By Tinotenda Chikohora
AS dawn drew closer my grandmother kept wondering, what it is, that which had kept her son occupied after school since other fellow pupils had returned to their homesteads. What she did not know was that this very day, this same year, 1975 marked a new era in her son’s life. He had decided to join “vana mukoma” (comrades), as they were popularly known. At the tender age of 15, her son, my father, Tapiwanashe Chikohora, had decided to forego his Form One in a quest for true independence to reign in this country. As the hours passed by, days, let alone months it became apparent that her son was not coming back. He had made up his mind and there was no turning back, driven by a burning desire to set his country free from colonial bondage. Indeed, he had joined the liberation struggle. Thirty-five years down the line, all is history, they have become folktales for others or even ‘boring ZBC propaganda’ for many yet the pictures are still vivid in his mind. His reluctance to relate the stories which happened during the war or merely sing the songs tells the story of someone who does not want to relive the past, which is too agonising to remember yet too vivid to forget. Decades later, as he has become an icon for some, envied by many, they are ignorant of the hard work, bravery, commitment and sacrifice involved in one’s life to become such an achiever. For all I know, after independence in 1980, he was among the providential cadres who came back home to join the Zimbabwe National Amy and assume the position of Major. I assume it was difficult to draw lines between his social life and his life back in the battlefield. Today as I look up at him, I see a brave man, not a guerrilla as depicted by many. I see a prosperous, hardworking man as evidenced by his material possessions. I see a role model from his character. I see a loving family man who has managed to bring up four children, alongside his loving wife, my mother. Today, 31 years after independence he is still serving the country, in the army and has managed to rise up the ladder to the rank of Colonel. I am inspired each time I listen to Matshikos singing, “Living in a new South Africa is a dream come true”. I see people appreciating, acknowledging the beauty of a liberated country appreciating how attaining independence is a ‘dream come true’ because it was “No easy walk to freedom” as portrayed by Nelson Mandela in his book which bears this title. Being a war veteran doesn’t merely entail running in the forest with a gun like a video game or play station, it means living with the memories for the rest of your life. It means being at peace with oneself. It means being able to face life as anticipated by society. It means leading an abnormal life and still be able to be human again. It means the ability to balance nature and the spirit world in order to be socially acceptable. It is not everyone who can do this, believe me, it takes a ‘man’ like my father. No wonder it wasn’t everyone who went to war. As physical and emotional scars linger onto him and continue haunting him, all that is evident is a courageous and loving father, a true replica of a Zimbabwean warrior. I am among the privileged youths to be born in a free Zimbabwe, thanks be to my father. Thanks be to him yet again, I can stand on my own two feet. I can now at least call myself an intelligent emancipated, empowered young woman, contrary to the dictates of society and the stereotyped girl child. Apparently I graduated and am a holder of a degree in Media and Society Studies. Now I can even say the sky is the limit and not the environment that we operate in is repressive. Born in a family of four in which two are now graduates, one is Lower Six and the other Grade Seven, I can safely give my father a pat on the back and acknowledge “Father, you did very well.” For indeed he has always done us proud, for there is not a single day I was sent home from school for failing to pay fees. There is no day I went to bed on an empty stomach. There is no one night I went to bed without seeing him as long as he is not on a mission, at work. At no time did I go to bed without a good laugh from him and that is what I call a home. As people go about saying negative things about war veterans, for instance managing their homes with an iron-fisted hand and being ruthless, I wish I could equally go around telling the real story pertaining to war veterans. As the country celebrated Independence Day, I celebrated with pride and affection for the day because of my father. As the Born Free Crew sings “Tinotenda Magamba Akatifira” (we thank the fallen heroes) in commemoration of Heroes’ Day, it has significance in my life for I live with the hero back home. As the continent celebrates Africa Day, I have a replica of African liberty at home. As I go to bed I am proud to be his daughter, let alone to call him my father, a liberation war veteran.