Candid Comment: A Single Candle Better Than Darkness

ZIMBABWE is at that point in history where the old Quaker proverb, “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness” is very instructive. There is no credit for describing crises without solving them or doing something practical.

There are many people with PhDs on the Zimbabwe crisis, we even have an organisation called Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition yet the situation is getting out of hand.

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. In times like these Margaret Mead, an anthropologist, reminds us that: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

The few MDC MPs who will make it into the Government of National Unity will make a great difference. These MDC MPs will at least light a single candle and make a difference rather than complain about things getting worse. It is advisable for them to join the GNU rather than describe the situation from the sidelines. It is better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.

As Zimbabweans we should set aside our differences and confront our challenges together. The appeal to the international community for help is a step in the right direction but a misplaced priority.

Our challenges require some creativity, imagination and initiative. At this stage, it important for Zimbabweans to realise that it does not make much sense to ask the world to help us to deal with our crises when we are not even showing any sense of urgency to convene our parliament and set up a sustentative government of national unity to confront our crises.

Why should Zimbabweans deserve more help than the Congolese or Sudanese when they are not showing any urgency to form a substantive government?

It is high time parliament convened and agreed on a process to make constitutional provisions to fast-track amendment No 19 so that Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara take up their posts in the government of national unity and start helping in the management of the crises and save lives.

Zimbabweans are not a special case and it makes no sense to go around the world asking for help when we are not ready to set aside our differences and work together. The world does not agree on how to confront the Zimbabwe crises. We have seen this at Sadc, the AU and the UN and nothing will change unless we change our attitude and approach.

It is clear that there is no “best way” to solve the multi-layered Zimbabwean crisis which is caused by governance issues and economic sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe.

There is no point in trying to discuss whether sanctions or governance issues are the cause of our suffering because it is like the chicken and the egg debate, it does not end. The point is that Zimbabweans are suffering because of both sanctions and governance issues which should be addressed. Delaying the formation of the Government of National Unity is causing further and unnecessary harm.

The blame game will not help Zimbabwe unless either party can show that what you are doing is helping the situation. We have to realise that Zimbabwe does not operate in a vacuum and the environment is changing fast. Sadc has recommended that a Government of National Unity be formed in Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Home Affairs be co-managed by Zanu PF and the MDC-Tsvangirai.

This is thought not to be the best solution but one that has to be a chance for now. In essence, this decision means that Zanu PF and the MDC-Tsvangirai have to agree on decisions and policies in this ministry like in any other ministry.  

It has to be clear that what Zimbabwe needs are not handouts but capacity to do things for ourselves. We have our resources in terms of minerals like diamonds, gold, tourism facilities and a large diaspora skills base and market.

So the only aid we need for now is the humanitarian aid to address the urgent needs of hunger and disease. This will work best if there is political consensus that comes with the government of national unity.

There is a reckless saying that in every struggle there are casualties and that does not exonerate those responsible and it does not mean that it is right for any person to die anyway. We need a struggle where all Zimbabweans will be winners.

It is therefore important for the world to encourage Zimbabweans to set aside their differences and give the GNU a chance as soon as possible. Anything else will divide us and cause more suffering. The critics of the GNU tend to wrongly compare the GNU and the Unity Accord of 1987. It is common cause that in 1987 Zanu and Zapu became one as a party.

In the GNU the parties will remain distinct entities. I do not believe that comparing different political situations will help Zimbabwe. I prefer to quote Admiral Lord Nelson on the eve of the battle of Trafalgar, October 20, 1805 “…now that we have decided why it cannot be done, let us determine how it will be done”.

The Zimbabwe Diaspora Interface http://www.zimdiasporainterface.org/ believes that we can do it together through consensus and non-partisanship and that could be another way of doing it.

The problem Zimbabwe faces is that irresponsible behaviour by the different political actors, especially in the name of the MDC against Zanu PF, is treated as gallantry. The same people who have campaigned for the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe and now shout the loudest about deaths from Aids and cholera, are being treated as genuine heroes of the democratic struggle.

In another country the crisis we currently face would lead to a closing of ranks and collective action across the political divide. In shameless Zimbabwe, dead bodies are turned into political capital by the opposition.

 They are a sign of the failure of the government and the total collapse of the health delivery system. A question never asked is what positive role the opposition is playing to alleviate this humanitarian tragedy?  Where are the MPs we voted for in March? Are they all waiting to join the all-important Home Affairs circus now on its world tour in search of impartial adjudicators?

The long and short of it is that Zimbabweans are on their own. There is no one to light the candle for them. The darkness provides convenient avenues for self-enrichment and self-serving rhetoric about the country’s humanitarian crisis.

By Msekiwa Makwanya and Joram Nyathi

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