By Kudakwashe Kanhutu
Operation Restore Legacy opened a space to discuss ideas, that were previously closed off by the country’s subservience to former president Robert Mugabe as the centrifugal force through which everything had to go.
But, the sea of change brought about by Operation Restore Legacy, will not have gone far enough, if the new dispensation does not move swiftly to open the successes of the Chimurengas to all those who participated. In so doing, the liberation war effort will be memorialised beyond just shoring up Robert Mugabe’s legitimacy to rule in Zimbabwe (as was previously the case).
It was a good thing that the military bases were changed to honour gallant fighters such as Josiah Tongogara, but more can be done. Based on the need to open up the narrative this way, I humbly submit what I have observed abroad that can eternalise the legacy of the struggle, while at the same time creating monuments that will attract visitors from afar.
One of the great lessons I learnt from studying the Classics, was that textbooks recording a people’s activities are very important in memorialising such a people.
What made me even happier is that you don’t even need to have used up a fortune getting a university degree to be able to write a text preserving the history of your people. In fact, you do not even have to write a book, because the field of Classics avers, correctly, that anything, I repeat, ANYTHING, can be a text.
Anything; a picture, a statue, a monument, a building, a traffic signal, a group of animals — wild or domestic — or even a street sign can be read as a textbook. For the purposes of this article, anything that says; “we were here,” can be a textbook. Therefore, sturdy buildings and monuments are very important. Think of Great Zimbabwe in this regard. How many lies against our history have floundered at the sight of this structure?
The important thing in our epoch, is that the building, monument, picture, or sign must have a purposive actor behind it. Someone who decides that such and such an idea is worth preserving, and so puts an effort into presenting, cogently, the idea being preserved.
I have never been to Vietnam, but when I go there, the fact that the Vietnamese Forces, comprehensively defeated the French Forces at Dien Bien Phu, will not escape my attention because of that imposing monument pictured in this article. In this regard, Zimbabwe’s ancient history also sets a great example in the sturdy buildings of stone that are the Great Zimbabwe Monument. Those signs say: “we were here!” For brevity’s sake I will quickly get to my point.
The lessons of Great Zimbabwe have not been fully utilised by those who are leading us in Government today, for it is my view that the Chimurenga Liberation struggle has not been memorialised enough in things that last. There are a lot of gaps in that literature that can be filled with well-placed and imposing monuments all over the country.
I travelled to be a best man at a wedding in Kimberley, South Africa once, and the number of monuments to the Anglo-Boer wars I saw there made sure I got to know about those wars and some of the main protagonists. But those wars are now over a hundred years old. So, it is that whenever I visit any country, I see the monuments that ensure their story will still be relevant in over 100 years from today. This, however, is not the case in Zimbabwe with regards to Chimurenga.
Is it not remiss then, that there is not a single imposing statue of Mbuya Nehanda anywhere in the country? Is it not remiss then, that there is no statue of the Ndebele Warriors that ambushed and defeated the Alan Wilson party that was pursuing King Lobengula? Not remiss that you can walk all day in Harare and not see a single monument to the Second Chimurenga? For that, you must travel out of the city centre to the National Heroes Acre.
Is it not remiss then, that you can drive from Harare to Kariba, passing Chinhoyi, and not see a single monument to the Battle of Chinhoyi — where the first shots of the Second Chimurenga were fired in anger? It is very remiss that there isn’t a monument in Chinhoyi, the size of the one pictured above, memorialising the battle of Dien Bien Phu.
As it is now, people can drive past Chinhoyi and never know its connection to the Second Chimurenga. If there were a monument on the Kariba road, people would stop and take pictures and ask about the story behind that monument.
What Ought To Be Done?
Granted, in a country like ours, beset with economic challenges, an attention to monuments, when there are no medicines in hospitals will seem like a mismanagement of priorities. But I argue that, with the advent of the notion of ‘Battlefield Tourism,’ the building of monuments is as much an investment for the future of the country as any other.
The city of Volgograd in the Russian Federation attracts a lot of Tourism mainly because of its “The Motherland Calls” Monument (pictured at top of article).
The Russian Federation has many monuments in its length and breadth that attracts many tourists. The tourist is a predictable animal in her desire to take an iconic picture with a unique landmark. These monuments thus will serve two purposes, eternalising our history and attracting tourists.
With the expected boom in infrastructure work that has been championed by President Mnangagwa, monuments could be a part of that infrastructure building.
Funding for our Monuments can be realised from “Indirect Offsets,” that is, whenever we sign deals with foreign governments and companies, our “offset” can either be, an investment in community development or, the building of a monument of our choice.
It is also possible to have the Military Corp of Engineers take on this task; they are already on the Government’s payroll and have the expertise. The only costs will be for construction materials. These monuments will then tell future generations and foreign visitors alike, about Zimbabwe’s foundational story — the story that unites us all!
Kudakwashe Kanhutu holds a MSc in Defence, Development and Diplomacy; BA (Honours) in Conflict, Peace and Security; and Diploma in Classics.