By Tony Namate
“BUT in our case, we later realised that non-violent and purely political struggle, even when reinforced by boycotts, strikes and demonstrations, can neve
r overthrow a regime which is armed to the teeth.
“That regime is dependent on guns for its own sustenance in power. And only by arming the people and leading them through political and ideological direction can you eventually overthrow an armed reactionary regime.”
The above words were uttered by one of Africa’s last liberation war heroes, the first prime minister of Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe (Zimbabwe News, Vol 1 No 4, April 1986), when South Africa was still in the iron grip of apartheid.
Sadly, 20 years later, lessons have still not been learnt.
“Musatyisidzirwe nanaChibhebhe vane mazitumbu, zidumbu rizere mweya hapana nezvirimo. (Do not be intimidated by the Chibhebhes, who have big bellies with nothing in them). When the police say move, move. If you don’t move you invite the police to use force,” said President Robert Mugabe (Herald).
Civil war is not an option in today’s Zimbabwe, and we can still avoid it.
The situation in our country gets worse by the day, and no amount of political whitewashing can stop the inexorable slide towards an inevitable and ugly conclusion too ghastly to contemplate.
Jamming radio stations or banning newspapers will only succeed to buy us enough time to worsen the situation. War-talk like “Economy is the land, land is the economy”; “Failure is not an option”; “Look East”; “We will soldier on” has so far been impressive but has not fed empty stomachs.
Headlines like “Zimbabwe imports wheat from South Africa”, “Zimbabwe imports maize from Zambia” and “Imported fertilizer arrives” are not reassuring at all in a country where agricultural land now “belongs” to the people.
Since our elections were fought on anti-Blair and anti-Bush platforms, what platform are we going to use for the next elections, to be held after Blair and Bush are gone? No matter how high their ivory towers are, those who live in cloud cuckoo land must come down, eventually. And the people will be waiting . . .
History is littered with examples of “invincible” leaders who behaved as if they were gods until reality brought them down to earth with a thud.
The time has come now for the ruling party’s apparatchiks to tell their leaders to swallow the bitter medicine of humility and involve everyone in saving the sinking ship that is Zimbabwe.
To everything there is a season.
Zanu PF will not die because it has opened talks with civic society or the opposition. No. It will emerge stronger from it and its legacy will likely be more intact than it is now if the party seeks advice from all stakeholders and solve the situation politically.
If need be, they can hold a national cleansing bira.
And leaders from across the political, religious, economic and civic divide need to call for dialogue now. If we have to have another Lancaster House conference, so be it. Zimbabweans do not want another war, which Zanu PF is clearly itching for.
Meanwhile, Zimbabweans of every hue —coloured, black, Indian, white — and political persuasion must talk loudly about the situation in our country. You have every right to discuss the worsening economic and political crisis in your country.
They must not allow any intellectually challenged village idiot to tell them that because they are a vendor, cashier, garbage man, hairsytlist, prostitute, messenger, musician, artisan or cartoonist, they “must stick to your profession”. Such dangerous narrow-mindedness is closely linked to the tribalist notion that one cannot be in certain situations because one is an Ndebele, Manyika, or Karanga.
Remember, among the people who liberated us from Rhodesia’s apartheid were Grade 7 dropouts, coloureds, whites, Indians, blacks, farmers, farm laborers, schoolchildren, mothers and fathers who contributed to the liberation struggle.
Everyone needs to contribute to the ongoing intellectual discourse that is currently gathering momentum, without fear or favour. Offer new solutions even though the solutions that were proffered by others before have yet to be used. Just like teabags in hot water, a country’s people bring out their best ideas when they are cornered. If you are Zimbabwean, scream ourselves blue until we are heard.
Even the domestic animals have been affected, and they are getting restless. They too, are joining the debate.
Zimbabwe is dying. Our country, once the breadbasket of Africa, now has, according to some experts, the “fastest shrinking economy in the world for a country not at war”.
But we are at war. The government has been waging a one-sided war against its people, starting with the land invasions, which left almost half a million farm-workers destitute and brought the economy to its knees.
As if that was not enough, several banks were shut down in early 2004 and ordinary people lost their savings overnight. The anti-people war continued in early 2005 as informal traders lost their source of livelihood and homes overnight during Operation Murambatsvina; with the insatiable multi-headed behemoth sprouting yet another head called Operation Sunrise in mid 2006.
During this operation, most people who “could not account for their money” had it taken away from them in a continuing show of vindictiveness.
And Gono, snarling menacingly like the lead character in a Pulp Fiction thriller, vowed: “I will be back.”
“The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis.” — Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993).
Zimbabweans are 20 times poorer than they were in February 2000.
The captain of the Zimbabwe Titanic is busy throttling his passengers while the ship is sinking. And both victor and victim will soon go down with it, since the lifeboats (farms) were destroyed in a fit of malice.
While we fight among ourselves, African countries in the region are prospering and making good use of our fleeing professionals.
So far, the sabre rattling, fist shaking and sloganeering against the West has brought us nothing but misery. Anybody who thinks that Bush and Blair will one day go down on their knees and ask us for forgiveness doesn’t need a reality check — they need a mental checkup instead.
To say that we are the laughing stock of the world is an understatement. We can’t even see the wood for the trees.
There are more Zimbabweans employed outside the country than inside, yet little of the foreign currency they send finds itself onto the official market. Since Gono became governor, more and more Zimbabweans both inside and outside have been avoiding the banking system. Even those officials who travel on presidential trips are reported to be offloading their allowances onto the lucrative black market whenever they return from their trips!
So who is fooling whom? Tazviona ka kuti munogona kurova ma demonstrators chef, so what? Has that brought us forex, wheat or tourists? Why do we allow such self-consuming hate?
“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true. ” — Martin Luther King Jr.
The greatness of a leader is not measured by police brutality: “We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.” — Stewart L. Udall.
Brutality is a sign of cowardice and panic.
The people’s collective, tinder dry anger is reaching its apex. All it is waiting for is a spark to set it off.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution possible.” — John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Waterloo is beckoning.
* Tony Namate is an award winning Zimbabwean cartoonist.