‘So arm in arms, with arms, we’ll fight this little struggle’
On April 18, 1980, Jamaican musical maestro Bob Marley joined millions of Zimbabweans to celebrate a hard-won independence from oppression.
As part of his tribute he performed the song “Zimbabwe” live in Harare, the capital city. April 18 marked the day on which Zimbabwe’s incumbent leader Robert Mugabe was sworn in as the first prime minister of a people that took over a hundred years to reclaim their freedom from British colonial rule.
Twenty-eight years later Marley’s words in “Zimbabwe” ring with an amazingly prophetic tone. More than anything they speak to his inspired genius and to his ability to understand humanity.
But greater still, they speak to the struggle of how to build a nation from the ashes of oppression in which every human being must be granted a right to decide their own destiny.
“Bob’s story is that of an archetype, which is why it continues to have such a powerful and ever-growing resonance: it embodies political repression, metaphysical and artistic insights, gangland warfare and various periods of mystical wilderness,” states the official Marley Web site.
I couldn’t have put it better.
It was the ability of Marley’s music to tear into the fabric of the sociopolitical establishment of his time that won him so many fans.
With his words Bob Marley was able to open up new human awakenings and, fused into rhythmic yet soothing Jamaican reggae melody, the power of his words went on to inspire millions of people around the world.
The fact that Bob Marley penned a song for Zimbabwe can only mean that he had a special regard for the country in his heart.
By the power of his words, he managed to capture the dream of the people of Zimbabwe and project it onto the world map.
More amazingly his words are so true to the reality in Zimbabwe today. As a Zimbabwean it’s both nostalgic and frightening for me to listen to the words of Marley’s “Zimbabwe.”
Every man got to decide his own destiny
And in this judgement there is no partiality
So arm in arm with arms we’ll fight this little struggle ‘
‘Cause that’s the only way we can over come our little trouble
Brother you’re right.
You’re so right.
We go fight (We go fight)
We’ll have to fight (We go fight)
We’re gonna fight (We go fight)
Fight for your rights
Natty dread it in a Zimbabwe
Set it up in Zimbabwe
Mash it up in a Zimbabwe
Africans a liberate Zimbabwe …
Divide and rule could only tear us apart
In every man chest there beats a heart
So soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionaries
And I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries
On the one hand Bob Marley’s song arouses the joyous reminisces of a newly independent Zimbabwe with a promise of a future of hope, development, democracy and opportunity. On the other hand it mirrors the disintegration of the state of Zimbabwe today.
For me it’s indeed like a surreal paradox. Marley’s song in the current Zimbabwe is no longer a song of liberation but a call to a united front that can confront the dark powers of black-on-black oppression camouflaged in pan-African ideology.
More than just a gifted songwriter and musician, Marley was indeed an inspirational prophet who wanted truth to be told and injustices to stop.
Ironically Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has ushered a dispensation that is akin to a silent genocide against his own people. Marley must be cringing wherever he is living now with the gods of music.
Presently Zimbabwe has come down to devouring its own people because of the selfishness and greed of its political leaders.
The political leaders care little about the people that they claim to represent. Poverty and suffering have become the order of the day in that beloved nation. All because of the beliefs held by its political leaders.
The belief that we must revenge the evils of the colonial past has killed the country of Zimbabwe. Belief shows itself in action and, if its root is coated with evil, shows itself with an ugly face.
Revenge, oppression and hatred are the currencies turning the wheels in the ramshackle state of Zimbabwe. And as a result many people in the country are dying, like donkeys drinking water at a poisoned well.
Marley asked in one his songs: What happens to a man that kills to save his own belief? That very question is what Zimbabwe’s political leaders need to ask themselves today. The political leaders’ divide-and-rule tactics against the population have made Zimbabwe a laughingstock around the world.
The nation itself is like a house cracking at its foundation. Not many in Zimbabwe today have a right to choose their own destiny. Partiality and cronyism is what the politicians practice. Increasingly it is becoming apparent that ordinary people need to join “arm in arms” to fight for freedom; otherwise, there will be no guarantee of a future of promise.
Only a united Zimbabwe can fight the trouble the nation is facing. But the truth is that the country today lacks true revolutionaries: people who are willing to give up their lives for the cause of freedom, but who will not kill innocent beings for the cause of freedom.
True revolutionaries who dare to dissent at the risk of having their voices cut off. Mugabe’s government has become like a mercenary against the people. But in every Zimbabwean’s heart, the quest of freedom beats constantly.
It’s probably the only right thing about the country today. If the people of Zimbabwe can believe more in the sound of that heartbeat, Marley’s song will reverberate again like a joyful sound.
Freedom must free not just the freedom seeker but those around him. Real revolutionaries, in Marley’s words, are people who do not tolerate any form of injustice or oppression. That message rings true throughout his music, touching the hearts of many freedom fighters around the world.
And in Zimbabwe, Marley’s words could never sound better as a call to progressive action.