Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Morgan Tsvangirai and The Making Of A National Hero

Elliot Manyika – with the help of Bryn Muteki – sang and danced his way to national hero status being conferred on him by the Zanu-PF politburo in December 2008. 

And when I heard about this unfortunate elevation, I oscillated between expressing alarming disbelief and inevitably denouncing such a dubious distinction and strongly disagreeing with the restrictive and biased manner in which national heroes have been chosen since 1980.

If Manyika, with the repetitive and, frankly, annoying assistance of the ZBC, a captured national broadcaster, made it to the Heroes Acres, in Warren Park, on the strength of Nora, will Oliver Mtukudzi be accorded hero status for singing Dzoka Uyamwe and Bvuma?
By Tafi Mhaka
Will Thomas Mapfumo become a national hero for summing up African struggles on Corruption and Mamvemve? Will Leonard Zhakata be recognised for calling for economic reforms and economic classlessness when he penned the moving and timeless 1990s classic Mugove?

Will Leonard “Musoro Wenyoka” Dembo, that legendary guitarist and vocalist whose songs paint the essence of love and poverty, ever be declared a man of the people for his profound contributions to the social fabric of society and the creation of arguably the greatest Shona love ballad of all time, Chitekete?

Will Lovemore Majaivana receive national acknowledgement for Umoya Wami and the unending joy his music has spawned for decades throughout Zimbabwe?
Morgan Tsvangirai and The Making Of A National Hero
And how about Border Gezi? His shaky claim to fame was establishing the Border Gezi Youth Training Camps: facilities that trained young men and women to hero-worship Robert Mugabe and hate Morgan Tsvangirai and assault MDC members.

So how was a man who divided the nation and bequeathed to all a demented legacy of extreme, unmitigated violence, duly named a national hero?

I would rather celebrate Safirio “Mukadota” Madzikatire and Stella Chiweshe ahead of a glorified militia chief whose actions wounded innocent voters. I would rather celebrate Peter Ndlovu running circles around Doctor Khumalo, John “Shoes” Moshoeu and breathless South African defenders at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday, August 16, 1992; and honour the impressive Kirsty Coventry inspiring black, white, Indian, and coloured masses after she won three gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

But sadly, our exceedingly conservative, insensitive and aloof leaders, seem convinced that political endeavour is the only ability worthy of everlasting acclaim.

That Gezi and Manyika were laid to rest at the national Heroes Acres, when John Chibadura, James Chimombe, Tongai Moyo and Biggie Tembo have never been adequately rewarded for their wonderful achievements in the entertainment industry, shows how a flawed, narrow and outdated selection process erroneously reduces each and every conceivable consideration to Zanu-PF service and struggles to acknowledge wider influences while accommodating remarkable potential for phenomenal contradictions.

If Sally Mugabe was declared a national hero, presumably for her pre-independence activities and philanthropic contributions after 1980, will Grace Mugabe be lavished with similar praise for her “charitable” works and turbulent times guiding the Zanu-PF Women’s league? And if Enos Nkala, a man implicated in the Gukurahundi massacres, was declared a national hero, must the nation revisit all of its national values?

Nkala, together with “heroes” such as Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, played an instrumental role in disrupting, and not advancing, the immediate post-independence dispensation through violent actions in Matabeleland and Midlands.

Yet the making of a hero should never be reduced to ethnic, factional, individual, party or racial considerations and wartime vendettas, especially since national recognition essentially forms a crucial connection between past successes and future determinations and nourishes the soul of the nation.

So refusing Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and Bishop Abel Muzorewa national hero status, for example, and then unashamedly burying Gezi and Manyika at the national shrine, remains extraordinarily vindictive, cowardly and selfish actions.

Such rash and unforgiving determination to appropriate our vast and colourful history and diminish divergent political experiences should not be repeated in the aftermath of Tsvangirai losing a lengthy battle with colon cancer on February 14, 2017.

Save – a giant of a union leader and the ultimate trailblazer in the post-Unity Accord era of national politics, a man who almost lost died at the hands of rogue police officers controlled by the slippery Augustine Chihuri, was a brave hero to many.

Save was the symbolic representation of murdered MDC activists like Tichaona Chiminya, Talent Mabika and Tonderai Ndira. Save was the living soul of every political activist, like Itai Dzamara, who went missing under suspicious circumstances.

Save was to half of the electorate, what Mugabe, untainted by power, was to half of the liberated masses on April 18, 1980. Save was the quintessential summation of a ubiquitous thirst for social and economic renewal.

And while he made mistakes and missed his “Nelson Mandela” moment to resign (several times), Savesucceeded where Edgar Tekere and ZUM failed, through establishing a robust opposition movement and eschewing civil conflict when the MDC was pummelled mercilessly into unavoidable submission in the run-up to the Presidential election run-off in 2008.

Save was a man of the people who must be declared a national hero.

Save was a real hero.
Do the right thing.
Honour the great man.

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