Cre­at­ing a land of up­right peo­ple

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - COMMENT & FEEDBACK -

WE ARE in Red Oc­to­ber, a month soaked with the blood of mar­tyrs.

On Oc­to­ber 19, 1978, at least three Rhode­sian mil­i­tary bombers and eight he­li­copters at­tacked a Zipra camp full of girls and women at Mkushi in Zam­bia.

This was the same month that Rhode­sia also bombed Free­dom Camp and Tem­bwe. At Mkushi, hun­dreds of peo­ple were killed as they were caught un­awares, but they did not go down with­out a whim­per.

Ken Flower, then head of the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Or­gan­i­sa­tion, grudg­ingly and pa­tro­n­is­ingly con­ceded: “They gave a fair ac­count of them­selves fight­ing back like sol­diers and not women.”

You can read more about Mkushi else­where in this edi­tion of The Sun­day Mail, cour­tesy of the bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­count of Group Cap­tain Sitha­bile Sibanda aka Cde Ntombiyez­izweni Mh­langa as cap­tured by Tje­ne­sani Ntun­gakwa.

On Oc­to­ber 15, 1987, in a small coun­try in West Africa, Blaise Com­paoré took over Burk­ina Faso.

That was his bounty from the as­sas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Thomas Sankara.

Sankara was a man who op­posed bor­row­ing from the IMF and the World Bank; who preached the gospel of eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment; who in­vested in lo­cal food and tex­tile pro­duc­tion; who clamped down on pa­tri­archy; who pushed for­ward lit­er­acy and health­care pro­vi­sion; who tack­led cor­rup­tion and paid him­self a monthly salary of just US$450; who built rail­ways, roads and houses for the poor.

In 1984, Sankara had changed the coun­try’s name from Up­per Volta to Burk­ina Faso, which means “The Land of Up­right Peo­ple”.

An ac­count of his death, pre­sented in a doc­u­men­tary by Sil­ve­stro Mon­ta­naro for Ital­ian broad­caster RAI, has it that just be­fore Com­paoré al­legedly fired the first shot, Sankara said: “Blaise, you are my best friend, I call you my brother, and yet you as­sas­si­nate me?”

To this, Com­paoré re­port­edly re­sponded with an ir­ri­tated hand ges­ture, a few mum­bled French words, and a tight­en­ing of the trig­ger.

Just four days later, on Oc­to­ber 19, 1986, a Tupolev 134 air­craft crashed in the Le­bombo Moun­tains near Mbuzini in South Africa.

On board the plane were 44 peo­ple, 34 of whom per­ished.

Among the dead was Pres­i­dent Samora Moises Machel of Mozam­bique.

All ac­counts and prob­a­bil­ity point to apartheid South Africa be­ing at the heart of that mur­der.

Now, some peo­ple do not like Machel be­cause of his strong Marxist streak, some loathe him be­cause of his anti-re­li­gion po­si­tion.

We would rather not get into that ar­gu­ment, be­cause as Vlad­mir Putin put it when asked if he thought Ed­ward Snow­den was a trea­sonous wretch or a hero of free speech it is “like shear­ing a pig, too much squeak­ing, too lit­tle wool”.

What can­not be ar­gued about is the im­mense con­tri­bu­tion that Machel made to­wards restor­ing the dig­nity Africans.

This ded­i­cated pro­po­nent of peace never saw any­thing but war, and died in a most vi­o­lent fash­ion.

Oc­to­ber is a red month. It is soaked with the blood of mar­tyrs.

Their blood bids us in­tro­spect, urges us to place our ac­tions on a scale and mea­sure them to the sac­ri­fices made by oth­ers so that we reach where we are today.

Are we do­ing jus­tice to the sac­ri­fice when we pil­lage na­tional re­sources and in­dulge in wan­ton cor­rup­tion as we abuse pub­lic of­fice?

Are we building on their foun­da­tion when we splurge on ex­pen­sive im­ported trin­kets even as our fel­low cit­i­zens sleep in bank queues in the hope of maybe get­ting US$50 the next morn­ing?

Are we con­duct­ing our­selves with dig­nity, in­tegrity and pa­tri­o­tism when we place de­struc­tive fac­tional pol­i­tics above na­tional in­ter­ests?

Surely, even in a world los­ing its soul to in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic eco­nom­ics and pol­i­tics there is a strong case to be made for Ubuntu.

This Red Oc­to­ber, this month of the blood of mar­tyrs, we will not do our­selves any harm to re­flect on the words of Mariam Sankara, the widow of Thomas Sankara.

She once re­marked: “Thomas knew how to show his peo­ple that they could be­come dig­ni­fied and proud through willpower, courage, hon­esty and work. What re­mains above all of my hus­band is his in­tegrity.”

When we look at our­selves, when other peo­ple look at us, at our eco­nom­ics and our pol­i­tics, do they see in­tegrity?

Do they see pub­lic of­fi­cials work­ing to build a land of up­right peo­ple?

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