The Last Post resounds for Pupu war heroes

As the final note of ‘The Last Post’ echoed through the air at Pupu in Lupane yesterday, those in attendance could have been forgiven for thinking that the National Heroes Acre had shifted from the capital and taken root in the heart of Matabeleland North.

“The Last Post”, as its name implies, is a melody performed as a poignant farewell to fallen servicemen. It symbolises the completion of their duty, allowing them to find eternal peace.

It is a tune that Zimbabweans have heard countless times at the National Heroes Acre each time the country loses a gallant son or daughter whose exploits deserve the sad and  forlorn stanzas of “The Last Post”.  Yet, this time, President Mnangagwa was not at the National Heroes Acre as he bowed in respect and placed wreaths on the commemorative tombstone just outside the Pupu Battlefield Memorial Site, paying homage to five Ndebele regiments that sacrificed life and limb to protect King Lobengula from a colonial force that  pursued him all the way from Bulawayo with murderous intent. To those brave men under the Ingubo, Insukamini, Imbizo, Ihlathi, and Nyamandlovu regiments, who had grappled with colonial forces in do-or-die battles around Matabeleland, the musical call of “The Last Post” came 131 years too late. 

Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga pays his respects after laying a wreath on the tomb of fallen Ndebele warriors at the Pupu Battlefield Memorial Site in Lupane yesterday

However, it is better late than never and yesterday, as President Mnangagwa took measured steps around the Pupu Battlefield Memorial Site, the country took a giant leap in its attempt to retell a history that has for too long been sullied by colonial storytellers. 

It is a process that President Mnangagwa in his speech acknowledged would continue around the country. 

“I also appeal to izinduna, the chiefs, if there’s any historical site that you know, we as the Second Republic are ready to make sure that it is preserved and protected,” he said. President Mnangagwa was not alone on this occasion that saw the Government successfully rewrite a key part of the country’s history, which will continue to inspire generations to come. 

On this auspicious occasion, he was flanked by his Vice-Presidents Dr Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, Cabinet ministers, traditional leaders and business people.  Also joining large gathering were men and women who grappled with the mammoth task of wrestling back their own country’s history from imperialist forces — the ordinary villagers of Pupu. 

Having lived their humble lives on the doorsteps of history, they were still desperate to see a story that had been told around fireplaces come to life through art and being immortalised. 

Raising clouds of dust as they walked towards the memorial site, eager to find a seat and catch a glimpse of history in the making, those that could not find chairs were not deterred, as they perched on branches and for one day at least, decided to share a habitat with birds.

Vice president Kembo Mohadi lays wreath on the tomb of fallen Ndebele warriors at the Pupu Battlefield Memorial Site in Lupane yesterday

The main attraction was, of course, the Pupu Battlefield Memorial Site, which serves as a feast for both the lover of art and history. 

With a few brilliant broad strokes, the monument tells the story of the battle, beginning with the pursuit of King Lobengula, as he retreated from Bulawayo, right to the fever-pitch battle that saw Major Allan Wilson’s troops defeated on the blood-soaked soils of Pupu. 

The story ends at the famous Umtswiri tree, where a contemplative King Lobengula finds rests and perhaps looks back at a nation felled by the greed and deception of the colonialists. 

The monument is history told in a few bold, colourful strokes, paying maximum attention to detail. With a few barrels of paint, the artistic collage rewrites a history that colonial historians spent countless barrels of ink trying to distort and annihilate.

When all was said and done, there was a giant cheer when President Mnangagwa was presented with a giant shield and knobkerrie at the end of the ceremony. 

The cheer was not only for the country’s Head of State and Government, an erstwhile liberator himself but for the long gone yesteryear forces, who went into the theatre of war and faced the colonialists’ death-spitting machine guns, with such simple tools and little to no fear in their hearts. 

In Pupu, they risked life and limb for their people, their land and their King. Now 131 years after their blood was smeared on the soils of Pupu, they were finally appropriately remembered, respected and honoured for their bravery and inspiration. 


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