The Sunday Mail
Last week’s instalment of Writing Back torched a storm from both Rhodies who once served in the notorious Selous Scouts unit and the usual ‘black’ liberals who were apocalyptic in their condemnation of the article referring to it as a “diversionary anecdote” or rather an antidote to the current challenges the country was facing.
Some shouted that Coltart was not a Selous Scout, but a BSAP officer. It is as if blacks must pick a favourite from the many inter-feeding tentacles of a single Rhodesian security beast.
Rhodies’ responses were rather amusing but predictably unrelenting, unapologetic, impenitent and even tried to add some detail to what they called their “pride contribution in the fight against terrorism and preservation of white privilege.”
Both reactions, from the Rhodies and pretentious “black liberals” reminded me that, far from having crossed the colonial Rubicon, our thinking, our perspectives, our memory and our vision have at a subconscious level been so damaged that we think that the past no longer matters to our current state of affairs.
One needs not go far to see how active Rhodies are in preserving their “history” in colonial Rhodesia. The social media is awash with numerous Rhodie websites which commemorates specific dates of “victory”.
As it happens, a South African journalist secretly added my name to one of these Rhodie social media groups as a way for me to gauge the thinking of present day Rhodies.
In no time, I was fished out. One member, Leon Dietrich, now a resident of South Africa, bitterly complained about my presence, screaming and frothing: “ADMIN…..PLEASE REMOVE THESE MEMBERS AS THEY ARE NOT LIKE MINDED AND DO NOT SYNC WITH OUR GROUP.”
But before being shown the exit, I was a victim of verbal lashing and was “re-schooled” about Rhodesian history.
One member had no kind words for the MDC Secretary for Finance, David Coltart, whom he described as a coward who had rushed to South Africa just before Zimbabwe’s independence to get an education as a way of “cleansing himself” of blame in the murder of the black populace.
While any sane person will find the discussions on Rhodie online platforms repulsive and repugnant, one surely has to respect how this group – defeated, isolated and scattered as it is – still strives to preserve and safeguard its history and memory.
Ironically, and in contrast, the same black liberals that cheer these same Rhodies and excuse their past are the ones that constantly peddle the line that the past no longer matters.
The same past that the Rhodies preserve, is the one that their black askaris tell us we should forget.
History indeed matters. History is crucial in making us understand the linkages between past and present and in turn have a better understanding of the condition of being human.
Penelope J. Corfield of the University of London places history at the centre of all human development saying the past “is essential for ‘rooting’ people.”
Indeed, people who are rootless live rootless lives, often causing a lot of damage to themselves and others in the process.
And our black hero Steve Biko also teaches us that people without a knowledge of history are like a car without an engine, they just cannot move. As a people once colonised, we need to re-affirm, re-assert and re-construct our well-being for future generations. Colonialism left mental scars on our faculties. This is why Thomas Sankara says: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
I think we must never make a mistake of thinking that the New Dispensation is about the abrogation of history and memory. Far from it, the November 2017 transition was and is about reconnecting with the foundational ethos of the revolutionary ZANU-PF. It was and is about restoring the Legacy of the selfless sacrifice of thousands of black people who fought side by side with armed freedom fighters to dislodge colonial rule.
This is precisely the reason why President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week had to issue a warning that the mantra “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” does not mean that Zimbabwe is open for abuse.
Of course, Zimbabwe is conscious of a changing world; a connected world that entails engaging with everyone for the bilateral good. But that does not mean we engage blindfolded, unconscious of history and how that history informs the present and the future.
We seriously need to disabuse ourselves of the notion of being defined by artificial time-markers. In the words of Dr Tafataona Mahoso, “slavery, apartheid and colonialism are all characterised by splitting, which is why our discourse is presented as pre-colonial, pre-modern, post-colonial, pre-modern, post-colonial, post-modern and even post-racial, according to Barak Obama.”
We still have not transcended the Rubicon. Our struggle is far from over. We need to reflect on why Rhodesians are still fervently concerned about preserving their history and memory and yet as blacks we are told to put the past behind us. Rhodesian writers like Jim Parker and Peter Stiff continue to write narratives that glorify and extol Rhodesia.
It is not a case of self-appeasement, it is about maintaining and preserving their own memory. Memory makes one rooted. Memory is the fuel that propels a sense of pride and works as a springboard for inspirational reference for future generations.
President Mnangagwa is conscious of history and how it informs the present. The revolution he is leading is not a battle of fine catch-phrases, fiery speeches and populist rhetoric. The revolution he is leading in the Second Republic is not about sloganeering or coming up with code-words. The revolution he is leading is about the collective effort of all nationals in transforming reality and improving the concrete situation of the masses.
We will definitely get there!