My youthful soul bled profusely after my cousin had landed at Manyame Airbase in Harare badly injured and precariously close to his last day on earth. My troubled and hapless spirit experienced a thousand deaths when Arthur died at The Avenues Clinic in Harare from internal injuries sustained in a war zone. Arthur forever remains one of my unsung superheroes. The last time I saw him alive – I never said goodbye. Because he never made it back from the DRC war as the 29-year-old man who had left his homeland brimming with limitless energy and boundless hope for the future.
He never returned home as the cheerful brother who loved to have cold beers and salty roasted offal dishes for lunch on Sunday afternoons in Glen View One. He never returned home from the regional conflict as the man who loved action films and African music.He returned from the war unable to breathe properly and passed on after lying in a medically induced coma for about one week.
I remember the day he died vividly. It was a normal Saturday morning. Yet in one heartrending moment – life froze for an eternity when I received news of his unfortunate demise over the phone – and I have endured immeasurable agony since then. Yet nobody recognised this sad milestone of his. Life went on. Arthur had breathed his last so power hungry kleptocrats in Kinshasa could later on smother the democratic and social aspirations of millions of peace-loving Congolese citizens.
Arthur had moved on from this beautiful life so an unelected Joseph Kabila and his cabal of brutal securocrats can ably defraud the Democratic Republic of Congo of precious rare minerals and natural resources. Arthur had left his four-year-old son behind because he had represented Zimbabwe and perished under the authority of General Constantino Chiwenga.I never blamed General Chiwenga for his death. I simply mourned Arthur as best and manly as I could under the circumstances: I drank myself silly every night for about one month. And although he was not declared a hero by any eminent person or political body – all he had accomplished prior to his premature death was certainly heroic in my book. He had joined the Zimbabwe National Army as an artisan because he could not land a private sector job in an economy that had long failed to create enough jobs for thousands of graduates from technical colleges and universities around Zimbabwe. So the three years Arthur had spent becoming a qualified electrician at Mutare Polytechnic College prepared him for a brief and fatal career in the army. He had however completed his military training in Bulawayo with fantastic enthusiasm for his chosen profession and served his homeland well. He became that essential hero that Zimbabwe loves to overlook.He became a real patriot of a fallen man and father and husband who had made his small but unacknowledged contribution to Zimbabwe.
He had worked hard and bought a second-hand Japanese car and built a small house for his family in Ruwa. Still: it was all in vain. He never did live long enough to occupy the house in Ruwa. While Kabila has incessantly and brutishly defied democracy a la Yahya Jammeh – with the full and unqualified support of SADC. So I do not really understand why my cousin sacrificed his life for a bloodthirsty tyrant like Kabila. Nobody ever remembers the thousands of men and women who served in the DRC. Nobody remembers my uncle Robert – a 1970s war veteran – unless there is an electoral campaign underway in Harare and boots on the ground are required.
Nobody recalls the heroes who are not interred at the National Heroes Acre or Provincial Heroes Acres in Zimbabwe.Nobody remembers that – like the DRC war – the battle for independence was a national sacrifice and not an exclusive military campaign: an entire nation proffered life and shed blood and sweat and tears for the liberation of Zimbabwe. From the lush green valleys of Manicaland to the parched grasslands of Nkayi and Gwanda and Tsholotsho – right through to the dusty plains that surround the Matopo Hills and swamplands that occupy the marshy areas near Kariba dam – everyone lost an uncle and aunt whenever a soldier went down in battle.
But to hear General Chiwenga form the impression that independence began and ended with him and his immediate colleagues and people who carried AK-47s – when every patriotic Zimbabwean has experienced profound pain and died in the spirit a thousand times over and over again since Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi were executed by British colonialists in the 19th century – hurts.We all remember the martyrs who died at Nyadzonya Refugee Camp in 1976. We all salute the heroes who died at Chimoio in 1977. We all recall how heroic commanders like Alfred Nikita Mangena and Lookout Masuku and Dumiso Dabengwa nearly laid their lives down for us in the heat of battle.
And when the fight for political independence was won and thousands of fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters did not return home from ZANLA and ZIPRA-controlled bases in Mozambique and Zambia – we wailed in unison and then celebrated as one nation – but soldiered on – because a new battlefront was established across the land immediately after independence: the economic landscape. Now the children born after the liberation war stand tall on the battlefront. Yet General Chiwenga consigns each and every political and economic matter to the unassailable context of the liberation war.
Can somebody tell him about Arthur? Can somebody tell him about the unemployed youths in Binga and Chipinge who live on less than one United States dollar a day? Tell him about the war veterans who are poor and destitute and uneducated. Tell him about the estimated three million people who live in foreign lands. Tell him about the 4.1 million Zimbabweans who need food aid.Tell him we can all read newspapers and understand that he is a very wealthy man. So while he can afford to live in magnificent splendour – the rest of us are still stuck in a do or die battle against poverty and unemployment and monetary decline – and in comparison, have a very tiny percentage of the massive personal wealth and property he commands.
Which explains why the battle lives on in Silobela and Rusape and Muzarabani – on myriad political and socio-economic fronts. So can someone please find Advocate Fadzayi Mahere, and whisper a few words of advice in her ear? Zimbabwe requires the promulgation of mandatory lifestyle audits for all serving and retired civil servants and their immediate families. General Chiwenga has made it clear that there are forces that are determined to undermine the economic revolution. All political parties and independent parliamentary candidates should insist on the introduction of random lifestyle audits for all civil servants without fear or favour.
Let us audit the proverbial man on the potholed street in Mbizo high density suburb and the apparently untouchable so-called chef who drives a Mercedes Benz G series and lives in FolyJon Crescent in Helensvale with equal enthusiasm and studious ruthlessness. Yes. The time for real transparency and decisive action and less confusing talk is now.So let us summon the mighty and inspirational spirits of Joshua Nkomo and Eddison Zvobgo? The economic revolution must be entrenched in financial legalities and lawful actions and not factional loyalties and fancy words and shady production schemes. We need more companies like Econet Wireless on the horizon to reduce unemployment and not state-owned businesses like Air Zimbabwe.
Does General Chiwenga know that poor management practices and corporate malfeasance at parastatals that have been led by former army commandants – companies like the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Grain Marketing Board – have bred woeful indebtedness and dysfunctional operations? The NRZ alone owes creditors US$144 million and must secure US$68 million to cover outstanding salaries.
That – if ever General Chiwenga requires a subtle suggestion or timeless reminder – is the real enemy of Zimbabwe: the twin terror of civil service corruption and mismanagement of public resources and capital.People want change and fresh faces and breakthrough ideas – yes? Yet do people want an authentic revolution in culture or simply a fresh set of political and economic personalities in parliament and government? We need a brand-new culture of practical and unbiased financial and political accountability – one where unscrupulous civil servants and morally-bankrupt businesspeople do not become role models and superheroes for poor and impressionable youths.
We need lifestyle audits that will have serious and lawful repercussions for transgressors who are normally clad in superbly tailored Gucci suits and ties. We need clean governance and profit-driven commercial entities which do not rely on tribal affiliations and political godfathers to do business and create jobs. Because when it comes to the very things which make this life on earth sweet and enjoyable: a nice job, a cosy home and three solid meals a day – plus decent savings in the bank and a loving family – nobody deserves to have more peace of mind and unrestrained happiness than the real superheroes of Zimbabwe: ordinary women and men like Arthur.
Writes Tafi Mhaka, Political Analyst and Writer