by Tafara Mugwara
HARARE, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- At the National Heroes Acre, a burial ground for Zimbabwe's departed heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle, thousands of jubilant citizens gathered to commemorate the National Heroes Day.
Women dressed in national colors jovially danced to euphonic revolutionary and patriotic songs as they paid tribute to veterans of the war of independence who sacrificed their lives to free the country from the shackles of British colonial rule.
In Zimbabwe, the second Monday of August is the National Heroes' Day which is marked at the National Heroes Acre, about seven kilometers south of downtown Harare.
Overlooking the southern African nation's capital from a hilltop summit to the east, and the towering National Sports Stadium to the north, the National Heroes Acre serves as the resting place for numerous veterans of the liberation struggle.
To Zimbabweans, the National Heroes Acre, a revered shrine, is a symbol of selflessness for the heroes and heroines whose remains are laid to rest there.
"As a young person, the reason I am here is to celebrate the freedom that we attained because of the liberation war heroes. So what I want to say to the young generation is that we should preserve the legacy of our elders," said 41-year-old Saidi Kamukwamba, a Harare resident.
Marvelous Sakurangaranga, 64, said it is the duty of the young generation to preserve the gains of the liberation struggle that departed veterans died for.
"People died for this country, so all young people should know where this country came from," said 62-year-old Marvelous Sakurangaranga, a Harare resident.
"Due to the sacrifices of our heroes who died for us, we are free, no one limits our freedoms, we do what we want as free citizens, be it moving around, people used to be prohibited. But now we are doing everything as free individuals, our grandchildren are happy, our children are happy with their families," Sakurangaranga added.
Agnes Zinyemba, 62,a veteran of the liberation struggle, was among those who had come to the shrine to mark the day.
"I did not pick arms during the liberation struggle but I participated as a guerrilla aid. I used to provide the fighters with food, giving them clothing, that's how we participated," she said.
"I feel very happy because our nation is now free. During the war of liberation, it was a difficult time, we used to wonder if we were going to emerge victorious, until our brothers who went to fight vanquished the enemy in the battlefield," she added.
In his televised national address, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa called for all Zimbabweans to preserve the gains of the hard-won liberation struggle.
"As we remember our gallant heroes and heroines, let us all recommit to fortify and protect our beloved country while building on the gains we have achieved in 42 years of our hard-won independence and freedom," Mnangagwa told the gathering.
"Today we stand tall among the liberated and independent peoples of the world as masters of our own destiny. We are marching on and consolidating our unity, our peace, and our freedom in fulfilment of the collective aspirations and vision of our heroes and heroines," said Mnangagwa.
He said following the attainment of political freedom which was attained by the sacrifices of liberation veterans, his government is now embarking on a mission to transform the economy for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.
"Yesteryear gallant men and women selflessly chose to join the liberation struggle against oppressive colonial white settler regime. Forty-two years after the raising of our sacred national flag, we remain motivated to ultimately transform Zimbabwe into a modern industrialized and prosperous society," he said.
He added that the gains of the liberation struggle, which includes the land reform program which aimed to address colonial land imbalances, will never be reversed.
Furthermore, Mnangagwa castigated Western nations for interfering in Zimbabwe's internal affairs.
"We cannot be taught democracy by those who denied us democracy. The heroes we honor fought for that democracy and this democracy and equal access to justice we are enjoying as a country. Let us therefore individually and collectively protect it from all forms of abuse and desecration, more so by those who never came for our help during the brutal and oppressive years under the white colonial settler regime," he said.
Zimbabwe attained its independence in 1980 after a long and arduous war of liberation, which resulted in tens of thousands of people losing their lives.
China provided Zimbabwe's liberation fighters with ideological support, material assistance and military training in the 1960s when the liberation movement took arms to fight colonial settler rule.