Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses a press conference in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, March 17, 2020. In an update to the nation on Tuesday, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared COVID-19 a national disaster, saying that the country had escalated its national response to the virus after neighboring countries in the region had reported cases. (Xinhua/Shaun Jusa)

Zimbabweans celebrated the 40th anniversary of Heroes’ Day on Monday amid the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the nation.

Held without the usual festivities and funfare due to the current lockdown in place, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the occasion occupies a special place in the history and development of the country as the nation takes time to pay tribute to fallen heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of the country from British colonial rule.

In a televised speech to mark the day, Mnangagwa bemoaned that this year’s celebrations were taking place against a renewed onslaught on the country by its perennial detractors in and outside the country.

“Let us however, not lose heart or be discouraged but look back to our rich history and draw lessons from our departed, who since the 1980s, united and showed resilience in their gallant fight against oppressive forces,” Mnangagwa said.

He urged the nation to remain united, continue to foster peace and defend its natural resources for the development of the nation.

“The divisive falsehoods and concoctions by renegades and supremacists who want to pounce on our natural resources will never win the day,” Mnangagwa vowed.

He said his government will honor some of the country’s distinguished liberation war fighters from both the First and Second Wars of independence, among them former President Robert Mugabe and former vice presidents Joshua Nkomo and Simon Muzenda.

Construction of a statue of the 1890s female liberation war icon, Mbuya Nehanda, in Harare’s central business district had already started, as the government moved to immortalize the supreme sacrifice paid by the gallant fighters.

“Other heroes and heroines from the early wars of resilience will also be honored in a similar manner. We must as a people appropriate our liberation war heritage and shape the narratives by telling our own journey to freedom and independence,” Mnangagwa said.

He said the list of the country’s monuments is being reviewed to include liberation war shrines while liberation war shrines in neighboring Mozambique and Zambia will continue to be rehabilitated.

Mnangagwa said his government was accelerating national development, although this was being affected by the effects of climate change and Western sanctions. Maximum land and mining rights utilization will be enforced, as the government consolidates the gains of the liberation struggle, Mnangagwa said.

“The blood of those who fought for our land shall forever be honored through maximum use of our land. The land that our heroes fought for includes all that which is under that land,” the President said.

He said Zimbabwe was on course to achieving a 12 billion U.S. dollars mining sector by 2023, while the country was also poised to change its current position of being a significant importer to become a net exporter of energy by 2023 through ongoing and planned power development projects.

Road rehabilitation and tourism recovery strategies were also being implemented to accelerate economic development, while macroeconomic stabilization measures recently put in place by the government were helping to stabilize the national currency and prices of goods and services, he said.

The government was also prioritizing the security and welfare of people that have been left vulnerable due to COVID-19, Mnangagwa said, adding that his government’s resolve to fighting corruption was unwavering. “The corrupt way is shut and those who choose that route will face dire consequences,” Mnangagwa said.

In light of the upsurge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, the nation needs to be more vigilant in fighting the scourge, he said. Zimbabwe has recorded 4,649 COVID-19 cases including 104 deaths and 1,437 recoveries as of Sunday.

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