When death became normal

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THOSE days that we journeyed through the bushes infested with dangerous wild animals together with Comrade Tekere were the days that we will always remember. The National Shrine is the most appropriate place to look back at those days as we bury another hero. They were the days when we never worried about the clothes we wore, the days that the cold and hot months passed silently as they were the same. Those were the days that we had our courage rooted in what we hoped to achieve, the hope of being liberated and the hope of delivering freedom to our people who were for many years subjected to colonial rule. Those were the days that Mbuya Nehanda guided and protected us from evil, the days that our forefathers offered sacrifices to the ancestors so they could lead us through the forests back home to a free Zimbabwe. During that time, we were politically conscious through the education we got about the war from the stories about our jailed leaders and the war that was already raging in some parts of the country. Once in a while, those that were lucky would meet the guerrillas, so we were happy to be part of the war. When we got into the camps and were being trained, there are memories of girls from the cities, who during the first days, were preoccupied with their hair and would oil it every day to look good. As the days became weeks then months, we watched the hair slowly become uncared for and lose its shine. The hair which was once beautiful eventually became rough because the girls had forgotten about the hair to concentrate on the hunger before they became women of the forests with hard faces and unkempt hair. It was the time when hunger and thirst were everyone’s greatest enemies and not the Rhodesian soldiers. We always remembered the hunger because it stuck onto us like a bad spell. It was the time when we fought over our urine to quench our thirst without worrying about the allergic reactions. It was a time when you could spend three or four days without food because the food was not there. We survived because what we hoped for was beyond four days without food. There was one particular evening when we had spent a few days without eating and had been given a dish of sadza and relish in one village in Mozambique. Soon after the meal, one of the comrades asked whether the relish we had was meat or vegetables because he could not remember. It really didn’t matter whether it was meat or vegetables as long as he had eaten something. Even death during that time never bothered us because it was an integral part of the struggle. Whether it happened or not, it really did not matter. What mattered was the freedom of the country. The most emotional day was when we crossed the border back home, with guns over our shoulders. Someone pointed at the hills in the horizon and said that was home and our hearts beat faster. It generated a great excitement in us because it meant that we were at last going to fight for the freedom of our people. It was manifested even more when we crossed the border and for the first time in a long time, met the villagers who seemed to understand more than we did why we had come back to fight. They were prepared to help and participate in the war and play their part. They also did not care about dying because they even volunteered to undertake the most dangerous missions. That is when the war began, when everyone fought through their sweat to free the country from colonial rule which had made us slaves in the land of our birth. When we look back, we thank the ancestors for giving us the courage and commitment to fight the enemy and win. Comrade Edgar Tekere, may your soul rest in peace.

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