By Margaret Kamba
Many comrades have experienced sleepless nights for many years after coming back from the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe.
This is not peculiar to Zimbabwe but all countries that have experienced such.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD has affected many of them who never had an opportunity to be counselled or otherwise.
The mind just seemingly wanders into that part of the time when perhaps you feared the most and lets you relive it.
The fortunate or unfortunate part though is that there is no pain as felt then when one perhaps watched a friend die, when you had to leave someone behind or when you had to endure the most terrifying experience of killing a person for the first time.
It is not easy having these nightmares and if one could trade them in, they would do so without thinking twice about it.
One of my greatest mentors, may his soul rest in peace, would mutter under his breath constantly and sometimes you would even find him using gestures as though he was talking to someone else. I had never seen him like that before knowing how well poised he was. His recollections of the liberation struggle were not pleasant at all and thanks to them, I value the men and women who fought for this country.
Many like him both male and female exist giving each of us a reminder that a part of them was lost and remained behind.
Some people believe that this is the reason why many of our heroes and heroines undertake to drinking very strong liquor in the hope of finding sleep at night.
However sleep does not work that way because once an issue is not entirely resolved, it keeps coming back.
Reliving the memories of the war is not easy. Thousands of people died on the parade grounds from high velocity shrapnel from the bombs and this is unbearable. Picturing their bodies mangled, with injuries to the head, neck, chest and abdomen resulting in blown out chests and eviscerated bowels is even worse. Remembering the ghastly traumatic amputations of limbs common among the dead and almost all survivors of the bombings is frightening.
Despite the pain they went through, the remaining comrades delivered back home, a freedom hard-won through their sacrifice and that of the many who still lie unburied in many ditches.
There is a trauma centre in Ruwa and perhaps others, in other parts of the country where some of the comrades checked in, after coming back from the war. English in setting but perhaps with the intention of normalizing the mind. Not many however checked into these units because African rituals were done for them when they got back.
In our African culture lies some forms of rituals that are conducted in order to let the person never suffer from the effects of the war.These rituals have kept some of the comrades free from bad omens associated with the liberation struggle.
It is a given that the spirits of the country led to the delivery of Zimbabwe from colonial rule. When Ambuya Nehanda said my bones shall rise, the spirits that guided her and other heroes of her time, were the same as those which kept the comrades knowing never to defile themselves because the spirits would have none of that. They had to follow the precepts of the spirits or risk dying. Even though we regret their loss of life, blood had to be shed in exchange for our independence. The protection by the spirits was unquestionably present constantly.
Cde Chazunza says the spirits would use the wind and birds to protect the people.
"During the Nyadzonia attack, the bataleur birds (chapungu) circled above the camp and we knew there was danger. Then when the attack began, there was a whirlwind that rose from nowhere."
Another Comrade Jessica recollects how her team stopped in their tracks when a snake raised its head in readiness to strike. "If it was not for that snake, we would have walked right into the enemy's ambush," she said.
After the war many comrades will tell you that many comrades had cleansing rituals done (vazhinji vakashambidzwa pavakadzoka kubvisa mhepo dzekuhondo). Others will tell you that those who went crazy were taken for cleansing rituals (abanye ababecina behlanya babehanjiswa ezinyangeni ukuya geziswa).
Cde Baphe Nyoni says although he never had a ritual done for him "most of these rituals were conducted by individuals at family level just to appease the spirits that their child had come back from war. It was also meant to put them at ease and thank them for looking after the child," Cde Nyoni said.
"Remember during the struggle people were being protected by the spirits of our fore fathers so in return these spirits were to be appeased so that one now can be looked after by those of his own."
Cde Nyoni adds that "one most important thing to note in the spiritual world, (esintwini sithi thina, umganu wezinyoka munye) therefore in the fight for the freedom and total emancipation, we were led by spirit mediums therefore these rituals are necessary so that one is not followed around by those spirits," Nyoni said.
"Hence there was a need for one to thank the spirits as to be cleansed of and giving one's own spirits room to look after its own and be at peace with oneself otherwise one's own spirits will wander around having no place of its own."
The American movies that many of us watch from channels such as Netflix and all, American soldiers that come back from various tours in Afghanistan and Libya amongst other countries where America has caused mayhem, clearly show rehabilitation centres for many of their men and women.
In the research article Exploring the Role of Spirituality in Coping with War Trauma among War Veterans in Zimbabwe first published in January 2018, and written by Julia Mutambara and Tholene Sodi, the two explore how the comrades were guided by spiritualism to their safety.
They look at experiences ranging from combat exposure or exposure to war; captivity through being kidnapped, abducted, held hostage, prisoner of war; life-threatening illness or injury; sudden, violent death; sudden, unexpected death of someone close to you; serious injury, harm, or death you caused to someone else, assault with a weapon, being shot, stabbed, threatened with a knife, gun, bomb, exposure to toxic substance that many comrades went through when they fought for the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe.
They highlight that war veterans reported that during the war, spirit mediums helped them to stay sane and to cope with the negative circumstances they were facing during the war of liberation.
The spirits of the dead as they spoke through the living helped by instilling in them the spirit of courage.
Spirit mediums helped by warning them of any dangers that would befall them.
Veterans reported that the spirits showed themselves in the form of birds, baboons, ants, and frogs. These animals and their behavior had symbolic meanings which helped veterans to know if they should proceed or not.
After the war, some of the participants narrated that they still maintained a connection to the ancestors. Those who were of this view said that this connection helped by giving them a sense of safety and a sense of achievement as they felt that they had succeeded in doing what the ancestral spirits had instructed them to do.
They said connection with the spirits had helped them to cope with the rejection and alienation that they faced from civilians after the war. They felt that even when civilians seemed not to understand them, the spirit mediums were happy and grateful that they won the country’s independence.
The two writers quote Fay Chung in her book Re-living the second Chimurenga: Memories from the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe who also notes that during the war, spirituality played a key role and helped veterans to deal with the traumatic experiences of war.
Other writers also note that the spirit mediums played crucial roles, for example, leading in morning rituals ensuring that the rains fall and that agricultural produce was enough for the people, and healing injured veterans, they helped to get the support of the people in the community, led the fighters to safety zones, predicted the movements of the enemy, and inspired confidence and determination in the fighters.
The belief in the role of the ancestors to lead the fighters was important, as it helped to transform their previous peasant mind-set to seasoned fighters.
With all this sense of belonging regarding the role of the spirits during the liberation struggle, it is fool hardy to think that the same spirits would let the lives of the men and women go to waste.
Attempts by the enemy through his continued use of the opposition elements obviously cannot succeed. (Pane vanorotswa zvinhu zvisati zvaitika). There are men and women that will see things before they happen and warn the relevant authorities to exercise caution and or plan counter measures.
There is a spirituality about Zimbabwe that the enemy must know. Despite burying Rhodes at Matojeni or Matopos in order to defile our spirituality, the spirits of this country will not allow the death of the men and women lying in the bush to be in vain (varere mumasango vafire mahara). It was no easy thing reliving the trauma of the war.
Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans. This month we must celebrate the men and women who brought us this Zimbabwe. Happy Heroes Month