DURING Human Rights Day commemorations last year, Nyasha Chikwinya, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development and a war veteran, gave a heartrending snippet of her experience in the country’s liberation struggle, highlighting the battles she faced as a woman.
The stuff that she shared would make for a gripping tale and a great read if it were to be captured in literary form or even as a movie.
But like most of her fellow comrades she seems more interested in following the paths of the majority of her party elders, which is to die without leaving behind recorded personal accounts of their life stories.
“We received the same training as our male comrades and slept in barracks made of grass and wood. During menstruation we used a certain type of grass in place of pads, but this left us with sores and infections,” Chikwinya said.
This history is not only important in the fight for women’s recognition, but is significant in giving us as many narratives of our history as possible.
Last year, Cephas Msipa offered us his memoir: In Pursuit of Freedom and Justice.
While it has attracted varying reactions from different readers, what is clear is that it has served to show the importance of different perspectives and not just the politically correct narratives of the liberation war.
Analyst Earnest Mudzengi believes that people are afraid to share their experiences in the contested history of our country.
“I think it has to do with fear. There are those who may want to write the real truth. History is usually written by the power holders so writing anything that may be contrary may affect your benefits in the line of patronage,” Mudzengi said.
This seems plausible because since the country’s independence in 1980, most of the central players have spent their time largely dancing to the tune of those in control of the levers of power.
There have been few exceptions such as the late Dzinashe Machingura, who published Dzino-Memoirs of a Freedom Fighter, which was dismissed by some within the ruling party as the tales of a bitter man.
But others, hungry for an alternative to the official line, hailed his work for not just its quality, but also for what it sought to expose.
Msipa described himself as a teacher by choice, but a politician by circumstances.
This places him in the same boat with many war veterans including Chikwinya, who felt compelled by fate to take up the call to fight for freedom.
“I wanted to be an air hostess for Air Rhodesia. I went for the interviews and was later informed that I had done very well but could not be accommodated because the places for black applicants were limited. This is what drove me to go to Mozambique and join the fight because now I had a personal cause to fight for,” Chikwinya said.
Mudzengi believes that one key figure who owes the country an account of his life is President Robert Mugabe.
“I think he was working on his memoirs and this was being spearheaded by the late Nathan Shamuyarira. I don’t know how far this had gone at the time of Shamuyarira’s death. I would personally urge Mugabe to write his memoirs. We would especially love to have his perspective.
“Nelson Mandela gave us his. Why not Mugabe? The best we have seen of Mugabe are pictures”.
Zimbabwe has lacked the stories of people who no longer have vested interests in the political sphere. The ZANU-PF tradition of leaders clinging on to their offices till death has not served the country well in this regard.
Without these accounts, future generations could most likely remember more what has transpired in the latter years and disregard the important phase where black people fought to liberate the country from the shackles of colonialism. But the penchant by some to keep some inconvenient truths away from the public glare could frustrate any disclosures by former war fighters.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette