how guerilla warfare had to be waged in the then Rhodesia.
Our side had no other option, but to think, always, and operate outside the box.
We may need those very approaches and qualities if we are to tackle the economic challenges we are now facing as a nation.
Third, the fight against the white-settler order involved much more than guns and shooting skills.
It required generating and directing a whole socio-cultural-cum-political movement which sought to incubate and nourish a new identity and a new outlook to succeed the colonial one.
That capacity to map out at the level of ideas an alternative ideological path, different from the colonial one and motivating and inspiring all and sundry along the way is what is now needed to take our nation forward.
In brief, it can be argued we have far more to learn from our experiences during the liberation war.
Talk about principles, values, vision, depth of character, determination, organisational skills and navigating the global terrain etc; all these aspects are embedded in one way or other in our liberation war.
As a Nation, we are still to decode much from the same war of liberation.
This is how critical and central this war should be to all of us.
Now the challenge: Since the liberation struggle is the foundation upon which modern Zimbabwe is founded, the framework within which we can build a strong united Nation, are there ways which we can rely on to transmit this liberation ethos from one generation to the next more or less as a matter of course?
As hinted before, it is true that this story may have many versions, many editions even, varied in length and sometimes richly coloured by the all too familiar human desire for drama and spectacle.
What is important is to narrate the liberation story in a way that is as natural as we breathe the air around us.
To tell it in the way all of us want to narrate to each other at the end of each day what we have seen and heard during the day.
The point here is: How can we make this liberation story so ubiquitous as to become a key aspect of a pervasive national ethos which informs and guides all that we do as we interact with each other and with other nations?
If only our institutions, such as those in the education sector, those in the religious sector, those of the military and the media sector, if only all these and many more could carry out their roles using the struggle as their informing framework, their constant point of reference, only then can we begin to build the kind of national cohesion and identity that is often displayed by the French, the British and the Germans, among other nations, wherever they go and wherever they are.
In a sense, our liberation history should be popularised in many ways which go on to create a national sensibility steeped in history, the kind of sensibility which makes it possible for primary schoolchildren in Europe and America, barely 10 years old, sing about the evils of Adolf Hitler as if they were born and taught by the same mother on the same day.
As for the American children, they even talk about their founding fathers and about their war heroes well before the age of 10.
In other words, the question is: How do we make our liberation history a natural phenomenon that our kids grow up with, something natural, living and likeable, something that is part of us and not necessarily as something to be endured during school lessons in order to pass examinations?


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