“I want people to remember me as someone who tried his best during his time. I forced many people within my village to go to school and I am still doing that.
“I want people to know that they are the ones who can free themselves. We fought hard to free this country for the good of our children, and if land is brought back to its rightful owners, I will be very happy even in my sleep,” intimated the late Vice President Dr Simon Vengai Muzenda on October 27, 2001 as he celebrated his 79th birthday in Harare.
Always passionate about the land, the late national hero, affectionately known as Dr Mzee and Soul Of the Nation, was of the conviction that Zimbabweans could never really be free if they were to remain alienated from the means of production — the land.
It is through the land that citizens can empower themselves, and it is the thorny issue of the land that heightened the struggle for liberation, for as Nilene Omodele Adeoti Foxworth writes in “Bury me in Africa”(1978), “A people without land are like cattle on naked ground with nothing to graze — they mope around hopelessly.”
Forever loyal to the struggle, unwaveringly dedicated to his party, ZANU PF, and committed to his people Dr Mzee, who died on September 20, 2003 at the age of 80, expressed his African ethos with such simplicity that exuded maturity and wisdom.
“I suppose when you live your life, you live it as you go. Each day you become more mature and you understand that you are getting old,” reflected the Soul of the Nation.
Indeed, maturity should be mirrored in the hourglass as one becomes a better person with each passing day. It is this aspect of maturity and wisdom as reflected in the individual’s timeline that separates boys and men in the political sphere, for the struggle is never personal but collective, as the wise owl admonished.
“The struggle . . . I think we fought it well. Our times were times of suffering because we owned nothing of our own in our own country.”
With the land etched in his heart, Dr Mzee spoke passionately about empowerment through ownership of the motherland’s sod of soil.
“Up to now, our people haven’t got the major instrument to empower themselves, which is land. The land is in the hands of foreigners and we should get it back. We will only be happy after achieving this. The land has to get back to its rightful owners without fail.”
To him there could be no freedom without owning the means of production. However, that freedom is driven by self-will and change of mindsets. It is up to the Black people of the world, Zimbabweans among them, to embrace the colonial yoke around their necks or to undo it.
Indeed, Africa is for Africans, no matter where they are located across the globe. Their heritage and inheritance will always be in the motherland; as the revolutionary Patrice Lumumba aptly said: “We refuse assimilation because assimilation means depersonalising the African and Africa.”
In Dr Mzee’s eyes the legacy of the liberation struggle can only flourish in an environment of peace, unity and harmony.
Speaking at an Independence National Gala at the Large City Hall in Bulawayo on April 17, 2001, the revolutionary icon said:
“I wish to remind you that it is through unity of purpose that we will overcome the challenges of development which our nation faces today.
“We remember the painful struggles, we, as a shackled people have had to wage in the past, the divisive legacy of colonialism we have had to overcome in order to be born a people; the costly, factitious quarrels we endured in the past, our agonising search and the eventual happy founding and affirmation of our National Unity, our continuous struggle for full sovereignty and social justice through land reform and our efforts at bringing national development.”
Contemptuous of factionalism, a bane on progress and societal regeneration, Dr Mzee castigated divisive elements in his party, ZANU PF, particularly in Masvingo Province then, when he said: “I don’t want factions anymore. I condemn factionalism in the strongest terms. When people are not united, they are vulnerable to all vices at any time. Unity is very important.”
True to Dr Mzee’s foresight, factionalism almost tore through the revolutionary party to smithereens, as tussle for political gain became the order of the day, with individuals throwing caution to the wind in their quest for power, which subsequently led to Operation Restore Legacy in November 2017; ushering in a New Dispensation of hope.
With President Mnangagwa at the helm, Zimbabweans can dream again, and Dr Mzee’s legacy lives on.
In his inauguration speech on November 24, 2017, President Mnangagwa — the servant leader — highlighted that Zimbabweans can map their way forward if there is unity of purpose.
“Fellow Zimbabweans, as we chart our way forward, we must accept that our challenges as a nation emanate in part from the manner in which we have managed our politics, both nationally and internationally, leading to circumstances in which our country has undeservedly been perceived or classified as a pariah State,” the President said.
Conscious of the significance of the land in fostering identity and empowering citizens, much to the delight of his fellow countrymen and the appeasement of the Soul of the Nation, the President declared:
“However, given our historical realities, we wish the rest of the world to understand and appreciate that policies and programmes related to land reform were inevitable.
“While there is a lot we may need to do by way of outcomes, the principle of repossessing our land cannot be challenged or reversed.
“Dispossession of our ancestral land was the fundamental reason for waging the liberation struggle. It would be a betrayal of the brave men and women, who sacrificed their lives in our liberation struggle if we were to reverse the gains we have made in reclaiming our land.”
Indeed, Dr Mzee will be fondly and eternally remembered not only for trying, but doing his best for the people of Zimbabwe in his humble and simple way, and as he rests he can smile on, for in President Mnangagwa’s vision, which is our national vision, his legacy lives on.