Capturing a fading national memory

Sharon Munjenjema
Debate will always rage on the historiography of the liberation struggle. Nationalist historians give a detailed account of how blacks waged a protracted struggle against white colonialism.

On the other hand, colonial historiography downplays the role nationalists played to bring Zimbabwe’s Independence. Colonial historiography tries to paints a picture of a negotiated Independence, rather than a defeat for colonialism and a blood-bought victory for democracy.

There is much about Zimbabwe’s liberation that remains undocumented. For instance, women feel their role in the struggle is under-documented, more so when it comes to female former detainees and restrictees.

Ex-restrictees like Teresa Moyo and Edinah Dube have a story to tell. They did not have the privilege of enjoying adolescence. The young girls experienced harsh conditions at Connemara Prison where they ate sadza cooked from fluids drained from decomposing bodies of guerrillas because there was no water.

This is the horror of colonialism.

Teresa and Edinah were captured by Rhodesian Forces in Zvishavane at the tender ages of 13 and 11 respectively. Teresa narrated her heart-rending ordeal during a tour of Nyaradza Restriction Camp in Gokwe last week.

“I remember seeing blood trickling on my legs and not knowing what to do or who to ask since we had left our mothers home. Older girls with whom I was detained advised me to use leaves but this never really helped. Our monthly menstrual periods were horror. At times we used sacks or even just walk around dripping until the end of the cycle.”

Researcher and Zanu-PF activist Cde Raymond Mazorodze said the tour of Nyaradza Restriction Camp – the first detention centre set up in 1959 – was part of an ongoing programme to document untold stories of ex-political detainees.

“We are touring prisons, restriction camps and unrecorded battle sites of the Second Chimurenga and asking the comrades who were there to narrate what really happened,” said Cde Mazorodze.

The National Archives of Zimbabwe and the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe dispatched teams to record stories of ex-detainees.

NAZ director Mr Ivan Murambiwa said, “We lend support to these volunteer program as it fits in well efforts to document and preserve memories of the Second Chimurenga.”

The project, dubbed “Capturing a Fading National Memory”, was started over a decade ago by volunteers like Cde Mazorodze in collaboration with NAZ and NMMZ. Several visits have been made so far to places like Gonakudzingwa, Sikombela and Khami.

“Midlands is rich in historical sites that should be recognised. Prisons like Hwahwa where the icon of Africa President Mugabe was detained cannot just be ignored. I think a history school or something of that nature should be constructed at the site so that the value and significance of the place will remain unchanged,” suggested Teresa Moyo.

Ex-political prisoner Cde Titus Nkomazana remembers a house in Amaveni where the late Father Zimbabwe, Cde Joshua Nkomo, resided when he visited Kwekwe.

“That house at P9 Amaveni should be made a national monument,” he said. “It is at this house where intelligence missions of ZIPRA guerrillas were crafted. These included the largely misconstrued ‘disappearing powers’ of the late Father Zimbabwe.”

University of Zimbabwe History lecturer Dr Kenneth Manungo said there was need to keep recording the country’s colonial history from the Zimbabwean perspective, especially the role of women.

“This is a good initiative. Young people need to be taught the history of our country because in countries like the United States, history is a mandatory subject to all students in university. Papers and books have been written of course but more needs to be done; there still gaps especially on issues of women’s role in the struggle, the topic is not yet exhausted,” he said.

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