Most countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have a day set aside to commemorate the sacrifices of heroes and heroines who fought in the struggles against colonialism.
Heroes’ Day is important for most countries in the region as it saves as a reminder of the protracted battles that took place against colonial rule.
Ethiopia and Liberia are the only two countries that were not colonised in Africa. Liberia was founded by freed American slaves in the 1800s while Ethiopia was temporarily occupied by Italy during the Second World War. Italians twice tried to colonise Ethiopia but were unsuccessful.
Zimbabwe celebrated its Heroes Day on August 13, a day that was marked by widespread celebrations across the country.
Zimbabwe is a former Britain colony.
Addressing thousands of people gathered at the National Heroes Acre for the Heroes Day celebrations, President-elect, Emmerson Mnangagwa said it was important to safeguard the gains of independence through unity.
“It took a protracted struggle to reach where we are today. Some where executed, some detained without trial yet they stood resolute…as I stand before you today I see a nation of heroes, a nation of peacemakers and a people who have stood firm. I see a nation of warriors guarding our independence and freedom,” he said.
Speaking to The Southern Times on the importance of Heroes Day, the Minister of Home Affairs and Culture Dr Obert Mpofu said the day was critical in reminding Zimbabweans of the sacrifices made by fellow countrymen in the liberation of the majority.
Dr Mpofu urged the youths to value Heroes Day and shun violence as the nation remembers its gallant sons and daughters who fought for liberation.
“Heroes Day is an important day that we celebrate the sacrifices made by the liberation struggle fighters to get us independence. It is also reminder to our people that this land did not come easily. We must cherish the day as it marks a new era in our emancipation.
“Although we have 38 years of independence we would like to remind our youths that a lot of blood was shed during the struggle for self –rule. It is sad to note that some youths are aware of how we got liberation and yet they are being violent when they should be talking about peace,” Dr Mpofu said.
The Home Affairs Minister commended Zimbabweans for being peaceful during the July 30 harmonised elections.
“We would like to thank the people of Zimbabwe for a peaceful election. We want to urge them to continue being peaceful as we go forward,” he said.
In honour of the fallen gallant sons and daughters who fought in the liberation struggle, the government of Zimbabwe built the National Heroes Acre.
The national shrine is home to many heroes who include Joshua Nkomo, Simon Mazorodze, Josiah Tongogara, Sally Hayfron Mugabe, Herbert Chitepo and Leopold Takawira.
In addition to the National Heroes Acre, other provincial shrines were built across the country where heroes are interred.
Zimbabwe is not the only country that celebrates its heroes and heroines.
In Namibia, Heroes Day is a public holiday that is celebrated annually on August 26. The day commemorates the Namibian War of Independence, which began on August 26 in 1966.
Namibia also has a Heroes Acre, a war memorial outside Windhoek that was officially unveiled in 2002.
Namibia is a former Germany colony.
Heroes Day in Zambia is celebrated every first Monday of July, honouring the citizens according to their heroic status.
Another country, which commemorates Heroes Day but is not in the SADC region is Rwanda. However, it's commemorations which take place on February 1 are unique in that they commemorate the heroic deeds of those who perished during the country's internal strife commonly referred to as the 1994 genocide.
Angola celebrates their first President Agostinho Neto every September 17.
In Mozambique, Heroes Day is celebrated annually on February 3. It honours the valour of living and fallen combatants who played significant roles in the fight against Portueguese colonial rule.
While other countries might not have a day set aside as Heroes Day, they nevertheless commemorate in different ways the sacrifices made by outstanding countrymen in the journey towards achieving sovereign statehood.