WHEN I got to the front of the queue in one supermarket the teller remarked that I didn’t have many groceries in my trolley. I laughed and said that what I had was all I could afford.
He said I shouldn’t worry, I should just go and get what I need and then pay by cheque. Again I laughed and said the cheque would bounce. “No problem,” the teller said, adding: “We’ll send the bounced cheque to the government and tell them to pay the bill because they are the ones who took the farms, didn’t pay for them or any of the assets and it was that mess that has left the whole country barely surviving.”
The teller knows me well. I’ve been shopping there for 15 years but this was an amazing little conversation. Normally people whisper these sorts of comments, look over their shoulders to see who may be listening or simply don’t say things like this at all.
Equally amazing is the fact that it’s taken this long for people to find the courage to say it like it is. In three and a half years I’ve had thousands of letters from people who ask me: “What the hell is wrong with you people in Zimbabwe, why do you put up with what’s going on?”
I wish I knew the answer because as each new catastrophe erupts, we all say: “Ah, this is it, this is the thing that will bring the nightmare to an end.”
We thought that when farms were being grabbed and given out to government officials, people power would stop it. Then when there was no maize, sugar, oil and flour we said that would do it. When the bread price rose from $48 last year to $1 000 today, we thought that would cause an uprising. Then when petrol completely disappeared from service stations and now, when the banks haven’t got any money in them – each time we think this is it, people just won’t stand it. But amazingly enough, the masses just stagger on saying “nothing to do.”
I think there are lots of reasons why we Zimbabweans behave the way we do. Maybe we are a nation of cowards. Maybe we are paralysed by fear.
Maybe we are waiting for someone to come riding in on a white horse to save us. Or maybe it’s because we just don’t want another war.
I think we all know that if the chaos in Zimbabwe degenerates into an armed civil war then that really will be the end of hope. We know that wars don’t end in three weeks or even three years and that the physical and mental destruction they cause takes decades and decades to repair.
I believe that civic society in Zimbabwe and the opposition political party have shown immense maturity by not calling for an armed uprising.
Zimbabweans have proved to the world that not all opposition politics in Africa means rebels with guns. We all know that the end is near now. The government knows it too. We know that when Zimbabwe emerges into a democracy it will be a more united and dignified country than ever before.
Already there are resolutions being tabled that a Truth and Justice Commission will be established. Among other things, it has been agreed that past human rights abuses will be redressed, both pre- and post-colonial, and that people will be made to answer and pay for their crimes – whether that involved stealing someone’s farm and assets or murdering and raping.
Zimbabwe has learnt that sweeping things under the carpet is not the answer because sooner or later we’ll have to lift the carpet. Until then, we all keep turning the other cheek, trying to help others in worse positions than ourselves.
Robert Mugabe and his government and greedy supporters have destroyed almost everything in the country now. They may be the financial winners but have blood on their hands. We are the moral victors and the one thing this government can never take away from us is our pride and dignity.