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There are many forms of sacrifice. Some make sacrifices for personal gain while others do it as a form of service for what they stand for and believe in.On November 23, 1977 some 6 000 men, women and children sacrificed their lives when the Rhodesian forces bombed Chimoio camp in Mozambique.

Their sacrifice was part of the overall movement that freed Zimbabwe from colonial rule.

In the post-independent Zimbabwe, the area where the ZANLA camp stood has been turned into a shrine honouring the 6 000 people who lost their lives.

Interspersed at different locations are mass graves with the remains of people from the different camps including Nehanda, Takawira, Chindunduma, Percy Ntini and Chitepo.

Since 2014, two gentlemen from the area Martino Augusto and Francisco Fernando, (both aged 28) have sacrificed their time and ability to tend to the Chimoio shrines as caretakers.

Theirs is a sacrifice because they have no obligation to the fallen heroes as they are not Zimbabwean.

What they have done has not been out of a sense of duty but compassion, for those that lost their lives at Chimoio did so for the people of Zimbabwe.

“We have been working here since 2014 and do so because it is a calling for us. I think that the comrades that are resting here guided us and wanted us to come and look after them,” Augusto said.

The work involves tending to the grounds, making sure the grass is cut, removing weeds from the mass graves, guarding the area as well as assisting visitors on tour of the Chimoio shrines.

Augusto added: “It is difficult work that we do here. The grounds are big and we have to make sure that they are tidy, that the grass is cut and that everything is in order for the comrades. We look after them and at the same time they look after us.”

Working at the shrines has not been without incident that might in other circumstances have led others to forsake such a job but Augusto and Fernando believe that the spirits of the people resting at Chimoio take care of them.

“There are things that happen here that are difficult for us to explain or understand. For example, sometimes in the middle of the night we hear gunshots coming from the building which is now the museum.

“We would have arranged the guns in order but come the next day they will be scattered all over. No one can explain how this happens and although some people might find it scary we just continue with our work because we believe the comrades will take care of us,” Fernando said.

Offering an example of how sacred the Chimoio shrines are and how the spirit of the place protects them, Augusto and Fernando tell the tale to the Children of Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association on a tour of Chimoio of how a local farmer saw his car mysteriously catch fire after he had insulted them.

“When the man came here we were cutting grass. He then called out, we came to him and he asked us if we worked here. We replied that we did and he went on to say we were fools and crazy for looking after these dead people, why would you take such a job he asked.

“He then left and we went to sit by one of the shrines. We were deeply hurt by his comments to the point of crying. We thought to ourselves what the man was saying was true? Were we really crazy and should we quit the job?

“A couple of hours later the man returned and we could see him from where we were sitting. As he tried to open the gate his wife called out that their car was on fire. The car just erupted into flames and the whole thing burnt.

“He asked us for help but we asked him how he expected two crazy people to help him? Some days later he came to collect the wreckage and the car he came in also caught fire in the same way the first one did.

“This is how we knew that we are protected by the spirit of those resting here. The work we do is important and not in vain.”

Over the years both Mozambicans have learnt to speak Shona fluently and have developed a relationship with Comrade Future Pariano, one of the tour guides and survivors of the Chimoio bombings, as well as with Manicaland Provincial Minister Cde Mandi Chimene.

“These ladies are always here and have helped us a lot. They have helped us get salaries from the Zimbabwean Government for the work that we do here,” Augusto said.

The current economic crisis in Zimbabwe has however affected the two gentlemen’s salaries and they were last paid in November last year.

Cde Pariano has therefore taken an initiative to collect what she calls “love offerings” from touring groups to donate to the gentlemen.

“These gentlemen have been working here for years and look after the place. It is therefore important that we as Zimbabweans show our appreciation to those that look after our shrines for us.

“The love offering is meant to be a donation from all the people who visit the place that can assist these men and their families particularly now when their salaries have not come in. I believe it is the least we can do for them.”

Both Augusto and Fernando have been appreciative of the support they have received from the people of Zimbabwe particularly from the two comrades who regularly go out to visit the shrines.

Cde Pariano is hopeful that in future more will be done to develop the Chimoio shrines into a better tourist destination and in turn contribute to raising more funds for Augusto and Fernando.

“This place is an important part of Zimbabwean history and all Zimbabweans, young and old, should visit here to understand the sacrifices made for our independence.

“We hope that we can build a shelter for people to come here and sleep as well as develop the museum a bit more. The more people come to visit the more beneficial it would be to the country as well as the people that work here,” she said.

The Children of Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association had embarked on a maiden tour to Chimoio in Mozambique as part of their orientation and education and to visit some of the places their parents had lived in during the liberation war.

Feedback: christopher.charamba@zimpapers.co.zw

Source : The Herald