Zimbabwe: A History Not Written Is Bound to Be Lost


The other day I had a dream. Unfortunately, my dream was not in the same proportion as the slain American human rights icon Martin Luther King. It was just, but a simple dream.

In the dream, I had one of my regular and/or irregular meetings with the late Zanu-PF national secretary for education Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu. Regular, because we wouldn’t miss a chance to have a chat at his ZDECO offices when an occasion permitted, and irregular when we would bump into each other as I was covering Zanu-PF Politburo sessions.

Cde Ndlovu then called me an “ex-officio” Politburo member, for what reason, I wouldn’t know. But these meetings gave birth to a relationship where we could be open to each other until his untimely death in September 2015.

The old man died while owing me BIG time. In almost all our interactions, I would ask Cde Ndlovu to share, in word, his experiences during the liberation war.

Cde Ndlovu liked so much to talk of how he was part of the leadership that organised classes for those who had joined the liberation at too early an age to start military training.

The conversation always ended with my argument that there should be a book on these experiences. And I had a dream. In that dream I asked Cde Ndlovu to write a book of his experiences during the war. I recently bumped — for the umpteenth time — into yet another extract from a book by yet another South African freedom fighter.

Former journalist, MK operative and cabinet minister Charles Nqakula, has penned a book; “The People’s War: Reflections of an ANC Cadre” that should be in the bookshops across South Africa this week.

He is not the first and probably not the last liberation hero to do so. Several of his colleagues have penned a book or two adding to the anthology of the experiences during the South African liberation struggle.

That book has made Nqakula a competent commentator on South Africa’s problems, real or perceived, that afflict the country’s socio-political economy. It’s a good thing that the South African leadership has taken time to publish these books to counter misconceptions peddled by what we think are the best historians out there.

I was enjoying what one could call an expose by Dr John Coleman in “Diplomacy by Deception: An Account of the Treasonous Conduct by the Governments of Britain and the United States”.

The conspiracy theorists make good reading when you want to dig deep into how the super-powers have destabilised the entire world and who is really behind that instability. Dr Coleman miffed me when he was comparing former South African president FW de Klerk to Alexander Kerensky, who once ran an “interim” government opposed to the Bolsheviks in Russia.

Adding a footnote, Dr Coleman, for all he had done to impress me, called de Klerk, “the South African turncoat” leader, a “Kerensky of the whites in South Africa” whose “task is to form an ‘interim’ government which will allow (Nelson) Mandela and his gang of murderers to take the country.”

Why, Dr Coleman why? Why would one call people fighting to regain their land “murderers”? That is a huge minus for the supposedly “good” author. South Africa is a virtually “new” democracy after attaining independence in 1994, way after we got back our country here in Zimbabwe.

Our independence was attained in a very unique way and no African country or other former colony can claim to have fought a protracted war like ours. It’s a unique story that could be shared across the world, but not through word of the mouth. But as we bury our heroes one by one at the National Heroes Acre, with the latest Cde Naison Ndlovu being interred less than two weeks ago, it makes me wonder how much of the history they are taking with them to their graves.

Remember, the rushed project by the late Cde Cephas Msipa — it seems it suddenly hit him that time was running out on him. He had to share his life experiences with us.

There are other projects by Dzino, Edgar “Two-boy” Tekere, Alexander Kanengoni, Brigadier Felix Muchemwa and others.

But are they enough?

Our history is not only unique, but very important especially when there are forces trying to make sure that future generations forget about our struggle.

Abbey Rhodes says he believes in the cliché, if we fail to understand our history, we are doomed to repeat it. He further states that the origin of this idea was Santayana (in The Life of Reason, 1905): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

“I don’t see this as mapping out our future by examining the past. We need to delve into our history to understand it, yes, but more importantly, we need to admit our history. “We need to be blunt about our ancestors’ failings, forgive them, and find a new way,” he says.

Kaspar Koegel says history books are the most important books we have. “They give a highly detailed account on a given historical event or historical period: more so than any documentary can give. “A strong understanding of history is an incredibly valuable skill. You are able to make generalisations about human behaviour and understand how the world got into its current state. “It is also useful for creative writing: you can simply appropriate something that happened in the past rather than making up an original story.”

The men were contributing to general question on history Quora — a website where questions and answers are readily available to everyone. But the important issue to note is that we cannot wait to critique David Coltart for his insights in “The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe.”

Coltart wrote his own views and instead of grumbling, we have our own way of sharing the experiences in our own words. This is a clarion call to our leaders, heroes and heroines, and all Zimbabweans to put pen to paper for our history to remain relevant.

The platform is there as the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has introduced a new curriculum with heritage studies that would definitely need such books.

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