War vets, youth share struggle lessons for a better Zimbabwe

Mr Mahiya (right) speaks to Youth Forum Programme Manager Ashton Bumhira and Mr Marvellous Khumalo the Director of CHITREST

By Chitownews Citizen reporter.

More than sixty Youth activists in Zimbabwe’s third largest and most vibrant town of Chitungwiza had a rare opportunity to engage with the youth of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s who successfully prosecuted a political and armed struggle against the white minority Rhodesian regime that gave birth to an independent Zimbabwe in 1980.

The public meeting organized by Youth Forum, a youth servicing civil society organization- last Thursday at the CCAP church near Zengeza 2 shopping centre. According the public meeting’s convener Mr. Ashton Bumhira who works as Youth Forum’s Program Officer, the meeting sought to bridge the generational divide that has become a permanent feature in Zimbabwe’s political terrain. It also sought to interrogate whether the revolution of the 1970s had achieved its objectives or not in light of the deepening political and economic crisis currently obtaining in Zimbabwe.

The public meeting’s theme was: Youth and war veterans dialoguing for better communities. The public meeting which took the form of a panel discussion was moderated by former St. Marys MP, Marvellous Khumalo who is now Director of the Chitungwiza Residents Trust (CHITREST). CCDN’s Program manager Admire Mutize together with Philemon Jambaya- founding member of Young Journalists Association (YOJA) were the two discussants while Douglas Mahiya, the fiery spokesperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) was the guest of honour and gave a keynote address that was peppered with firs thand accounts of key historical moments in Zimbabwe’s armed struggle.

Youth Forum Coordinator Wellington Zindove got the ball rolling with a stirring welcome address that chronicled the struggle for a better Zimbabwe from the pre-colonial times through the first Chimurenga, colonialism and the struggle for an independent Zimbabwe.

He called for, “a seamless struggle for a better Zimbabwe with successive generations of youths sharing values and revolutionary principles for social justice and national development across the generational divide.” He described the public meeting as the first of a series of national dialogues that will culminate in a national stakeholder’s conference that will tackle the national questions of the day.

Mr. Mutize from the CCDN who spoke on behalf of Chitungwiza residents and youth in Zimbabwe gave a presentation that called on today’s youth to embrace political participation and stake their claim in the governance of their communities and nation. He bemoaned the lack of interest in politics by the youth of the day and the absence of a compelling ideology or vision which the youth of today can rally around and unite across the political divide in the same way that African nationalism and socialism united and galvanized into action for youth of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s who waged a political and armed struggle against British imperialism.

He called on participants to take the bull by the horns and compete for political positions in the 2018 elections which he described as a ‘make or break’ moment in the political trajectory of Zimbabwe. He called on the youths present to learn lessons from the war veterans in political mobilization for national convergence. He concluded by reiterating the important duty that youth play in social and political developments in Zimbabwe history, present and described the ‘generational mandate’ that the youth of today carried was to deliver a democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe to their children- not a failed state where citizens perished from medieval diseases like typhoid and cholera due to mismanagement and rampant corruption.

Mr. Jambaya from YOJA lambasted the war veterans for having abandoned the principles of the revolutionary struggle and being willing accomplices in Mugabe’s dynasty project. He recalled events in Zimbabwe’s recent history such as the chaotic farm invasions in the early 2 000s, the political violence which marred the 2002 election which was spearheaded by war veterans and the gruesome 2008 human rights abuses which were also perpetrated by the same group. He welcomed the war veterans to the people saying that ‘they had lost a factional fight within ZANU PF and had been thrown to the masses after differing with their patron of succession’.

Mr. Mahiya arrived during heated exchanges and his presence livened up the meeting. He gave a stirring speech defending the war veterans’ conduct saying impostors and fake war veterans were responsible for the electoral violence not genuine war veterans. He said genuine freedom fighters who underwent military training and political education in the jungles of Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania and the deserts of Libya and Morocco were disciplined and guided by revolutionary principles. In a comical moment that had in meeting roaring with laughter, he told participants that one can identify such impostors by the misplaced and overzealous zeal they depicted when chanting ZANU PF slogans or praising the party president.

“Mukaona vanhu vanoti pamberi-mberi-mberi ne ZANU PF, pamberi-mberi-mberi-mberi nava Mugabe ndivo vaiva vatengesi nguva yehondo vadzoka nekutora musangano kuti vabe mari! We used to call them the I have been to. Because they always bragged about their western education and would always begin their conversations by saying I-have-been-to”.

“Just ask yourself why are they so energetic if they were youths in the 1960s? Why are you still so energetic and excited about the Leader and party when the country is in crisis”, he retorted as he displayed his oratory skills.