Remembering children of the struggle


THE shooting began after police set their dog on protesting, peaceful and unarmed high school students.
When the students killed the dog, the police opened fire on the students killing some innocent souls instantly.
The dog was clearly a ruse so that they could have an excuse to kill the students.
To kill boys and girls because they refused to learn in a language that symbolises their oppression, the expropriation of their land and wealth by the foreigner from Deutschland is the gravest travesty.
This is what happened on June 16 1976 in Soweto, South Africa. Police details say 176 protestors were killed by a ruthless South African police although estimates are that as many 700 died.
Hospitals and clinics were overflowing with the injured.
The police were not satisfied that they had killed so many children as they went ahead to order hospitals to provide them with names of all students with bullet wounds so that they could prosecute them for rioting, but the doctors refused to create the list.
This is the total brutality South Africans were accustomed to during apartheid.
African life was totally worthless as a dog’s life was worth much more.
The young South African students who took to the streets on June 16 1976 were aware of this brutality, but deep inside, they knew it was not justifiable at all for them to live under apartheid in the land of their birth.
They could not continue learning in a language that epitomised their oppression, but they paid heavily.
Young as they were, they could not countenance oppression. This is true of each person.
They know within them what is correct and when this is violated, they know the appropriate response.
That appropriate response for these young South Africans was to fight that which sought to destroy them even beyond the material self, but to annihilate the spirit self as well.
Many students who participated in the march that June 16 had not known of the planned marches until arrival at school that morning.
As soon as they were informed, they ensconced.
They did not need any persuasion.
From the moment the Afrikaans Medium Decree was announced in 1974, the children had registered that an extra-terrestrial monstrosity sought to attack their very soul.
It had gone too far and had to do something about it.
Across the Limpopo, Rhodesians had crossed many lines, expropriating indigenes of their land, cattle and wealth.
They turned MaDzimbahwe into their labourers.
The young even knew something terribly evil had taken place and was still unfolding.
Children witnessed arbitrary imprisonments of family, relatives and neighbours.
People were shot dead in front of their eyes and others taken to jail never to return.
They knew this was not their lot and also knew the appropriate response.
Thus they flocked to Mozambique and Zambia.
They were not content to let their older brothers and sisters do the fighting while they stayed home.
They knew it was their duty as custodians and heirs of Zimbabwe.
The children paid heavily for this commitment to be their own masters.
At Nyadzonia, they were massacred in their hundreds.
At Chimoio they were massacred once again in their hundreds. The Rhodesians also followed the survivors of Chimoio who were now encamped at Pasichigare and sought to finish them off.
At Pasichigare and Matenje bases, I lived with youngsters who had survived the Nyadzonia and Chimoio attacks.
There was not a moment of regret in them – not a moment of surrender.
The mettle of the fighter still shone brilliantly, brandishing the spear, but they had to bid their time until they were old enough to be trained and to be armed so that they too could brandish their AKs against the British usurper.
The brutality of the enemy did not diminish their commitment to end this unfathomable injustice to their people.
In South Africa, the automatic rifles, stun guns and armoured cars that scoured Soweto did not quell South Africa.
Protests spread countrywide and it was only towards the end of 1976 they seemed to die down.
Many of these brave youngsters crossed into Botswana.
They were no longer at ease.
I was studying at the University of Botswana and Swaziland, Gaborone Campus at the time and was privileged to meet these young heroes and heroines.
I also met some of their black consciousness leaders.
They were so young and sweet, but in them was this relentless fearlessness against evil.
This same spirit I witnessed in our Chindunduma, in our children in the struggle who, through all the hunger, diseases, lack of sufficient clothing and blankets in the winter, soldiered on.
All they yearned for was to go home and fight.
What does this mean for us?
It means we are literally sitting on gold.
The millions of youngsters in our schools today far surpass the purpose for which our schools train them day and night.
They are a ‘strong army’ that can do wonders for Zimbabwe. They have in them the capacity to liberate their Zimbabwe, the same way they did up to 1980.
They can do for Zimbabwe whatever needs to be done.
Before 1980, what Zimbabwe needed was to be liberated from British bondage.
What Zimbabwe needs today is to master her vast resources, her God-given heritage, while exploiting and developing them so that each Zimbabwean can live his/her designated life.
This designated life is a prosperous one.
Our children know Zimbabwe is their God-given land and everything in it belongs to each one of them equally.
They know they are the custodians and must fulfill this mission so that Zimbabwe becomes a comfortable home for everyone.
However, this is not the orientation we give them when we school them.
We motivate them along individualistic lines, contrary to what they know is correct deep inside them.
‘Finish school, get a nice job, get a nice car, a nice partner and raise a nice little family and live happily ever after’, we coach them.
However, what motivated children back in the struggle to make the supreme sacrifice was greater love — something much greater than the self, a much bigger, greater vision.
They wanted a free Zimbabwe for all.
Would they do any less for Zimbabwe today when they were prepared to die for it yesterday?
Our children know what needs to be corrected and what they must do for their Zimbabwe, but the question is: Is Zimbabwe’s agenda on the table as we school them year-in-year-out?
We must learn a great lesson from the children of the struggle.


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