Zimbabwe Honors Africa’s Heroes

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Zimbabwe conferred the country’s highest honors and awards to Africa’s distinguished luminaries who played a pivotal role in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle from Western colonial rule.

On the eve of Independence Day commemoration, at a glittering ceremony, President Robert Mugabe awarded the late founding father of Tanzania Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere and others the Royal Order of Munhumutapa, a post-humously. It was presented to Mrs. Maria Nyerere in recognition for her husband’s contribution to Zimbabwe’s liberation.

Nyerere was one of Africa’s most revered son and respected voice on the continent in the 1960s and 1970s. He vigorously advocated for the total liberation of Zimbabwe and other African countries at various regional and international fora. He also shared the same socialist principles as Zimbabwe’s main liberation movement, Zanu-PF. “For his exceptional accomplishments as the luminary and conscience of African nationalism, the fulcrum of liberation efforts in the region and for his outstanding contribution to Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle against colonialism and all its tentacles–the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe hereby awards posthumously to Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the Royal Order of Munhumutapa,� in Gold, read the citation.

The award is named after Munhumutapa, the founding father of the greatest empire which once existed south of the Zambezi river stretching from modern day Zimbabwe to Mozambique in the East in the pre-colonial era. Freedom fighter and late former Mozambican president Samora Moises Machel was also conferred posthumously with the Order of Munhumutapa for his contributions to Zimbabwe’s liberation.

Despite the deadly Rhodesian military strikes in Mozambican territory, with Western-supplied weapons, including the massive bombings at Tembwe, Chimoio and Nyadzonya bases of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla, Zanu’s armed wing), Machel remained a pillar of support.

Thousands of freedom fighters were trained in Mozambique and were able to penetrate into Rhodesia to defeat the Ian Smith racist regime.

Samora Machel Jr., received the award on behalf of his father. Other revolutionaries conferred with the Royal Order of Munhumutapa were Zambia’s founding president Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, Sir Seretse Khama,  Botswana’s founding president and the late President Agostinho Neto of Angola. Mrs. Neto received the posthumous award while Tshekedi Khama received the award on behalf of his late father.

President Mugabe said the event evoked deep emotions in himself and the people in Zimbabwe. He said although all but one of the foreign recipients were dead, it was important that they be remembered “in a very special way and do so on the very soil they helped liberate.� He added: “We recognize those deeds and through them celebrate the spectacular history which those deeds begot for Africa. We are free, thanks to these gallant men.�

In a clear assault at the historical distortions that have been widely disseminated about the continent and its history, Mugabe also stressed the importance of recognizing Africa’s achievers. He praised pioneers like Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, and Gamal Nasser, adding that, “through such awards, we reaffirm our Africaness, challenging the  false gods who have sat long and heavy on our real heroes, our real history, thanks to colonial education. We proclaim our pan-African spirit, stressing we shall never be a colony again.â€?

Home grown heroes honored included the two late vice presidents–Dr. Joshua Nkomo and Dr. Simon Muzenda. Zimbabwe’s late first Black medical doctor, Dr. Samuel Parirenyatwa was also honored as were the late finance minister Dr. Bernard Chidzero, veteran nationalist Leopold Takawira and Professor Solomon Mutsvairo who wrote the country’s national anthem. The ceremony was attended by regional leaders and other invited guests from Africa and abroad.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’s Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Please send comments to letters@blackstarnews.com. For more reports go to “subscribe� on the homepage or call (212) 481-7745 to get the newsstand edition of The Black Star.

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