June is here. For some, it is the beginning of a new season, a chance to reshape their vision and see where they are with their new year’s resolutions-for what better time is there than the middle of the year to take stock. June is the month of changeovers in real physical climatic terms. In the Northern hemisphere, their summer has begun while for us in the Southern hemisphere, our winter has begun. This month in history has recorded the number of things- some amazing, others tragic – that have happened/taken place shaping the history of my country, my continent and the world.
- I was born in this month on the 28th- the same day as Pope Paul IV (1476) Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712) one of the greatest philosophers in the world, Lamina Sankoh (1884) one of the most famous Sierra Leonean politicians who advocated economic development of the black person and religious emancipation free from Western ideology , Chris Hani (1942) one of the most amazing brains behind South Africa’s anti apartheid struggle and leader of the South African Communist Party and Chief of staff of the Umkhonto weSizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress.
- For women it is significant because in this month, on the 6th in 1872, that one woman charted the way for the development of one of the most fundamental rights that any citizen is able to exercise. Most of us take it as a given. Some of us do not even exercise it yet some people fought hard for it-the right to vote. Susan Anthony mobilised a group of women to test their status as citizens by voting in the same manner as men even though they were not legally permitted to. Although they got arrested and fined for it, that initial step paved the way for the recognition, FOR THE FIRST TIME, 34 years later of women’s right to vote.
- We commemorate so many important days, which are dear to my heart touching on many important issues affecting the lives of many African citizens such as protection of children, protection of the environment, ending child labour, addressing the plight of refugees, ending all forms of drug abuse and illicit trafficking as well as supporting victims of torture; with commemorations taking place on 1, 5, 12, 20 and 26 June respectively
- It is the month in which a number of countries celebrate national days of great significance. On the African continent a number of countries declared their independence from colonial powers in the month of June. These are the Democratic Republic of Congo on 30 June 1960 declaring independence from the Belgians, Madagascar on 26 June in 1960 from the French, Djibouti on 27 June 1977 from the French, Mozambique on 25 June 1975 from the Portuguese, and Seychelles on June 29 1976 from the British. Globally other countries also celebrate significant national days. For instance Sweden celebrates its national day on the 6th, the Philippines its Independence Day on the 12th, while the US and Finland celebrate their flag days on the 14th and 24th of June respectively.
- It is the month in which Robert F Kennedy was shot, on the 5th in 1968 and his death, combined with that of Martin Luther King earlier began a period in which the hope for reforms and lesser racial segregation of African- Americans that had been sparked seemed to take a backslide.
- June is the month that brought an end to attempts by megalomaniacs to control and rule the world. Napoleon’s tyranny ended with the battle of Waterloo in central Belgium, on 18 June 1815, ending 23 years of warfare between France and the allied powers of Europe. On June 28 1919-my birthday too, oh well minus the year-the Treaty of Versailles was signed signifying the end of World War I. The end of World War II was earmarked by, among other things, the Battle of Okinawa, Japan in which he allied forces on June 21, 1945 defeated the Japanese who were keys allies of the German Reich under Hitler.
- To bring it closer to home June for me represents the sets of contradictions that make up the whole of my society. It was in June that land invasions, leading to the fast track land reform programme began. These invasions then led to the displacement of thousands of farm workers and predominantly white farmers. It built up into a food crisis with underproduction and underutilisation of the land leaving most farms derelict. It contributed to the economic meltdown that saw many Zimbabweans thrown into poverty. Yet for some-albeit few- that very same month represents the beginnings of black empowerment for they got the land that they had clamoured for since independence.
- It was on 27 June 2007, that central bank governor Gideon Gono announced his decision to print an additional 1 trillion Zimbabwean dollars to pay civil servants’ and soldiers’ salaries that had been by 600% and 900% respectively one of the most ridiculous decisions that began a pattern of inflation in which increases in civil servants’ salaries automatically meant increases in the cost of all goods and services. For some that decision was premised on quick gains as a means to an end-pay civil servants-get votes from civil servants yet for others (the majority) it had lasting effects- a destabilised economy and a fragile currency that we cannot use even up till today.
- June is the time I take to reflect on what being a hero means because it is the month when many Zimbabweans in 2008 sacrificed their lives for an ideal; an ideal that they had never experienced but hoped for and were willing to die for: Democracy. The death and devastation of the run up to the 27 June election “The Ides of June” as some call it remains fresh in the memories of many people. I remember those who lost limb and life, home and haven, peace of mind and sanctity of the body just so we could all live in peace with freedom and dignity.
- But among the doom and gloom, we celebrate Black Music Month, a tradition born in the US to celebrate African American music and culture-embracing the beat of the drum, the shakers, the marimbas, kalimbas and udus.
Indeed, June is special.