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313 Chapter 13 Synergy and Dissonance between History and Heritage: Problematizing Heroism and the National Heroes’ Acre in the Context of Zimbabwe’s Liberation War Fidelis Peter Thomas Duri Introduction The Zimbabwe National Heroes’ Acre – a national shrine – is a commemorative complex of 230 000 square-metres (23 hectares) in extent (Fisher 2010). It is located in the Warren Park Suburb of the capital city, Harare. Its construction started a year after independence on 12 September 1981. The national shrine is protected under the National Monuments Act, Chapter 25:11 (of 1976) which provides for, among other things, the legal protection and maintenance of national monuments and sites (Sibanda 2013; UNESCO Report 2012). The national hero’s status is the highest honour that can be given to a Zimbabwean national and the recipient is entitled for burial at the National Heroes Acre (Sibanda 2013). The conferment of national hero’s status also entitles the deceased’s immediate family to a number of benefits from the state such as a state-sponsored funeral and monthly pension (Sibanda 2012). Within the commemorative complex, there is also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that represents thousands of freedom fighters who perished during the struggle and are either not known or not decently buried according to the culture of the land. A museum was also set up at the site to articulate Zimbabwe’s liberation war history and heritage (Shamuyarira, Kumar and Kangai 1995). The National Heroes’ Acre was primarily established to represent and articulate the history and heritage of Zimbabwe’s liberation war. Lamentably, the monument has been the subject of fierce controversy among various stakeholders, many of who argue 314 that it does not adequately represent Zimbabwe’s anti-colonial struggle because of, among other things, the selectively partisan nature in the conferment of national heroes’ status, the omission of some prominent personalities, the inclusion of some controversial and ‘underserving’ characters, and various distortions in the liberation war narratives, among other reasons. This chapter argues that the politicisation of heroism in Zimbabwe is flawed by acknowledging the contribution of political allies at the expense of opponents and overlooking the contribution of people who did not play central political roles, such as philanthropists, during the liberation struggle. A National Heroes’ Acre that honours only politicians, especially people from one political party, leaving out geniuses and philanthropists of national credence, does not justify its existence. In addition, if a National Heroes’ Acre only honours liberation war fighters, particularly those from one political party, what it means is that there shall come a time when there will be no one qualifying to be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre. In other words, once the whole generation that was directly involved in the liberation war passes on, then the National Heroes’ Acre will have to be closed. Hence, there is need to seriously consider other personalities who played prominent political roles in the struggle and ended up in opposition politics after independence and those that did not directly participate in the politics of the liberation war but did commendable work for the national as a whole. This will allow people like prominent national philanthropists to qualify as National Heroes and Heroines. It is the central contention of this chapter that the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party led by Robert Mugabe is at the centre of this discord between the history and heritage of Zimbabwe’s liberation war through its monopolisation and privatisation of discourses regarding the anti-colonial struggle and conferment of national heroes’ status, and the subsequent burial proceedings at the National Heroes’ Acre. The chapter also argues that the image of the National Heroes’ Acre can be authenticated and enhanced if the history and heritage of the struggle are harmonised through broader and more inclusive dialogical mechanisms. 315 Theoretical conceptualisation of history and heritage The term ‘heritage’ is derived from an ancient French word meaning that which is passed from an earlier generation to another. ‘History’ owes its origins from a Latin term historia meaning inquiry (Fisher 2010). David Lowenthal (1998: 128-129) insists that history and heritage are two poles apart, thus: “History and heritage transmit different things to different audiences. History tells all who will listen what has happened and how things came to be as they are. Heritage passes on exclusive myths of origin and continuance, endowing a select group with prestige and common purpose…History is for all, heritage for (us) alone.” Unlike history which...


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