By Rejoice Ngwenya
ELLEN G White, arguably one of the most prolific religious and health writers of the 19th century and founder of the worldwide Adventist Movement, says in her book, Education: “ R
30; the greatest want of the world is the want of men … who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”
As I was writing this item, I was holed up in a petrol queue for the third consecutive day — a time when my family and I should be either relaxed at our city home or socialising in rural Esigodini with in-laws. My life is in turmoil, a crisis — no petrol, no cooking gas, no electricity and, most frighteningly, no water for the past four weeks.
What difference, I ponder in the chilly early morning breeze, is there between myself and the beautiful person with breasts and long hair I abandoned in my bed? She sleeps in passive serenity and I queue in passive stupidity — no resistance, no change, no difference. Saka ndiri murume payi?
I am not alone in this collective stupor — there are another hundred or so men freezing in their cars, waiting and hoping that the Zanu PF government, one day in distant time, will get its governance formula right and deliver on its electoral promises.
King Solomon, the renowned architectural genius and wealthy “multigamist” around 935 BC, writes in his Ecclesiastes: “I saw the tears of the oppressed — and they have no comforter; power was on the side of the oppressors — and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living who are still alive.”
The question then being: when a nation is in crisis, who wields the responsibility to emancipate people from the shackles of repression. Moses, the Jewish captive who grew up in the stately home of Pharaoh around 1530 BC remembers: “The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.”
Yet divine intervention does not come when man shows no initiative in the desire to set himself free. Moses first proved his mettle, potential and zeal for freedom by defending the rights of the oppressed. More often than not, the rest of five million Zimbabwean male adults have been routinely accused of being lethargic cowards. We allow ourselves to be cowed into submission by a dynasty that has entrenched its rule with a false sense of indispensability — a Kamuzu Banda scenario.
The critical mass of anger, distress and dissatisfaction is wasted on hours of patient and pseudo-intellectual debates in queues of petrol, bread, sugar and water. My submission is that this is no manifestation of a peace-loving male population, no! It is but collective stupidity.
Perhaps, like the prophet Samuel wrote, we are waiting for a judge: “Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.”
The greatest want of the world is the want of men … like Joshua: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.”
Solomon reminds us: “If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.”
The swansong of typical contemporary Zimbabwean defeatism: “We have no leader, we need real leadership. Why was there no Plan B? How come they are failing to deal with Zanu PF’s political chicanery?” What Plan B? There is only one plan, Plan A — freedom and justice.
My heart bleeds. Why you and me? What wrong have Zimbabweans done to deserve this, this barbaric treatment? Who gives this dynasty the supreme right to dispense “liberty” as one act of gigantic benevolence? What is it that is going to take you and me to wake up and realise that we are on a trajectory to annihilation?
Yes, we all voted. They voted too at UMP but they still remain poor, hungry and weak. Voting that does not manifest itself in true liberty and effective democracy is all of it meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
King David, the author and musician, writes: “The Lord is refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.”
Perhaps I am asking for too much. We are too busy surviving, trying to make ends meet. It’s all politics, not for us, but for them. It is a dirty game and we want to play clean. That is what our parents said in the 70s: going to Zambia and Mozambique is for them, the dull ones — madofo. Our children have to continue with “real” education at Fletcher, University of Rhodesia and Oxford. Leave the camps to them.
This self-delusion also continued in the 80s: voting is for them, the women’s league, we have professions and businesses to run. Look at where we are now — hiding in our big cars, ventilated offices and watching DStv as the country goes up in flames.
Prophet Isaiah reminds us of our responsibility: “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourself on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in darkness…”
My submission is that most Zimbabweans are now too weak to defend their liberty, but you and me can use the energy that we expend on queuing for fuel and buying coupons to fight for justice. Only because we deserve better than this.
I am tired of being spat at by Tswanas, the Mozambicans and Malawians — who only a few years ago could only dream of being like me. Now they jeer from the terraces while Zanu PF kicks you and me like a human ball in the arena of political naivety. Brother, wake up.
*Rejoice Ngwenya is a Harare-based freelance writer.