Reflecting on the essence of unity, peace

As Zimbabweans celebrate Unity Day tomorrow, it is pertinent to reflect on the spirit of unity in nation-building, cognisant of the fact that harmony is the bedrock of collective prosperity and stability in which peace plays a pivotal role.

With President Mnangagwa steadfastly calling for national reconciliation; healing and unity, therefore, are crucial elements, for a divided nation stumbles in its quest to move forward.

Tensions in their nature are counter-productive, hence the eternal need to reduce them by creating platforms for inclusive dialogue, promoting common understanding, uplifting communities, and resolving past conflicts.

This year’s celebrations come as public hearings to document and resolve civil disturbances, commonly referred to as Gukurahundi, that occurred in the Matabeleland region and some parts of the Midlands Province in the 1980s are set to begin early next year, marking the beginning of a historically momentous national healing and reconciliation process.

Envisaged to be led by more than 70 chiefs from Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces, the hearings seek to bring closure to the emotive post-independence clashes.

The signing of the Unity Accord on December 22, 1987, between the country’s two liberation movements; ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU represented by the late former President Robert Mugabe and the late Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, respectively, ushered in a new era of peace that Zimbabweans have been enjoying and celebrating for over three decades now.

Zimbabweans should jealously guard the accord, for unity is the foundation of development. Without unity, all collective aspirations are doomed.

Unity means a lot to any nation.

By dint of its quintessence, nation-building calls for much more than just showy individual whims.

Playing tomfoolery with nationalism and unity to appease cameras, particularly for extraterrestrial audiences, does not constitute patriotism, nor is it in any way grandiose.

Concerning unity and collective struggle in fostering nationhood, Bissau-Guinean Pan-Africanist intellectual and revolutionary, Amilcar Cabral (1924-1973), affirms in “Unity and Struggle” (1973): “Unity is a means towards struggle, and as with all means, a little goes a long way.”

He maintains that: “it is not necessary to unite all the population to struggle in a country”, because there should be a degree of understanding on whether “all the population are united.”

Cabral argues that “a certain degree of unity is enough. Once we have reached it then we can struggle.”

The argument here is on the understanding of unity, as a value gained and kept in pursuant of an ultimate goal: to achieve for the greater good of all citizens.

However, this can only become possible if “a certain degree of unity” is achieved, through identification of like-minded individuals, whose desire for unity is selfless.

Cabral maintains: “The ideas in the heads of these persons advance and develop and serve increasingly to achieve the aim we have in view. So, you have seen more or less what is the basic idea expressed in this principle of ours — unity.”

It can be discerned here that talk of unity should project shared meanings.

ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU shared such a vision; a vision premised on collective suffering and steeped in sacrifice for the common good.

Having been in the trenches long enough to remember the meaning of struggle, ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU, therefore, were alive to the significance of unity.

They drew inspiration from Cabral’s words that “struggle is a normal condition of all living creatures in the world”.

As liberation movements, and through their revolutionary armies; ZANLA and ZIPRA, the parties were alive to the fact that “all are in struggle”, and should “advance towards the struggle secure in the reality of our land (with our feet planted on the ground.”

The cultural, political, social and economic reality of our land has both “positive aspects and negative aspects, has strengths and weaknesses” as Cabral points out.

Zanu PF has remained alive to the ethos of struggle that culminated in the Unity Accord of 1987, which Zimbabweans, as a collective, should draw inspiration from.

Yes, there will always be weaknesses and strengths; positives and negatives, in all that a people endeavour for.

However, it should be known that strengths are derived from weaknesses, and that positivity is drawn from those negative aspects of the reality of our land.

To achieve this as a people, we should be unity-driven from within, and aim for shared gain by beaming our story on the huge global screen; not as outsiders, but as participants. After all, it remains our story. It is the story of our travails, our aspirations, and our dreams.

If the ultimate goal is to tread on to our preferred destiny, then scalding our feet will not help us much. Gouging out each other’s eyes in an attempt to inspire ideological vision can only render all of us blind.

In polarised societies, individuals gain political mileage through exploitation of the perceived docility of the people. The people matter as they are the source of the power politicians ride on.

The people neither belong to politicians, nor to political parties; they belong to the nation. In other words, they belong to each other.

The struggle is theirs, for they wage it, and, therefore, as Cabral notes, the result is theirs too. Since the people own the struggle, they remain an important cog in whatever decisions are made on their behalf.

In matters of unity and struggle, there is a valid question that Cabral raises: “You have already clearly understood what the people are. The question we now pose is the following: against whom are our people struggling?”

If the people overwhelmingly articulated their voice through the harmonised elections of August 23 and 24, 2023, by giving President Mnangagwa and his party, Zanu PF a five-year mandate to lead them, should they keep on struggling; for whom and against whom?

Are the people now being turned against themselves? If individual components are merged without due diligence, will the resultant unity benefit the whole?

Cabral contends that “it is clear that a struggle like ours, a Party like ours, requires secure stooges, we do not want errand boys.

“We want men, comrades who know what they are doing, our comrades, who can look us straight in the face, who can engage in debate with due respect on both sides.”

As a political, social and economic ideology, and movement, nationalism is characterised by the promotion of the interests of a nation, especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining its sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland.

The people’s struggle, therefore, is for the sustenance of nationhood, premised on collective gain, where individual aspirations are scoffed at.

Cabral maintains: “Obviously a people’s struggle is effectively theirs if the reason for that struggle is based on the aspirations, the dreams, the desire for justice and progress of the people themselves and not on the aspirations, dreams or ambitions of half a dozen persons, or of a group of persons who are in contradiction with the actual interests of their people.”

The reality of our land, the history of our liberation struggle, is implicit in our daily toils, and interactions with the empire and its stooges.

Therefore, any talk of unity should play beyond politicking, where the national interest is the ultimate winner, for no conflicting streams are ever known to merge. Along a collision course they turbulently flow towards doom, or converge in a disastrous fashion.

Unity is a quest for national peace, healing, cohesion and reconciliation, for it puts the nation ahead of factional and personal interest. It is a sense of purpose in pursuit of oneness.

The words of Dr Geoffrey T Chada, a historian, who also served as a commissioner and spokesperson for the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), are probably more reflective, as he told The Herald:

“Unity must dispel political impunity and political factionalism. Unity is there to promote the politics of love, without which there will be no peace. Unity must promote dialogue. Dialogue, in my view, is the art, skill of thinking together, so as to solve our problems.

“Unity guarantees peace and cohesion, guarantees freedom of expression, guarantees national development and political stability. Community, social and political stability cannot be possible without unity.

“Effectively, unity is a search for the Zimbabwe we want for us and future generations.”

As we celebrate Unity Day tomorrow and beyond, therefore, let us all reflect on what we are doing as individuals to ensure the development of our communities through fostering unity, harmony and peace, for prosperity has an affinity for such. It is this that we all aspire for as Zimbabweans.


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