By Japhet Moyo, ZCTU Secretary-General
Once again, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) joins the rest of Zimbabweans in commemorating the national Heroes and Defence Forces Day. Heroes Day is a day to remember both our fallen and living heroes and heroines who extricated this country from minority colonial rule. The Defence Forces Day is a day we pay tribute to the gallant armed forces of Zimbabwe for their role in protecting Zimbabwe from foreign aggression.
Thousands of Zimbabweans perished fighting for freedom. We salute them for not being selfish. We also salute our living heroes and heroines who are working tirelessly to bring political and economic freedom and prosperity. These are our current heroes who are in the trenches to make sure that what our yesteryear heroes fought for becomes a reality. These include the right to freedom of speech and movement that has been curtailed by the current government.
Unfortunately, we celebrate these two days as the country and the world at large is under the grip of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic which has forced the country to go under lockdown to stem the spread of the virus.
We note with sadness that the citizenry only gained political independence. All other freedoms and liberties such as economic freedom, the right to assembly and associate remain a mirage. The majority of citizens are still under the shackles of socio-economic oppression and basic freedoms and rights are not being enjoyed.
As we said during our Independence Day message, for millions of workers and citizens, 40 years of independence have not brought positive milestones. Workers and citizens have faced hardships over the years. The standard of living for an ordinary Zimbabwean has degenerated in the past 40 years compared to the pre-independence period.
It is a shame and indeed serious indictment for our leadership that people are looking back with nostalgia and fondness the yesteryears of Ian Smith’s better economic conditions despite Smith’s oppressive and evil regime.
Some of our yesteryear heroes and heroines have turned against the people and have embraced and mastered the vices they fought against during the liberation struggle. Abductions, arrests, corruption, violence, fear, thuggery, deprivation, segregation, inequalities, and repression are the order of the day. The so-called liberators have become masters and experts of repression.
It is also disheartening that some members of the defence forces are being implicated and used in the brutal oppression of the masses they are supposed to protect. We have seen civilians being shot at point-blank range by members of the security forces for demonstrating against the government.
We have also had people being abducted and tortured by people who are alleged to be members of the security forces. We urge our Defence Forces to uphold their ethical and professional oaths and to protect the people, not individuals or political parties. Their allegiance is to Zimbabwe, its constitution, and no one else.
We believe that those who are being abused to oppress the citizens are a few rouge elements benefiting from the feeding trough. These are the same people who are moving around harassing and extorting money from people in the name of enforcing lockdown measures.
While the majority of our defence forces remain loyal to Zimbabweans, the few rogue elements are inflicting irreparable damage to our military and country’s image. Let this holiday be a time of reflection for our leaders. The post-November 17, 2017 has seen serious military miscalculations by our defence forces. 1 August 2018 and January 2019 killings stick out. Of recent, abductions and the July 31, 2020 clampdown on a planned demonstration against corruption flies in the face of our military and its respect for democracy.
As we salute our heroes and heroines while locked in our homes, we call upon all stakeholders to retrace the vision of our forebearers. Their vision and values must remain to be a guiding torch and source of inspiration to our defence forces today.
The military and governance systems that were envisaged by the late Hebert Chitepo, Joshua Nkomo, Josiah Tongogara, and the multitudes of freedom fighters that did not live to see an independent Zimbabwe need to be resuscitated. Let this holiday be a time to reflect back to the Jewel of Africa of 1980; evaluate what it could be today and work towards the restoration of such.
God Bless Zimbabwe. Please stay and keep safe.