The Sunday Mail
IN the Shona language, wisdom is conveyed through maxims.
The maxims are general rules of life anchored on fundamental truths presented in an almost poetic way.
They should be both memorable and applicable.
One of the most popular maxims is “Chengaose, manhanga, hapana risina mhodzi”.
The wisdom behind this invaluable piece of philosophical reflection is that nothing and no one is entirely worthless.
It is an indigenous knowledge that recalls the diligence in acknowledging everyone’s role whenever something monumental – like national independence – has been achieved.
Over the years, the history of the war in Zimbabwe has been somewhat incomplete.
During the country’s 42 years of independence, sufficient honor was given to veterans, but relatively lower status was accorded to war collaborators known as mujibhas and chimbwidos.
Their exclusion from war discourse is well documented.
Professor Charles Pfukwa, in his doctoral dissertation, lamented how the mujibhas and chimbwidos became obscure at the end of the war.
“It was the young civilians who supported the guerrillas and bore the brunt of the war in the operational areas. The chimbwidos were the teenage girls who cooked meals for the guerrillas and washed and mended their clothes. The mujibhas were the young boys who gathered intelligence information for the guerrillas and acted as guides. They simply disappeared in 1980 and there are few traces of their names,” writes Professor Pfukwa.
Her thoughts mirror those shared by Dr. Fay Chung in her seminal text, Re-living the Second Chimurenga, in which she discusses how important being a collaborator in war was at the height of the war.
Explaining how Bishop Abel Muzorewa fell out of political favor while he was Prime Minister, Dr Chung explains how local families, due to the widespread involvement of their children in the war, looked down on anything that seemed to support the settler regime.
“. . . almost every black family now had a son or daughter in the liberation struggle, working either as chimbwidos or mujibhas, the young girls and boys who helped the guerrillas in the country, or as freedom fighters themselves,” writes -she.
The Ministry of Defense and Veterans Affairs noted the anomaly and initiated the process of verifying and registering those who contributed to the Second Chimurenga, but did not necessarily go to the front.
“205,753 candidates registered for examination. It was quite evident that the largest number were from war collaborators and also from non-combat executives,” Defense and Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told the media at the launch of the program last month.
From there, there was a decentralized process to vet war collaborators, authenticate their stories, and test their veracity.
A mujibha, Sekuru Gabriel Murambiwa (88), described how his role in the liberation struggle caused him to endanger his daily job as a driver.
He was a politically curious figure and found himself exchanging letters between ZAPU leaders in the early 1960s.
He passed letters between an incarcerated former vice-president, Cde Joshua Nkomo, and his two deputies, Cdes James Chikerema and George Nyandoro who were outside.
“When ZAPU was banned, Cde Nkomo and other leaders escaped and went to Zambia. As young people, we remained behind the clandestine operations of sabotage and the politicization of the people. Later, Cde Nkomo returned to the country and he was arrested as soon as he arrived at the airport. He was taken to Gonakudzingwa. I then decided to go and join the liberation struggle and so I went to Zambia, to Lusaka,” he said.
He wanted to fight for the liberation of his country, literally, but was surprised when he was given a role that required more mental dexterity than strength.
“In Zambia, I was welcomed by Cdes Nyandoro and Chikerema. I told them that I had come to join the liberation struggle and wanted to train, but the two comrades said they had a special task for me. They told me they wanted me to deliver letters to Cde Nkomo who was in Gonakudzingwa,” said Sekuru Murambiwa.
He would cross borders with letters, a crime that amounted to treason in colonial times.
“I had decided to join the liberation struggle on my own and so when I was given this task, I just said that it was part of the fight against the fight. I was not the person the smarter, so I fit the role perfectly. You know, I was arriving at the Chirundu border post with Rhodesian police everywhere, but somehow they were missing the letters in my pocket. When I arrived at the border, the police searched my belongings, they didn’t search me and so I entered Rhodesia,” Sekuru Murambiwa added.
He said that at Gonakudzingwa prison, Nkomo’s conditions of detention had been relaxed and he was now allowed to receive visitors.
“I will tell the prison guards that I have come to see the president and they will take me to his cell. When I met Nkomo, I introduced myself and told him that I had been sent with a letter from Chikerema and Nyandoro from Zambia. Nkomo was really happy to read the letter,” Murambiwa said.
“He asked me how the situation was outside and how the party was going. He asked too much of me in a short time. I could see he was eager to get as much information as possible.
When the risk of arrest arose, he returned to Salisbury and was reintegrated into society after performing his task with aplomb.
Those who went to the battlefield fighting for the soul of the land are happy that the people who contributed greatly to independence on their small scale are now officially recognized by the state.
ZANU PF veterans secretary Cde Douglas Mahiya said recognition of war collaborators was long overdue.
“War was not just about firing the cannon, it was the total employment of available human resources in the battle against the enemy. Things were uncertain and no one knew when the war would end. The rear was as important as the front, that’s why it had to continue to be strengthened because it provided trusted cadres who could be called to work at any time,” said Cde Mahiya.
Cde Mahiya explained how war collaborators sacrificed a lot to contribute to the liberation struggle, at a time when Rhodesian forces were at their worst.
“Those in the front were responsible for the increase in the number of people in the back. To keep the rear active, we expected reinforcements. People were going to train and waiting to replace those who were at the front, who would be dead or injured,” Cde Mahiya said.
He said that now that the verification appears to have gone through with considerable success, they are now waiting for the fine print on what is due to all who passed.
“The president has made it clear that we must recognize everyone who contributed to the war. The issue was debated in Parliament. What remains now is the publication of the statutory instrument or law stating to what extent they will be compensated. Recognition is progressive, if someone has contributed, they must be recognized,” explained Cde Mahiya.
It is well known that veterans and their collaborators find solace in the ideas of the ruling party, ZANU PF.
Cde Mahiya said they have already made arrangements for them to actively contribute to the growth of the party.
“We will be mobilizing war collaborators into a ZANU PF structure known as the Veterans Struggle League and they will also have the opportunity to help run the party,” Cde Mahiya added.
One of the most prominent musicians in post-independence Zimbabwe, whose lyrics are grounded in Marxist philosophy, the late Simon Chimbetu made a bugle call in his song Pane Asipo.
The song is a double meaning, which at one end praises those who lost their lives in the clutches of war.
It also reminds the post-independent republic of Zimbabwe not to feast until the full cast is settled.
Being a mujibha himself, perhaps Chimbetu, who was granted provincial hero status after his death, was speaking out about his own plight.
If he were alive, recent developments might have inspired him to write another, in response to the recognition finally given to collaborators in war.