Few things can be as rewarding as taking up the cause a colonized, suffering people and ending up with helping them attain the desired and deserved freedom, and yet even fewer things can be more demanding, painful and risky. Fighting for freedom is literally walking through the Biblical valley of the shadow of death.
These are the realities liberation fighters in Africa and everywhere across the world, had to contend with, each day balancing the hope that when freedom came, it would confer dignity on long suffering people and the fact that it was going to be a long, painful and even deadly endeavour that could end with the fighters never living to see the fruits of their endeavours.
The struggle to free Africa from the yoke of colonialism was long and treacherous. It claimed thousands of lives and required countless sacrifices. Many of those sacrifices went unnoticed while some of them found their way into history books and are even remembered today with great pride and honour.
As new generations join our nations while witnesses to the struggles give way, it is upon us to do everything to ensure that memories of what it took for freedom to come, are constantly renewed as a guide both to our past and our future.
That is why the effort to preserve the memories of Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole through this project is significant. This is not and cannot be about Reverend Sithole.
It is part of the struggle for Zimbabwe and indeed all formerly colonized territories to preserve freedom by making people know its prize.
It is always important to recognize that our nations are free today because at some stage there were men and women, boys and girls who stayed brave through all the bloodshed and the indignity of prison and detention so that we could be free.
But, even more importantly, we must always ask the uneasy question; what were they fighting for and what became of it? If we know where we came from and where we were going, we can easily tell whether and where we lost the way. Otherwise we get condemned to meandering and wandering on the path to nowhere.
We are reminded of the words of liberal Rhodesian colonial Prime Minister, Garfield Todd who admitted that Rev. Sithole “struggled against odds which would have dismayed most men.” We know that Rev Sithole was one of the earlier leaders to push the idea of Pan-Africanism which had been championed by earlier generations of diaspora Africans such as Edward Blyden, George Padmore, Marcus Garvey and W.E.B Du Bois from the West Indies and America.
It is however a fact that the committed political leadership with long term visions that were typical of Rev. Sithole and our founding fathers like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, julius Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Jomo Kenyatta, Oginga Odinga, Abdel Nasser and, more recently, Nelson Mandela, has either been lost or is rapidly fading.
So, we must be bold enough and ask the question of what happened to the Africa that the founders were so passionate about? In the many books written, particularly in African Nationalism, we will find guides to the original dream and, hopefully, a path out of the stagnation and disappointments that followed.
I am most honoured to have written the foreword to the third edition of the book, which is being published as part of the launch celebration. It is also with pride that I now see it as symbolic that Ndabaningi Sithole launched African Nationalism in Nairobi, Kenya, at a book fair in 1960.
As a fellow Pan-Africanist who shares in Sithole’s Afro optimism, I believe that the work of previous generations has yet to be completed. I believe that it is upon us to bridge the divide between the old and new.
Africa is the world’s youngest continent with the potential to become a powerhouse in the future. Africa’s rise can be fueled by our common understanding and upholding of our heritage and history which we need to author and preserve.
As a continent, we must also do more to reign in the cancers that have bled us dry this far; the cancers of corruption, tribalism, nepotism, patronage and the exercise of politics as a zero-sum game in which the winner takes all and the loser loses everything.
The politics that pits region against region, tribe against tribe, race against race, faith against faith and generation against generation is a sure path to the precipice and goes against everything our founders envisaged.
I therefore appreciate the theme of this launch, “Zimbabwe’s Shared Legacy: A Foundation of Peace with Justice for Reconciliation and Unity.”
This theme reflects our current struggles in Kenya is something that is very dear to us in Kenya. For we know, a people united can never be defeated.
I am privileged to have met and interacted with Ndabaningi Sithole in person, as I did many others of Zimbabwe’s first fathers. I can speak with personal conviction that he was a man who meant well for his country and our shared Continent of Africa.
Let us build on his legacy and create a foundation of peace with justice for reconciliation and unity. No one else is coming to the rescue. We are our own liberators!