The significance of Heroes Day in Zimbabwe is that it offers a day to revere the gallant sons and daughters who fought against the British for independence. The day also recognises contemporary Zimbabweans whose dedication to their country justifies the status of hero. Every second Monday and Tuesday of August are commemorated each year as Heroes and Defence Forces Day respectively.
During colonial times the days were known as Rhodes’ and Founders’ holidays, where the white minority celebrated their arrival. Now the days are a chance to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to liberate the masses.
On a hill, west of the Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, stands a tall beacon in the shape of a spear, featuring a flame, which has been lit at independence celebrations since 1982 embodying the Zimbabwean spirit of independence. The hill is known to all as the National Heroes Acre and this is where all heroes and heroines are laid to rest.
Addressing the crowds, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said, “The experience of war makes people value peace, all the more. As such, the defence of peace and stability we enjoy today is paramount and must be undertaken with valour and vigilance.”
Mnangagwa went on to say “Violence, discord, disunity, hatred, discrimination, tribalism, regionalism and corruption must be categorically rejected. They have no place in the new Zimbabwe.
“My government will continue to put in place the requisite safety nets to protect vulnerable members of our society. To this end, affordable transport services will continue to be rolled out, for both urban and rural areas,” added Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, General Valerio Sibanda said, “It’s very sad that we lost some civilian lives in August 2018 and January this year, otherwise the country remains safe and we intend to ensure that it remains that way. My vision is to see a force that will not be taken for granted.”
Ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) Youth League President Pupurai Togarepi also spoke to 7Dnews saying, “Zimbabwe is for all people, regardless of political affiliations. We must unite and be heroes in making our nation prosper and shun those who preach violence.”
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change - Tsvangirai (MDC-T), did not attend the celebrations but its President Nelson Chamisa in a statement said, “Disputed elections continue to pose a major blow to the fundamentals of the liberation struggle, whose clarion call was ‘One Man, One Vote.’ ”
(MDC-T) Youth Leader Obey Sithole told 7Dnews, “Youths constitute the greater part of the population, yet they remain relegated by the old guard to the peripherals of decision-making and development. Today is International Youth Day and it falls coincidentally as a strategic reminder and signal that we as young people have a generational mandate to save our country from destruction due to continued mis-governance.”
Designed by North Koreans the monument takes the shape of two AK-47s lying back-to-back and the graves are meant to resemble the guns’ magazines. National Hero Status is the highest honour that can be conferred to an individual by Zimbabwe and many heroes and ‘sheroes’ sacrificed their lives and some of these living legends are still with us.