The Sunday Mail
Ambassador Cain Mathema
As the ministry in charge of the Heroes Day commemorations, we are looking forward to this year’s event with great excitement and anticipation.
This year’s theme for the celebrations is titled “Lest we Forget”, which serves as a reminder to the whole nation on the need to reflect on the great sacrifices made by our heroes and heroines.
Heroes Day is indeed one of the most important days on the Zimbabwean calendar, and our office is a hive of activity as we are busy preparing for this day.
It is all systems go and we are ready for the big day, when we take time to celebrate our heroes and heroines, particularly those who fought in the liberation struggle for us to attain our independence.
We are pleased that our President, His Excellency Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, will preside over the main event at the National Heroes’ Acre — at the national shrine where our national heroes are laid to rest — as the guest of honour.
There will also be events right around the country in our provinces and districts to honour all the provincial and district heroes.
I know some people may have an inclination to commemorate this day with sadness, as they remember the loss of our beloved heroes and heroines.
My message to Zimbabweans is that this should not be a day of sadness, but a day of celebration.
We have to celebrate the sacrifices made by our gallant heroes and heroines. We have to celebrate the achievements that they made against all odds to liberate this country against a powerful colonial force.
We owe it to our gallant heroes to celebrate them for the lives that were well lived.
We should give them honour by celebrating.
It is not only about honouring those who died, but we should also celebrate our living heroes, those who survived the brutal days of the liberation struggle.
Personally, I joined the liberation struggle alongside the likes of Solomon Mujuru and others, but I fully appreciate that heroes were not only limited to those who fought it in actual combat.
It was also the restrictees, detainees, the war collaborators and all the families that contributed in one way or the other to the liberation struggle.
So to me the significance of Heroes Day is that it is a celebration of being Zimbabwean, because we are a great nation that has withstood the toughest of challenges from a brutal colonial regime, economic challenges and sanctions that are still imposed on us.
If I had my own way, I would like to see a culture in Zimbabwe where each family and home raises the Zimbabwean flag at their home and really applaud themselves for being heroes in their own right.
Every Zimbabwean is a hero in his or her own right.
Heroes Day has a far-reaching symbolism in that we have to believe in ourselves as people and continue to uphold the spirit of the liberation struggle.
Repatriation of remains
In line with Heroes Day, we are also remembering heroes of the First Chimurenga. Currently, there is a process underway to repatriate the skulls and other remains of First Chimurenga heroes such as Chief Chingaira, Chief Mashayamombe, Chief Chinengundu and others.
These are the figures who are part of the reason why we celebrate Heroes’ Day, so it is important to have them here so that we can pass on their stories to our children in schools and Zimbabweans in general.
Our Ambassador in the United Kingdom, Colonel Christian Katsande (Retired) is doing a lot in that regard and liaising with the British Government.
The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe is also working extensively on the matter and there has been good progress.
Such repatriations, however, take time.
One challenge that we have been having is that these remains are not located in one place.
Some are located in museums but others were bought by private businesses or individuals in the UK.
What is significant is that even though the colonisers oppressed, they knew the unique value of our people, which is why they took their remains all the way to the United Kingdom.
It is not only Zimbabwe which is pursuing remains of its departed heroes.
Many countries in Africa are also doing the same.
Recently, we had Namibia, which marked repatriation of the remains of its indigenous people who were killed by the Germans during the colonial era.
In South Africa, we also had the case of Sarah Baartman whose remains had been in European museums since the 1880s, but she was only repatriated back recently.
So this case is not unique to Zimbabwe and it is something that we are vigorously pursuing as one other way of honouring our heroes.
Significance in Second Republic
This year’s Heroes Day has special significance in that we are still celebrating the Second Republic.
Under the New Dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Second Republic is a renewal of the struggle.
The Second Republic has made our people freer than before and more independent.
It has brought political freedoms and freedoms of expression and a new openness, not only in politics, but in business.
This is why you see that opposition politicians are freer than before and the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” programme is getting international traction.
This new path that President Mnangagwa is taking us means that we have to create new heroes, new figures and new ideas that will be admired by posterity.
President Mnangagwa has also directed me to be in charge of religious affairs.
We encourage freedom of worship and freedom of religion, and we do not want any religion to undermine the other.
We should be tolerant of other people’s views.
During this year’s main celebrations, we are also going to have the widows and widowers who will receive special recognition.
For the first time, the war veterans will also have their tent reserved specifically for them.
This is going to be the first time that we are doing this.
This is a special honour to the war veterans who will always remain past, present and future heroes of our country.
Ambassador Cain Mathema was speaking to our Chief Reporter Kuda Bwititi.