Home » Governance » Independence Did Not Come On a Silver Platter

Independence Day is upon us once again as we celebrate the coming of age of an African ideology and sensibility. For the 34th time, our nation takes to the podium to dance to the African tune, imbibe from the African calabash and respond to the heartbeat of the Motherland’s dream.

For more than three decades, the fruits of Independence have been too tasty for some to remember that our freedom from the clutches of imperialism is not an outcome of grandiose and hoity-toity parlance, where one momentarily recovers from a drunken stupor and announce his “grand” arrival on the political, social or political scene, with pomp and funfair and a harem of beauties in tow.

Neither is it a culmination of personal aggrandisement and pomposity coupled with a penchant for the bizarre where one cries foul when he becomes a target of his own salvoes and keeps mum if the ill-gotten millions are pouring into his coffers.

Nor is it a result of trumpeteering.

There are sons and daughters of an impoverished peasantry who sacrificed limbs, eyes and mental well-being for this beauty of a country formerly known as Rhodesia, but who are still wallowing in abject poverty because some among our flock decided to line their pockets at everyone else’s expense.

And if they cry for a fair share of the national cake, the tongued ones in our midst label them mercenaries that they sacrificed willingly and should not ask for monetary compensation.

This smacks of callousness and insensitivity.

Such deplorable utterances can only issue from those who did not experience the torture, neglect, suffering and hopelessness, first hand.

Zimbabwean literature is a battlefield where individual biographies are patted against the national one and to its ethos, especially when it comes to the liberation struggle and its aftermaths.

A perusal of our literary cache will expose the different ways in which the revolutionary zeal and ideology is portrayed.

In some instances , especially in the Shona tradition championed by Vitalis Nyawaranda in “Mutunhu Une Mago” and Gonzo Musengezi in “Zvairwadza Vasara”, the liberation fighters were idolised.

They make war glorious and the people who fought it as formidable, which makes the struggle appear like a stroll in the park.

No wonder why some believe that the class struggle pitting liberation war veterans and academics should be tilted in favour of the latter, who can lead a workers’ revolution.

This rationale is supported by the likes of Memory Chirere, Clement Chihota, Robert Muponde and Brian Chikwava.

This may be especially so because the aftermath of the struggle has seen growing and individualism.

Without visionary torch-bearers, there seems to be hope in the academics.

But ironically events on the ground indicate a middle class with a distinct lack of a nationally encompassing and viable ideology.

Writers in “Generation Two” as categorised by Viet-Wild (1993) like Alexander Kanengoni, Freedom Nyamubaya and Thomas Sukutai Bvuma, who – because of their experience in the liberation struggle demystify the notion of the guerilla fighter as an untouchable genius – use the autobiographical mode to capture their own experiences and do not glorify war per se.

They show war as dehumanising and make clear the sadness that comes with death.

Kanengoni and Nyamubaya use the novel and the short story, respectively, and Bvuma uses verse.

Kanengoni in “Echoing Silences” (1997), like Nyamubaya in “That Special Place” (2003) and Bvuma in “Every Stone That Turns” (1999), uses characters drawn from the war-time and post war-time zones.

But unlike Bvuma, he employs the metaphor of madness and the symbol of ghosts to express himself.

Using the protagonist, Munashe, who abandons his university studies for the higher calling, the writer depicts war as dehumanising and deplorable.

In his eyes, war produces victims and “is the greatest scourge of mankind”.

Munashe suffers psychological damage during and after the war. The traumatic experience of the war burdens his psyche as “the walls of (his) mind had already fallen in”.

“Echoing Silences” highlights the profound suffering that guerillas face. The sense of hopelessness pervading the novel is explored through Munashe, Sly, Kudzai, Bazooka and the Section Commander, who was once a teacher.

Munashe survives the torture, hunger, killings and brutalities, probably because he “had died at Chimanda. What survived through the war was (his) ghost”.

Like the others, he is a victim of circumstantial consequences as he finds himself embedded in a labyrinthine snare which he cannot undo.

His only escape becomes hallucination and drugs, which reduce his life to a mere reverie.

Throughout the bloody war, “the routine killings, the unabated savagery and the dying”, he had always yearned for an opportunity to tell the Section Commander how “disillusioned he had become… ”

Female combatants like Kudzai, as is also evident in Nyamubaya’s “That Special Place”, are at the mercy of the vagaries of war and the sadistic nature of Man.

Their desires and dreams are set ablaze as their fellow comrades think in canal terms repeatedly raping them until what is left of them are fragmented souls and empty shells.

Hopelessly reduced to a sex machine by the perverts in their midst, Kudzai laments: “Three abortions in one year. My life in the war. What sort of credentials are these? I don’t want to be considered anything. I am nobody. I am nothing … I no longer menstruate and I am not pregnant. Menopause at twenty.”

Because of the travesty that has become her life, Kudzai yearns for death, and Munashe – who is in love with her – wilts inside.

Sadly, or may be fortunately, she succumbs to the madness of it all.

The first person narrator in “That Special Place” is deflowered by the sadistic Detachment Commander, Nyati, who continues to molest her as she hopes against hope that the war abruptly ends.

Bazooka was followed by “phantom witches that possessed his mind”, which culminates in his demise as he vainly attempts to escape from them.

His level of disorientation is only equal to Sly’s who thinks he could slip into civilian life easily when he decides that he is “tired of the endless killings … tired of everything”, and that he is “not a hero and I don’t want to be one. I am just a poor ordinary person who wants to live”.

This dark side of the war is also depicted in Bvuma’s “Every Stone That Turns”, especially in the poems “Survivors”, “Private Affair” and “Mafaiti – he loved to pluck a plump louse”.

Whereas Kanengoni examines the psychological realm, Bvuma uses crude vulgarity and comic rhetoric to lay bare the dehumanising effects of war.

Bvuma, like Kanengoni, shows how the families left behind are also victims.

Munashe’s family suffers when he brings the ghosts of war to their doorstep, and subsequently dies and Mafaiti “fell somewhere at the front” leaving behind a young family that he so much adored.

In “Private Affair” he explores how moral values are thrown to the wind as expressed in the following lines: “We squatted there at duska metre apart among the bushesEmptying our bowels … We laughed and choked over steaming sh-tand assured ourselves that shitting wouldsome day become a private affair again.”

Like Kanengoni, the poet examines the hardships of war, the hunger and the thirst.

Fighters deliriously fight over their urine and engage in combat with phantom soldiers.

The level of disorientation during the war deplored by Kanengoni, Bvuma and Nyamubaya reaches a crescendo when the combatants fail to differentiate dreams from reality.

In “Echoing Silences” Munashe moves about in the rain “opening his palms to try to hold the downpour, behaving as if he were insane” and Bvuma’s Mafaiti “loved to pick lice from a comrade’s hair”.

These presentations of seemingly trivial actions explore the psychological effects of war at the deeper sense of the bizarre.

Mafaiti cherishes his family and equates his passion for his wife and son to his other passion for plucking lice.

The plucking of lice as a pastime also obtains in “Echoing Silences” as Kudzai and her fellow female combatants are seen “washing their clothes and searching for lice in their wild unkempt hair”.

Bvuma, like Kanengoni, shows how the families left behind are also victims.

Munashe’s family suffers when he brings the ghosts of war to their doorstep, and subsequently dies and Mafaiti “fell somewhere at the front” leaving behind a young family that he so much adored.

Source : The Herald