Patriotism is defined as devotion to one’s country, not to a political party or to an ideology. It is not about self preservation of a political party or an individual for that matter. I raise this because in Zimbabwe anyone who does not support ZANU PF is not considered a patriot. Do I love my country any less because I do not believe in ZANU PF’s ideology? Do we have to be eternally grateful to ZANU PF for taking up arms and going to war against the white minority rule? Not everyone could go to war: people played different roles to bring independence to this country and that must be acknowledged. There were those that went physically to war; some lost their lives for liberation, other returned as recognised heroes, but many were never acknowledged and we will never know their names, but they nonetheless played a vital part. They provided shelter, food and clothing, cooked and cleaned. Still more people contributed to the liberation of this country by being in exile, financing the fighters, writing for and speaking at international meetings. Many of those in ZANU PF fought the war from Mozambique and Zambia, but others went as far as Eastern Europe, playing their part in different yet integral ways.
Just because you fought for the country doesn’t give you the right to mismanage it; Zimbabwe is riddled with corruption, failure to provide basic services, human rights abuses, including failure to protect women and children, and failure to feed to its people. Is this patriotic? A single person or a single political party doesn’t own this country; it is owned by the people, the people vote parties and individuals into power, and they can equally vote them out. The gun alone did not bring independence to this country, the pen also did, and, in 1980, the people came out in numbers – one man one vote – and they made their choice. Given the same opportunity today, Zimbabweans will show just how patriotic we are.
Over the last 12 years, millions of Zimbabweans have left the country for a variety of reasons, including saving themselves from persecution and prosecution, some left to seek greener pastures, others as economic refugees, and others went to study and never returned. Although all these people are living outside Zimbabwe, I can bet that they are still connected to the country in one way or the other; i.e. they have family here that they support, and they have business ventures contributing to the economy. Are they less patriotic because they are not physically here? Granted, some have given up their Zimbabwean nationality, but they will always be Zimbabweans at heart. In my view, anyone who wants to see the best of his/her country is a patriot regardless of their physical location or political affiliation or lack of it.
I am a proud Zimbabwean, prepared to hold my head up high for what we have achieved as a country, but I refuse to be called an agent of the West or an imperialist or a sell out because I do not believe that only those who fought in the liberation war should lead this country forever and ever.