Tekere forever part of Zimbabwe's defining moment

EVERY nation has its defining moments. Every nation keeps in its memory key episodes that define its character and, in many ways, aspirations. Defining moments often being the work of mankind, such authorship is more often than not written in blood, sweat and tears.

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The French have the French Revolution and the Americans often hark back to the War of Independence. The Russian Revolution was no less a defining episode, as was the Red Army’s Long March under Chairman Mao’s command. The Battle of Waterloo which forced Napoleon into permanent exile following defeat is never forgotten – indeed it is marked in a number of physical representations across London, not least London’s Waterloo station.

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Many countries in the Europe’s Eastern Bloc and indeed much of the world regularly mark the fall of the Berlin Wall as a crucial historical moment defining the trajectory of their nations. Then there are the two Great Wars of the last century.

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In these moments is stored a nation’s collective memory of its commonly cherished values; because the men and women who undertook those enormous challenges did so in pursuit of or in defence of certain values. The events are replayed in the media; they are remembered on special days carefully spread over the course of the year – Presidents and Prime Ministers make habitual reference to them; museums carry the memories and physical manifestations are stationed across countries.

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They serve as reminders — reminders of what it took to be where they are; reminders of the sacrifices that were made; indeed, as reminders of what must be defended, always – generation after generation. No generation is ever allowed to miss the memory.

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The death of Edgar Tekere, affectionately known as Cde Twoboy, a foremost cadre of what I believe to be our own single most defining moment, has prompted me to walk memory’s path. For I believe in that ‘moment’ of the liberation struggle lies the values and aspirations of a nation.

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I was too young at the time to know fully what was happening around me, let alone to be an active participant (I was born in the year Cde Twoboy walked with President Mugabe to Mozambique and from there to coordinate and drive the struggle). I still do not know much. But from the little that I have read and heard, I appreciate the challenges of the time and am forever humbled by the sacrifices that were made by those men and women of the time.

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It is difficult, for many I know, to see through the mist of what has happened in the last thirty one years of independence; to overcome the appropriation of the liberation narrative and see beyond its narrow confines – to see the bigger picture.

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It is hard, I know, for those of much younger stock, to appreciate its significance, given the challenges that have come our way in recent years. But, I say, these are events that one day will come to pass. The moment of the sixties and seventies is one that carries the collective soul of a nation.

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Personally, thinking about what happened; what people went through, the adversities, the cruelty and pain of war … the horror of it all is upsetting and humbling at the same time – it evokes a potpourri of emotions that one can hardly define with adequate clarity. That’s why I am forever motivated by the desire to search for those values; those aspirations that drove men and women to extremes; that led them to the bush in search of liberty; to give up life’s little beauties – a feat that few of us can hardly attempt.

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I believe even if they might have been soiled by later events; even if they might be buried in the labyrinth of corruption, violence and unfairness; they can still be found. It is why I too join many in paying my respects to Cde Twoboy.

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It is probable that this note will fall short of standards expected by those of a more critical disposition. But in its defence, it is not an obituary and more importantly, the occasion demands the suspension of our more critical faculties. Such a time will come.

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Many are better qualified to speak of the man – his heroics, his faults, his character. But I speak only of the memory of what, to my mind, as a citizen must always be regarded as the most defining moment in our nation’s history. And Cde Twoboy always reminded me of that. And he always will.

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How beautiful, I often imagine, if in fifty years’ time, long after all of today’s circumstances and characters have passed, as we all will in our different times set by the Hand that writes all, children would look back, capture and make real the values and aspirations for which lives, limbs and property were sacrificed.

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I picture a young Zimbabwean leader born long after the war and therefore unable to appropriate it as his personal victory or as his party’s only claim to title, nevertheless paying homage to both the sung and unsung heroes whose collective battle was instrumental in creating the defining moment in the country’s history. RIP, Cde Twoboy.

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