By Evans Mushawevato and Alvin Madzivanzira
ON Wednesday, April 18, by 10 am, all the gates leading into the giant National Sports Stadium had been tightly shut; the gigantic arena could no longer contain citizens trooping for Independence Day celebrations.
For close to four decades, Zimbabweans have been trying to chart their destiny and dictate how the country’s story must unfold.
It has been a journey of mixed fortunes in the socio-economic arena, but Zimbabweans have not lost sight of who they are, where they have come from and where they are going.
“I am a Zimbabwean, I love my country and I will not betray that which has been bestowed and entrusted us,” said one early bird to the independence celebrations, Takunda Mukakanhanga.
Without doubt, the illegal sanctions imposed by Britain and her allies decimated the economy and as Chester Crocker and gang desired and designed, the economy screamed.
However, despite Zimbabwe becoming — in the ensuing years — Dante’s Inferno, a living hell, its people did not burn the country as anticipated by the architects of doom who desired a regime change.
As the country celebrates 38 years of uhuru, it celebrates not events of yesterday but a national spirit of resilience that rose, more than 120 years ago, to defend its heritage, its aspirations and designs.
All the horrors from the effects wrought by the illegal sanctions, the difficulties arising from the effects of those who had hijacked the liberation struggle and muddied the legacy, do not make Rhodesia an enviable era.
A week ago, one John Ismay, in an article in The New York Times Magazine titled ‘Rhodesia’s Dead — but White Supremacists Have Given It New Life Online’ stated; “Nostalgia for Rhodesia has since grown into a subtle and profitable form of racist messaging, with its own line of terminology, hashtags and merchandise, peddled to military-history fans and firearms enthusiasts by a stew of far-right provocateurs.
Demand for Rhodesian-themed apparel has since increased. Today one retailer, the Commissar Clothing Company, offers ‘Make Zimbabwe Rhodesia Again’ hoodies and T-shirts and others that read ‘Be a Man Among Men,’ a Rhodesian Army recruiting slogan now used by hate groups.”
The 38th Independence Anniversary, presided over by ED, blows to smithereens this pining and wishful thinking by Rhodesian malcontents.
The thousands who thronged the giant NSS make it clear that indeed ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’, but definitely not open to abuse.
Thus the #MakeZimbabweRhodesiaAgain and other neuseating hashtags will not worry a people who are not confused with regards to who they are.
“I am duty bound to protect my country, I regard the service required of me as nothing compared to the men and women we celebrate on this 38th Anniversary of our independence,” said Memory Gono, who at 11:30am could not believe that the NSS was full to capacity.
In The New York Times Magazine, Ismay writes of how Rhodesians are re-writing their horrible history that was full of massacres and genocide.
“The battle for perception is playing out again now on social media, which pro-Rhodesia accounts or commenters are using to rewrite Rhodesian history in gentle tones,” he writes.
But the thousands at the NSS are a far from gentle but a strong reminder that Rhodesia will not rise from the ashes like the proverbial Sphinx.
The nation has come a long way; from a time when education, health, transport services and accommodation were accessed on the basis of the colour of your skin to a time when the black majority have become a self-determining people.
According to a retired Delta Force master sergeant Larry Vickers quoted by the Times Magazine, his attraction to the Rhodesian security forces stems from “…their having carried out some of the most daring special operations missions in history on a shoestring.” (And) he has repeatedly referred to the fall of Rhodesia as “…the greatest tragedy of the post-Second World War era.”
His own YouTube videos on the Rhodesian rifle have nearly 300 000 page views.
Racist comments and calls for racist violence cluttered the comments sections.
The truth is that the Rhodesian war machinery was well-oiled and supported by countries such as the US.
And this army which had planes and tanks was defeated by a guerilla outfit that did not even have vehicles for operations.
The country, since attainment of independence in 1980, has achieved significant gains.
The troubles experienced in recent years must be viewed in their correct context.
In 1980, Zimbabwe embarked on an ‘Education for all’ policy that saw enrolment growing in both primary and secondary schools.
In 1980, schools had about
885 801 pupils. Within a year, enrolment had reached 1,3 million.
The new nation allocated 17,3 percent of its budget to education and today the foundation is paying dividends.
University education in Rhodesia was accessed by whites and, only later, by a handful of black people.
Thirty-eight years later, the country boasts more than 15 universities with each province having at least one institution of higher learning.
According to social commentator Goden Nyambuya, developments we have recorded over the years are significant.
“We must celebrate every decade of the last 38 years for in each have been significant developments that will contribute to us becoming a great and developed nation,” said Nyambuya.
“It is also critical that we do not forget, ever, where we have come from in our efforts to transform our fortunes.
“Where we have come from is as important as where we are going.”
Rhodesians, he said, would never rest and stop attempting to restore their vanquished ‘legacy’.
“The Rhodesians will never stop and we too should not stop protecting our nation and if we disregard and forget our history, we are doomed,” said Nyambuya.
Technology, he said, had to be harnessed. While it is used to improve and increase efficiency in industry, it also should be used to tell the Zimbabwean story.
“It is commendable that Government is investing in science and technology with innovation hubs being set up across the country,” said Nyambuya.
“The country has over 15 universities while there are many polytechnics and primary and secondary education training institutions to cater for tertiary education.
“The country also boasts 42 vocational training centres meant to equip youths with life skills.
“These must churn out patriots ready to serve and defend their country.”