As the country hurtles toward the 2023 harmonised elections it is becoming increasingly evident that Zimbabwe is not a nation; it is just a conglomeration of people enclosed in the same territory by its borders.
Electoral violence is on the rise, corruption has become the greatest cancer eating at our body politic and selfishness and hunger for power are the hallmarks of our politics right across the board.
The things that should make us a nation such our languages, history, culture and territory are the very things that divide us.
Our languages, of which 16 have been categorised as “official”, are used as weapons to divide us.
Our history is interpreted differently by different people, again to put wedges in between us as different people promote ethnicity in the negative sense that equates it to tribalism.
As a result, despite more than 40 years of “nationhood”, a homogenous culture has not been built. In other words, according to the definition of “a nation” we lack a collective identity that should make us stand on a pedestal and boast that, indeed, we are a nation.
Millions of our compatriots have taken the gap and are scattered in the diaspora.
Post-World War II, a few of our people began to see the importance of building indigenous Zimbabweans into a nation hence the birth of African nationalism.
Our pioneering nationalists were inspired by what other nations were doing to define themselves.
Indeed they were prepared to fight the colonial edifice that was keeping them divided and subservient to a colonial outfit. The liberation struggle was the defining event of the desire to build a nation. When we look back, the names of the protagonists in that war ring in our minds; with nostalgia their names sound superhuman.
At Independence in 1980 the new Zimbabwe was divided into basically two nations, the minority White nation which held the reins of the economy and majority Black nation comprising poor indigenes that lived mainly in the undeveloped rural areas.
Robert Mugabe, the founding leader of the country announced a policy of reconciliation that miraculously brought the two nations together. That was nation building. Nation building entails the building of bridges. Indeed Mugabe was applauded round the world for this policy. But the applause was only temporary; a few years down the line, he destroyed all the bridges as he plunged the country into civil war.
That was the beginning of the troubles that haunt Zimbabwe today. One event led to another until the country became an international pariah.
Zimbabwe is perhaps as divided today as it was in 1980. Again the country finds itself divided into two nations, one led by a monolithic liberation party that has dumped all the ideals of the struggle against colonialism and the other led by an excitable oppositional outfit that is prepared to sell its soul to the devil.
The violence witnessed today as the country approaches yet another defining plebiscite is a result of the intractable dichotomy.
The question now is: Who is going to build bridges?
No individuals in the ruling party, the opposition and civil society are standing out to begin the process of bridge-building. Bridges are neither built around personality cults nor around historical figures who won’t let go.
Nation builders are individuals who go beyond the call of political affiliation to unite people around a national ethos. They realise that things have gone terribly wrong and leaders have gone astray.
They sacrifice their own lives to bring the people together as did many of our liberators who died scattered all over the world. Most importantly they shun individualism and do not pursue power for power’s sake. Such individuals are missing in action.