Preserving our heritage

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ELSEWHERE in this issue, we carry a story about the need to establish a liberation war memorial museum. Thirty years after the country got independent after a war that cost more than 50 000 lives, it is a shame no museum has been established to preserve the memories of that war and tell the story of that gallant and selfless effort. Of course, the National Heroes Acre is there, including Provincial and District Heroes Acres. But what function do they serve except as a burial place of those people, who, after they die, are declared heroes? Let us take the National Heroes Acre, for instance. Besides the graves of those people who have been declared national heroes, what story of the liberation war does it tell? After all, the war to liberate the country began with the First Chimurenga in 1896 that ended with the hanging of Mbuya Nehanda and the flight of the Ndebele leader, King Lobengula. Their graves are not there at the National Heroes Acres. A museum is much more than heroes’ acres or shrines. A museum depicts the story in material form. Herbert Chitepo died in a bomb explosion in his car in Lusaka in 1975. The purpose of a liberation war museum would not only be to preserve the wreckage of the car (which must now be at the National Museum), there could also be the bloodstained clothes that he was wearing that day or any of his clothes for that matter. Herbert Chitepo is a monumental liberation war hero, isn’t he? Everything about him is memorable, the books that he read and the pens he wrote with, the letters that he wrote to different people, his reading glasses, if he had any and his clothes. Generally, we do not attach much importance to the preservation of memory. That is why we are in serious danger of losing our identity. Grim details that have been unearthed at Chibondo, besides being horrible, are interesting. Because the mine shafts have been sealed and allowed extremely reduced body decomposition, the condition of the corpses was fairly intact. Although the war is only 30 years behind us, it was interesting to notice the clothes that the bodies were wearing that clearly differentiated the guerrillas from the civilians. There were the Super-Pros that the guerrillas favoured to wear on their feet and the blue jeans and bleached sunglasses. Chibondo is like a small liberation war museum that the Rhodesians left for us. Why do we not build our own museum to preserve the memories of the liberation war? Why should we wait for the ugly exhumation of bodies at places like Chibondo to re-awaken our memories of the liberation war? The National Museum was essentially built to preserve the memory of the story of the white man in Rhodesia since the journey of the Pioneers from Transvaal to Salisbury in 1890. We should extend the scope of the National Museum to include our own story. We believe it is within the national right to demand that. After all, as poignantly pointed out in the story in this issue, if our 90 percent literacy rate is number one in Africa, what sort of education are we imparting our children that does not recognise the importance of preserving the memory of the story of our life as Zimbabweans? Such an educational curriculum would require to be overhauled. It is the reason why our children are wishing they were other people and not themselves; belonging to other countries and not to Zimbabwe. It furthers foreign interests. That is the foundation on which colonialism was constructed.

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