The Sunday Mail
President E.D. Mnangagwa
A first for Mt Darwin
This year’s commemoration of our day of national Independence will be hosted by Mt Darwin Town in Mashonaland Central province. This is the first time ever that such an important national event comes to a centre in the middle of a rural district.
A province of national struggle
Government’s choice of Mt Darwin is not accidental; it is informed by profound considerations from our War of Liberation, which conceived this day we yearly commemorate and celebrate.
It was in Mashonaland Central that the second and most decisive phase of our Liberation Struggle was launched, marked by the first shots which were fired at Altena Farm in Centenary. From that day, towards the end of December 1972, Mashonaland Central became a theatre of war, with some of the most heroic battles being fought on its soil.
It, thus, suffered the longest in the 15 long years of our struggle for Independence.
Remembering our sacrifices through Chibondo
Not far from Mt Darwin Town itself, to the west, is Chibondo. This is a grim site where hundreds of bodies were retrieved from several disused mine shafts. The bodies belonged to victims of Rhodesian atrocities during our War of Liberation. They were dumped there by Rhodesian forces after brutal and vengeful reprisals against defenceless villagers, whose only crime was to support the struggle for Zimbabwe’s national Independence from foreign settler colonial rule. Mashonaland Central, thus, witnessed some of the worst atrocities in this chapter of racial genocidal carnage. All this makes our National Day Commemorations in Mount Darwin a day of bitter remembrance, as we reflect on the tragic toll which our quest for national freedom levied on our people and communities.
The choice of Mount Fura Town as the venue for this national event, thus, combines bitter sorrow and deserved tribute in equal measure.
Proverbial water and fish
Mashonaland Central was the first proverbial “water” that sheltered our freedom fighters, as they laid the groundwork for a protracted people’s war for our Independence. The province did a lot more than shelter freedom fighters; it gave its own sons and daughters to the same struggle, which is why the earliest crop of freedom fighters invariably traced its roots to areas like Centenary, Mt Darwin, Chesa, Rushinga, Madziva, Mukumbura, Mazowe, Guruve, et cetera.
Many of her children fell in that protracted struggle. We use this year’s commemorations to pay tribute to all our fallen heroes, symbolised by those who lie buried in Mashonaland Central province.
Turning Altena to a national monument
The province bore longest the brunt of our liberation struggle, even then without flinching. I have already said the first shots were fired in this province when our struggle entered its second phase.
Altena Farm deserves to be declared a national site and monument so we develop it as a fitting reminder of where the decisive phase of our struggle began.
Current and future generations must know, through Altena and more such landmarks which this province carries, the heroic sacrifices of a brave generation which brought us Independence.
Mavuradonha, armoury of struggle
Not many of our younger people know that Mashonaland Central’s Mavuradonha became the main armoury of the Second Chimurenga, with its caves and caverns providing discreet areas where arms of struggle were cached. Gathering in the province to commemorate our National Day rekindles such memories; such memories must never be allowed to fade.
The north-eastern spearhead
The province’s proximity to Mozambique made it key to ZANLA operations in the north-east, arguably the hottest zone during our struggle. ZANLA had struck an agreement with Frelimo, where our early fighters would be embedded within units of Frelimo fighting in border areas like Tete. This relationship continued until Mozambique’s Independence, after which our fighters enjoyed free passage to the north-east. This increased the tempo of struggle, thus, bringing nearer our day of national freedom.
We also had several communities in this province and in others like Mashonaland East, Manicaland and Masvingo, which got displaced as the War of Liberation hotted up; many such communities had to resettle in neighbouring countries, most notably in Zambia and Mozambique, until Independence came. Communities trapped inside the country found themselves herded into “keeps”, in reality concentration camps. This was an inhumane concept which desperate Rhodesians imported from wars fought by Europeans elsewhere, most notably in the Far East. The idea behind that dastard concept was to isolate fighters by denying them contact with communities that gave them support and succour.
Alongside other provinces, Mashonaland Central suffered a lot.
Still, this did not help the Rhodesians; forever undaunted and determined, courageous fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters from Mashonaland Central and other provinces continued to smuggle food to our freedom fighters in order to sustain the struggle.
To this day, provinces like Mashonaland Central bear visible site marks of these concentration camps into which thousands and thousands of families were herded and kept in armed captivity. Until April 18, 1980, they lived brutally circumscribed lives.
Mashonaland Central as a microcosm
Our decision to commemorate our National Independence Day in rural Mashonaland Central, thus, throws all this heroic, people history into sharp relief. As we recall several bitter and tragic moments recorded in this province, we also celebrate and pay tribute to the indomitable fighting spirit displayed by our people as they supported their freedom fighters and the struggle for national Independence. This is the primary reason for devolving this important National Day to Mt Darwin, itself a microcosm of the whole province, and of our whole nation in struggle.
Thanking our communities
Our decision to hold commemorations in Mt Darwin affords us an opportunity to thank the broad masses for their contribution to the Liberation Struggle.
Through their sacrifices, they made our Independence; indeed, today and forever rightfully claim it as theirs, through painful midwifery.
Delivering commemorations of this momentous day back to them is the least we can do to pay tribute and to express our undying gratitude to these communities for the enormous sacrifices they made.
By hosting this National Day, these communities assert their contribution and ownership of the very Independence which this day symbolises.
Our third reason for choosing Mt Darwin as host to these national commemorations is so we take stock of what we have done for those communities which gave so much to the struggle. Above all, we use these commemorations to remind ourselves of what else remains outstanding, and, thus, owed to such communities. Both historically and geographically, Mashonaland Central falls within areas that were deliberately neglected and marginalised by successive colonial governments.
Its militant role in the Liberation Struggle further deepened this neglect, which national Independence must now repair and change to irrevocable progress.
The Second Republic has made a vow to leave no one and no place behind on development.
By converging in Mt Darwin and other outlying rural districts, the national leadership is in a position to take stock of what remains undone, which translates to and means what still needs to be done. We look at all facets of development: water, communications, agriculture, mining, tourism and, above all, possibilities of rural industrialisation, which we envisage as the next development revolution.
Independence, peace for and by us all
Our fourth reason is to demonstrate that Independence is for all communities, regardless of place and class. Zimbabwe emerged from a people’s war; all our people played a part. What yesterday was a collective responsibility, burden and sacrifice must today turn into a collective opportunity, celebration and festivity.
No person, no class, no creed, no community and no place must be made to feel like it does not belong, or deserves less. All of us must sit comfortably under one flag, equally sheltered by this one Zimbabwean flag which bears our colour, our sacrifices, our shared heritage and expresses our lofty ambitions.
As it flutters and sways boundless in the Zimbabwean breeze, so must our spirits leap and celebrate, all in unison. Zimbabwe belongs to us all; Independence means unity, peace and development for all times and in all places. Peace as we prepare for elections, go to vote, and peace well after. Peace built by us, for all times, and to all citizens.
Long live Mashonaland Central
I personally look forward to this day at Mount Fura, in a province and among people who have stood firm and unwavering by their Party of Liberation, and by their Government of Development. Long Live Mashonaland Central!