Zimbabweans are accustomed to congregating at the National Heroes Acre every August.
We have been doing this every year for more than 30 years now as part of the main National Heroes Day commemorations.
But this year we have been to the National Heroes Acre more often than not. That in itself is a mark of the passage of time, an indicator that a gallant generation is slowly being lost to us and that new heroes have to step forward and build on the legacy of the brave men and women of the soil who led the battle for liberation and have been instrumental in the creation of a young nation.
According to the National Heroes Act (Chapter 10:16), the designation of heroes is done by the President. And this is done “where the President considers that any deceased person who was a citizen of Zimbabwe has deserved well of his country on account of his outstanding, distinctive and distinguished service to Zimbabwe, he may, by notice in the Gazette, designate such person as a national, provincial or district hero of Zimbabwe”.
That should answer all those who lazily ask every now and again who qualifies to be a national hero. National hero status is the highest honour that can be conferred on a Zimbabwean. As the National Monuments and Museums of Zimbabwe says about the men and women at the National Heroes Acre: “These heroes laid down their lives for Zimbabwe to be free. They subordinated their personal interests to the collective interest of Zimbabwe as the whole. They cherished qualities such as loyalty, dedication and patriotism.
“Their actions were guided by the ideas of comradeship and love. Their support for the cause of freedom and justice was indeed unwavering. They accepted and endured pain, suffering and brutality with fortitude, even unto death.”
Hold that statement up to scrutiny, and hold it up against yourself to see how you measure up. Just yesterday, we were at the National Heroes Acre for the burial of not one, but two, national heroes of our land: Cdes Moudy Muzenda and George Rutanhire. As indicated earlier, we have already been to the national shrine several times this year.
And the reality of nature tells us we will be going there some more in the coming years. After we have interred all these heroes, honoured them with national hero status, who takes up the challenge to be the next generation of heroes who will take our revolution to its subsequent logical stage?
Are we shaping into the heroes that Zimbabwe needs, that Zimbabwe deserves, for this momentous task of advancing the empowerment and economic sovereignty agenda?
After all, there are varying definitions of “heroism”. Consider that the United States’ former Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, once toasted Jonas Savimbi as “one of the few authentic heroes of our time”, while Ronald Reagan described him as “Angola’s Abraham Lincoln”.
Chester Crocker — yes, the same guy whose wet dream was to see Zimbabwe’s economy scream because of land reforms — waxed lyrical about how Savimbi was “one of the most talented and charismatic of leaders in modern African history”.
When you look at yourself today, how favourably do you compare to Savimbi-like “heroism”?
Or are you closer to men and women like Cdes Muzenda and Rutanhire who “subordinated their personal interests to the collective interest of Zimbabwe as the whole”, who “cherished qualities such as loyalty, dedication and patriotism”?
When you breathe your last, will you be deserving to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Dr Joshua Nkomo, General Magama Tongogara, Chairman Herbert Chitepo, and Cde Jason Ziyapapa Moyo? Or will the memory of your life be a stain on the national consciousness, an embarrassment to the collective psyche that historians will only record as an example of how not to be a patriot?
The challenge for the next generation of would-be heroes is clear.
Thomas Sankara, that distinguished son of Africa, captured it succinctly back in 1985 when he said: “It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.”
The heroes of the Second Chimurenga dared to invent a bold future. They were “mad” to confront the edifice of colonialism with nothing more than heart and soul.
Let it not fall on our generation, or succeeding ones, to be the ones who dared to invent a bleak, corruption-riddled, ideologically muddled, and intellectually limp future.
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