Heroes are never perfect. But, they are brave. They are authentic, they are courageous, determined, discreet and they’ve got grit. These are the words of Wade Davis, a Canadian anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and photographer.
As the whole country celebrates the contribution of fallen combatants who risked their lives to protect our country, let us not forget our everyday heroes and heroines – ordinary people who daily perform simple acts of valor not to become great, but simply to improve the lives of others.
Although Zimbabwe is in a dire economic situation characterised by high unemployment and massive job retrenchments, these heroes are among many ordinary Zimbabweans who have dedicated themselves to making a difference to their communities.
Everyday many brave the cold weather and harsh municipal police selling fruit and vegetables, airtime and consumables simply to put food on the table, a roof over their heads as well as to send children to school. These heroes and heroines have toiled over the last 35 years to achieve the true meaning of our collective national aspiration for a better life for their families. Further, they endure social and economic pains simply to positively influence the lives of others.
Heroes and heroines like Reverend John Mutikizizi, Sally Dura and Apolinia Chonyera, deserve recognition and honour – not just for their exemplary achievements, but for being ideal citizens of this country.
Reverend Mutikizizi, a member of the Evangelical Ministry of Christ Church (EMCC) is a man with a ‘golden’ heart. He is a philanthropist who decided to look after elderly destitute people of all ages, races and religion at Mutikizizi Old People’s Home in Bikita, a district in Masvingo province.
Unlike other old people’s homes belonging to church organisations, the Mutikizizi Old People’s Home is solely reliant on the benevolence of its founder. In order to sustain the home, Mutikizizi spends hours toiling in his garden, growing tomatoes, vegetables and other crops for sale at a nearby shopping centre.
The only notable possession he has is a simple house in Mucheke, the oldest suburb in Masvingo city. He has rented out the house to raise money to feed the 12 elderly people resident at Mutikizizi Old People’s Home. No matter how much he makes, Mutikizizi spends less on himself and his family and gives more to the needy.
Mutikizizi says of his work, “Everyone can take care of the elderly and assist orphans with food and school fees. It is not how much money you can make that matters, but how you use the money. I do not see money as being that important. After all, you cannot bring it with you when you leave this life.”
Sally Dura, a gender expert and women’s right activist, is a heroine who should be saluted for taking action to change the lives of girls and women in this country. She is a young Zimbabwean woman determined to change the face of leadership in Zimbabwe by empowering women to claim their space in various organisations.
As the national co-ordinator for the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), a forum where women engage in collective activism on issues affecting women and girls in the country, Dura believes there is no better way of improving people’s lives than being in leadership.
“I love what I am doing and there is no better way of claiming your space and making a difference in your community than being in leadership,” she said.
Dura added: “I realised that everyone has a responsibility to take up a leadership role in whatever sphere they are operating from and add value to the well-being of their own people or community.
“Taking a cue from my Girl Guides oath, I realised that I had a responsibility to serve my country and its people, to do the best I can in maintaining the national sovereignty at no costs, should duty call.”
Another heroine in her community is Apolonia Chonyera who is the founder and director of Wadzanai Community Development Trust (WCDT), an organisation established to ensure that ‘forgotten’ women in rural areas are empowered and adequately represented.
WCDT was founded when Chonyera observed the urgent need for women to stand up and defend their rights. As part of efforts to protect and defend women’s rights, WCTD embarked on various income-generating projects such as poultry and piggery, which have helped in the socio-economic empowerment of rural women. Chonyera’s aim is to ensure that women and girls are empowered so that they are safeguarded against all forms of abuse.
It is well-known that Heroes Day is a celebration of our Constitution, a celebration of our people and a celebration of us. Heroes Day is a reflection of everything our heroes and heroines died for as well as Zimbabweans stand for: our rights, duties and freedoms.
But people like Reverend Mutikizizi, Sally Dura and Apolonia Chonyera as well as other ordinary citizens deserve to be saluted as they choose to act and be proudly connected to the communities they live in.
Main image of WCoZ National Coordinator, Sally Dura from Sally Dura