Of the National Flag, Scarf and Patriotism

On September 28 , the Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, was part of the send-off ceremony of the Zimbabwean team which is participating in the ongoing Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

She is the chief of mission of the Zimbabwe’s 15-member and eight-official contingent which is in Argentina for the games that commenced on October 6 and are set to end on Thursday this week.

The send-off event was a moment of joy for many Zimbabwean sport lovers, patriots and other progressive citizens.

It had all the trappings of a national event, what with Minister Coventry and members of the team clad in scarves bearing colours of the nation’s flag.

The scarf has been popularised by President Mnangagwa since January this year when he wore it during a visit to the Swiss resort town of Davos for the World Economic Forum meeting.

Since then, he has worn the scarf almost everywhere.

It has become the symbol of his love for his country and its great people as well as a badge of his sworn dedication to serving them and improving their livelihoods.

The send-off event was not without the unnecessary attendant controversy which detractors of Zimbabwe and their willing foot soldiers cook up at the slightest of opportunity.

Instead of rallying behind the minister and the team like any patriotic Zimbabwean, journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu took issue with the team wearing scarves bearing national flag colours.

“(Minister) Kirsty Coventry, wrapping our athletes in (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa’s gear is a treacherous move that unnecessarily politics in sport. Kirsty, you’re an eagle. Fly higher otherwise we’ll mistake for an owl and stone you,” tweeted Mathuthu. Masarira also took to twitter querying: “Is the scarf now national gear?”

For months now, the opposition and other detractors have been driving the misguided narrative that the scarf, which was popularised by the President, is part of the ZANU-PF party regalia simply because he belongs to that party.

They vainly attempted to find constitutional fault with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba wearing the same scarf by baselessly claiming that she was biased towards ZANU-PF.

Society may not expect much from Masarira, but journalists such as Mathuthu have the duty to explain issues such as the relationship among the national flag, the scarf and ZANU-PF instead of using society’s ignorance just to score cheap political points.

Mathuthu and other journalists of his depth of knowledge and experience know that the national flag belongs to all Zimbabweans. It is one of the main national rallying points. The others are the national coat of arms and the national anthem.

For Mathuthu and ilk to claim that a scarf comprising national flag colours is a ZANU-PF item is the height of political mischief.

It boggles the mind of a kindergarten child that a journalist and other educated Zimbabweans gladly accept the national flag, but reject the same colours in a scarf simply because they do not support the President and ZANU-PF.

Let us delve a bit into the history of the national flag in order to demonstrate how conflicted some of the scarf critics are.

The national flag was adopted and hoisted for the first time during the midnight of 17 and 18 April 1980, but who had decided on the colours and the design?

The basic colours of the national banner: green, yellow/gold, red and black were derived from the ZANU-PF flag which was in place before the national one.

The party’s colours, in turn, had been inspired by pan-African colours used by pioneers of political independence on the African continent such as Ghana and others, and those that had never been colonised, such as Ethiopia.

Although the national flag colours were borrowed from the ZANU-PF flag, the two are totally different in terms of the design and legal status.

Some may wish to use this background to support their claim that the scarf belongs to ZANU-PF, but this would paradoxically expose their dishonesty.

No one can take away ZANU-PF’s pivotal role in bringing about Zimbabwe’s independence. One may not be particularly fond of the revolutionary party, but they cannot take away that role.

A Kenyan national may not like the late Kenyan founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, but s/he cannot wish away his role in the attainment of that country’s independence. He or she cannot say that I am not Kenyan because I do not like Kenyatta after whom the country was named.

Similarly, one may not support ZANU-PF, but they cannot undo its historical role in shaping this great country, including the choice of its national flag colours.

If one is bound by the national flag, whose colour origins are in ZANU-PF, but doggedly refuses to recognise a scarf originating from the national flag as an apolitical item of apparel, it exposes their mischief and double standards.

Going back to the Minister Coventry issue, it is abundantly clear that if anyone is trying to smuggle politics into sport, it is Mathuthu who attempted to make frantic efforts to politicise a simple scarf.

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