I was under the impression that the police were directing traffic to go around the demonstrators but this was not the case. I was detained, intimidated and harassed for three hours, and finally released with a charge of “dangerous parking” for which I paid a $10 fine.
When a ZRP officer says masungwa (you are under arrest) to me it is incomplete, if not incomprehensible. The police must say “I am placing you under arrest for such and such a crime; you have the right to remain silent. If you wish to give up this right…” or something like that.
At first I was sad; pondering the possibilities of a mild case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Now I see that I am not sad, but rather angry. I am in a rage, and memories of similar rages have gathered to keep the present one company.
As a child my mother, sister and I cowered and quaked with fear while soldiers stormed our house, pointing guns and inventing violations and transgressions we did not have the power to comprehend, let alone commit. Like many other households in our town, ours was reduced to a fragile social structure populated only by women and children while the men were dispersed and disenfranchised. The ugly lessons that the Gukurahundi massacres taught me have stayed with me for all of my life. They became important tools in the construction of our story.
The first lesson I learnt is that we don’t need to have done anything wrong to get into trouble. Whoever is in charge determines our final destiny –– not we. The other is that our life is fairly cheap. If we do not comply we may die, and the worst thing is that our death will have no consequence. It will change nothing. Mean nothing.
Over the 30 years that Zanu PF has held our country hostage, these lessons have been reiterated to new and different sub-audiences –– each taking their turn in the queue behind the people of Matabeleland, forming a chain of voiceless victims –– silenced by fear. In the meantime we are playing at “national healing, reconciliation and integration”, empowering people who couldn’t possibly be serious about cleansing our nation of its burdens of anger and indignation.
I am tired of being quietly outraged and afraid; of being sad and even of being angry. I no longer want to allow another power over my life, my output and my destiny. I know that I am not alone in this social and emotional space. I join a myriad of disembodied voices in the darkness of our unending political gloom. Voices ready to rally and respond: “Here I am, send me.”
But the tragedy of Zimbabwe may be even greater than that of a nation pointing weapons –– guns, sjamboks and destructive legislation –– at its own children. The tragedy we face is that there is no one out there calling. We answer to a silent space –– a leadership vacuum. This is akin to picking up a telephone receiver and urgently declaring a series of hellos, to a line that never rang.
So where are the leaders, why aren’t they calling? Logically the MDC may be expected to answer that question, and ideally they would answer it with their own “Here we are –– we will send you.” But I think it may be too late for MDC. Perhaps we should rather pose that question to someone else, perhaps to Simba Makoni and his Mavambo movement: Where are the leaders? Why aren’t they calling?