Remembering Chairman Chitepo

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MARCH 18 2019 was understandably just like any other day in Zimbabwe. 

It came and went with little or no mention of the demise of one the country’s greatest leaders and thinkers; an icon of our struggle for freedom and a mercurial leader.

We all forgot about this legend on that day.

There were no surprises, given how we have chosen, as a nation, to ignore our past while focusing on trivia.

But it was on this day in 1975 that our iconic leader, Herbert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo was killed in a car bomb explosion in Lusaka.

And as the memory of the liberation struggle continues to steadily slip away from our minds, it will not be surprising that in the next coming few years, we will have no history to talk about except what the former colonisers want us to remember.

The above assertion points to the efficiency of the West in erasing peoples history from their hearts and minds.

In February this year, this writer drew from two greats of black advancement — Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey.

The following is what Marley says in his rendition of  ‘Redemption Song’:

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; 

None but ourselves can free our minds. Have no fear for atomic energy, 

‘Cause none of them can stop the time. 

How long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look? Ooh! 

Some say it’s just a part of it: 

We’ve got to fulfil the book.” 

Garvey buttresses that with the following famous statement made in 1938:

“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.” 

Our history cannot be fully understood and explained without mentioning Chairman Chitepo.

Our history and aspirations can never come to fruition when we ignore our icons like Chairman Chitepo.

It is this writer’s hope that Mbuya Nehanda will not be ignored when the anniversary of her death comes.

Cde Herbert Chitepo was killed when a bomb planted in his VW Beetle exploded in 1975, while spearheading the war in Zambia.

Chairman Chitepo was not an ordinary leader.

He was one of the finest thinkers and pioneers of the Second Chimurenga that we are now ignoring as a country.

He was the anchor of the struggle whose benefits we now enjoy as an empowered people.

This is what we should be honouring as we celebrate our 39th independence anniversary today.

He was a people’s leader; a threat to the Rhodesia settler-regime.

“They (Rhodesians) identified the ‘brains’ behind the looming escalation of the war as the same man they held responsible for the new strategy in the north-east – Herbert Chitepo,” write David Martin and Phyllis Johnson in the book, The Chitepo Assassination.

“He was the main public voice of the party, enunciating the ideological line and strategy.

He was seen as the ‘brains’ behind the military offensive, the ‘brains’ behind the political line and the ‘brains’ running ZANU.”

We give the legendary leader his voice in the following abridged version of a speech he delivered in Australia in 1974 to raise support and funding for ZANU:

“I COME from Zimbabwe.

This small territory of some 150 000 square miles, set in central Africa, landlocked and occupied by a small white minority of some 230 000 is known by the name of Rhodesia.

We, the Africans, do not like it to be called Rhodesia.

Rhodesia is the name that was given to it following the ‘occupation’ of our land by troops commanded by a man known as Cecil John Rhodes in 1890.

The country was named after him.

Cecil John Rhodes was probably the richest and the most ambitious of all empire builders known to British imperial history. The establishment of the country by the white people was really as a commercial enterprise.

The company that established it was known as the British South Africa Company, whose chairman was Cecil Rhodes.

Its purpose was to exploit the mineral, the land and animal resources of our territory.

And the history of Zimbabwe by the white settlers ever since, has been to exploit, not only the natural resources of the country, but the people.

In fact, the people were looked upon as an exploitable natural resource.

Those of you who read history might have read a description given by Arnold Toynbee on the definition of the word ‘native’.

I am called a ‘native’ by white people in Zimbabwe.

Toynbee says: ‘When we, Europeans, call people natives, we take away anything from them; anything that suggests that they are human beings.

They are to us like the forest which the western man fells down. Or, the big game that he shoots down.

They have no tenure of land.

Their tenure of land is as precarious as that of the animals that they find.

What shall we, the lords of creation, the white people, do with the natives we find?

Shall we treat them as vermin to be exterminated or shall we treat them as hewers of wood and drawers of water?

There is no other alternative.’

This quotation indicates the sort of mental outlook that those who settled in our country have had about us.

We were a natural resource for exploitation, the same as the grass, the gold mines, the minerals underground!”

Let those with ears listen.

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