Hildegarde The Arena

There is need for the youths to read and research on all these things so that they understand our yesterday in order for them to grasp the present and shape their future, because they are now in the driver’s seat to shape their destiny.

THE backlash on the “born-frees”(those born from 1980 onwards ) was so brutal. One reckless statement by some of them painted them all with the same brush: “Endai mundoisungirira pamakaisunungura, tigonoisunungura.” This was a daring statement, a slap in the face — challenging the very ethos and spirit of the liberation struggle. They were roundly condemned and called names.

Were the attacks justifiable? As we commemorate the 35th Independence anniversary this weekend under the theme, Zimbabwe@35: Consolidating Unity, Peace and Economic Sovereignty, the Herald spoke with a young man from Harare’s Mufakose suburb regarding his understanding of Zimbabwe’s Independence, the issues that affect youths, their involvement in the growth and development of the nation and the way forward and others.

Tichaona Chingwe (34) was born at Mufakose Maternity Clinic on May 20 1981 and with a chuckle he said, “I’m a carry-over from 1980, and my mother gave birth to me a month after celebrating Zimbabwe’s first Independence anniversary on April 18 1981. This is why I have vivid memories about how Zimbabwe attained its Independence and why we should never lose it.”

He added, “As a little boy, I remember that on Independence Day, we would get an early bath and be dressed up in our best clothes. Our parents would tell us that we were going to celebrate our Independence. I feel that we celebrated in style unlike now. Cattle were slaughtered. As a result, this made us not to forget. The partying continued at home with people playing music and dancing. It was done almost every year, No one looked at political parties. It was just celebrating Independence.

“But, if you check now, people celebrate on their own or go to the National Sports Stadium. There is very little cohesion, and some people will be busy going about their personal affairs,” he said.

Asked about who sponsored those celebrations, Tichaona remarked: “Our parents used to contribute, household by household, because everyone knew that they would have a share. Getting together and sharing wasn’t because you didn’t have food at your house, but people went to be merry. We were entertained by traditional dancers. It was so exciting and people would know that it was Independence Day.”

Those who are familiar with Harare’s older high density suburbs know that Mufakose is adjacent to Marimba Park. In post-Independent Zimbabwe, Marimba Park’s status was that of one of the leafy suburbs of Harare. It was in Marimba Park that the later co-Prime Minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, the late Bishop Abel Muzorewa stayed. We asked Tichaona that apart from the merry-making, what was it that he remembered about the history of Zimbabwe?

Tichaona said, “I heard that there was lots of racial discrimination and subjugation by white people. They placed restrictions on black people in terms of freedom of movement and association. Here in the townships, they would tell our parents that they had to register visitors. If they exceeded the recommended limit of people at each house, the visitor would have to go back that very day.

“This awakened people’s consciousness, as they realised that it was impractical. This is how the Second Chimurenga was born, from the First Chimurenga that was waged by the likes of Mbuya Nehanda. I also heard that there were some boys and girls from Mufakose who abandoned their education and joined the liberation struggle. They included my brother Patrick,” he said.

“My brother Patrick is a former freedom fighter who united with others to fight the oppression. There is no freedom if you are restricted from having your relatives at your house. I also heard that there was a farm called “kwaDzungu” where people would work, but would be given beans and dried kapenta fish. Instead of money, they were being given food rations, and you could not choose. You accepted what they gave you.

“If they saw a black person intruding on that farm (and our mothers used to fetch firewood there), before these houses were electrified, they were chased away. So, people got to a stage where they realised that the situation was no longer tenable. They had to fight the oppressor, until they defeated him, and we attained our Independence on April 18 1980.”

These were events that he did not experience, but Tichaona further argued that it was the right thing for our people to rise up and fight the settler colonialists: “The way black people were treated and how people lived during those days made people rise up against the colonialists, in order to take back our land. Women were ill treated, and it is painful for us as we recount these injustices because our land had been stolen from us, and the owners of the land were not allowed to exercise their rights and freedoms in their motherland.

They were abused physically and psychologically (kushungurudzwa). These abuses gave impetus to the waging of the liberation struggle as the people said, “let’s rise up and fight this common enemy, the settler colonialists.”

He also narrated some of the events about what he heard was happening in other parts of the country, and not just urban areas: “From what I have been told, the situation was even worse in the communal areas because large families occupied small pieces of land that were unproductive. The soil was poor, rocky and this was the land that they had to share with their families. It was the exact opposite of how whites lived because even the unborn children had land and properties set aside for them. If it were not for the young men and women; our fathers and mothers who were brave enough to challenge the status quo, we could have been born under that very same situation, and 35 years on, who would have thought that it was normal/or the right thing.

“Coming to education, there were very few schools. Even the mission schools that were there, people walked long distances. Then, the other form of discrimination was that working men were not allowed to live with their families. The Mbare hostels accommodated men only, and they were overcrowded and have continued to be to this day. Women were not allowed. This was a form of imprisonment. All they wanted from the men was their productivity in the industries, without any form of recreation/pleasure.”

Tichaona argued that the state of those flats affected people’s psychological thinking and perceptions as some of them still think that there is nothing wrong with living like that. This brought a lot of social ills and moral decadence, for example it promoted promiscuous behaviour and prostitution.

He also said that as a born-free, what he knows is that there is a stark difference in the way their parents and grandparents lived compared with them.

“Now, I have freedom of choice and opportunities. The glass is the ceiling if I want to go to school. I now have the right to start my own businesses, without anyone blocking me. I can go into mining ventures without anyone telling me that as a woman, I have exceeded my limit.

“These were opportunities and rights that were non-existent before independence. I can freely buy my properties, buy cars and drive including haulage trucks, and doing that freely.

“We did not have the freedom to choose, freedom to have better directions, that is, directing my life where I want it to go/be. As a born free, I now can do that — pursue a career of my own choice. There are now so many institutions of higher learning. Since we got independent in 1980, many schools were built. Here in Mufakose, 10 primary schools and five secondary schools were constructed after independence. Before then, the only high schools we had were Mufakose High School and Mhuriimwe Community School. After independence, there are six secondary schools and three of them constructed after independence. We now have about 10 primary schools. Mufakose is a small place and it’s now catering for children from as far as Kuwadzana and Warren Park.

“People are now able to buy and sell freely. But we have narratives that the vegetable market near Samuriwo shopping centre was nicknamed “Speed market”, because vendors were always on the lookout for police. They were not allowed to sell vegetables, but at the same time, they did not have alternatives of how people could easily access fresh fruit and vegetables, apart from going to Mbare Market. This was simple to come up with an alternative, but they made it very difficult because they thought that if they left people exercising their rights, they would get to a stage where those people would eventually tell them the truth, of which that is what happened, because the war of liberation was not only fought in the communal areas. It was also fought here in the city. And on the ballot in 1980, they were told the truth when people voted for the Government of their choice.’’

His final remarks were that there is need for the youths to read and research on all these things so that they understand our yesterday in order for them to grasp the present and shape their future, because they are now in the driver’s seat to shape their destiny.