There is a young patriot buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare who was born on December 17, 1964.
This means at Independence, this patriot was shy of his 16th birthday.
When he died on April 28, 2001, he was 36-years-old.
Quite a young man he was, and one who should have been entering the prime of his public life when he was interred alongside luminaries like Josiah Magama Tongogara and Joshua Nkomo. As a boy, our patriot attended school in Guruve and Mvurwi, and at that young age he felt sufficiently pricked by colonialism to do what little he could to try and end it. So it was that at the age of 14 that this boy established contact with Zanla forces in the Mvurwi area and teamed up with other young patriots to operate as a mujibha in the Nehanda Sector of Tete Province (which covered what is now Guruve).
By 1978, our young patriot was a political commissar and worked at the Alpha Assembly Point in Muzarabani during the ceasefire.
He was to become Zanu-PF’s Mazowe District youth secretary from 1980 to 1984, and he also became a councillor in the then white-dominated Umvukwes Rural District Council.
The three years after that saw him serve as the ruling party’s Mashonaland Central youth provincial secretary for information and publicity, after which he was the province’s youth secretary for administration for two years. At just age 26, it was time to really enter the national stage as both a Central Committee member and Member of Parliament for Centenary.
Our young patriot went further. He was elected Zanu-PF Mashonaland Central Chair in 1993, and at the age of 32, President Mugabe appointed our young patriot Provincial Governor and Resident Minister for Mashonaland Central. It has been said that the vastness of his Parliamentary constituency did not daunt our young patriot; walking distances of up to 25km or using a bicycle to reach remote areas as he did service for party and country.
That dedication to duty, that commitment to the cause, saw the President make him Minister of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation. Oh, and did we mention that this young patriot was Zanu-PF’s Political Commissar at the very trying time of the Fast-Track Land Reform Programme? Our young patriot is, as you will be aware by now, Cde Border Gezi.
We often want to excuse inexcusable error by Zimbabwe’s younger politicians to the exuberance of youth, the rashness of inexperience, and bedazzlement by the prospects of supposedly easy money. But Cde Gezi taught us that the same high, exacting standard must be applied to all national politicians regardless of age.
Today, if an area is not accessible by plush 4×4, it is not important enough for some of our political leaders’ attentions. Cde Gezi taught us that poor infrastructure was not a reason for one not to do their work.
So as the ruling party gets ready for the 2018 harmonised elections, it would do well to dwell on the traits and steadfastness of character that saw our young patriot declared a National Hero at age 36. Older politicians, some who today hold posts that Cde Gezi held at a younger age, could do well to reflect on the words of Group Captain Sithabile Sibanda as captured in her biography “A Woman’s Choice, The Untold Story of the ZPRA Women’s Brigade”.
She says, “The war against the Rhodesian Front demanded that we were not only physically fit but also strong as far as ideology was concerned. It was … the commissar who ensured that we treat civilians with care, without inflicting any harm, since they were the base of the party.”
While at it, they may also recall the words of another war veteran, Cde Elias Hondo.
He says: “We were taught about the lumpen proletariats — such people would join the liberation struggle vari mbavha but vochenjera kukunda vamwe in such a way that you can even promote them to become commanders.
“Such people, if you deploy them to the war front, they use their positions or the gun to terrorise the masses … The instructors told us to be on the lookout for all these people. It’s unfortunate that there are now so many of these weak characters in Zanu-PF these days.”
Yes, Zimbabwe is not fighting the Rhodesian war machine today.
We are fighting a different war, one that finds expression in the controlled madness of boardrooms and subsequent policy decisions.
This too is an ideological battle, one whose success also on winning minds and souls to the cause of economic emancipation. Zanu-PF must ask itself if it is deploying the right people to send this message across. Or if it is being dis-served by lumpen proletariats who – after having tasted the sweetness of luxury cars and 12-bedroomed houses – have long sold their consciousness in the neo-liberal market place for souls.