By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
I HAVE written extensively on how our appalling cowardice as Zimbabweans is the greatest single most outstanding factor holding us back as a nation — preventing us from pushing for the change we desperately need, so we can finally fully enjoy the fruits of our hard-won independence.
Let us be brutally honest with each other as Zimbabweans, the only reason we even have something called “independence” — as much as the majority of the country’s citizenry have never tasted its joys and benefits, since 1980 — was on account of intrepid boys and girls, men and women, who were willing to sacrifice their own lives for the greater good of the entire nation.
Indeed, it was not a walk in the park since thousands of lives were lost during the liberation struggle, including those of innocent civilians who were butchered at the hands of both sides in the war, for supposedly “selling out”, or “harbouring terrorists”.
Similarly, far from being some glorified “action war movie”, the armed struggle was vicious, cold-blooded, and gruesome, with many caught up in frightening exchanges with enemy forces, or forced to watch the harrowing deaths of their comrades, while themselves escaping with their lives by a whisker, leaving most perennially traumatised and scarred (both emotionally and physically), even to this day.
However, what this showed were a valiant unflinching people who were ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice for the independence and freedom of their fellow countrymen and women, even if they themselves were to never live to see that day.
As much as the day of independence finally arrived on April 18, 1980, after a decade of blood-soaked struggle, there was one thing Zimbabweans failed to grasp: How to sustain, consolidate and preserve that “uhuru”.
I have highlighted this several times before that the mere act of a country attaining its political independence from a colonial power does not in itself guarantee the citizenry’s freedom and liberty, nor prosperity and economic emancipation.
This is true in most cases, including in those countries we now suppose as beacons of democracy and people’s rights — such as the United States, which declared its independence from England on July 4, 1776.
Yet, the country remained largely segregated on racial lines, with the black population receiving the short end of this liberty stick for the greater part of the next two centuries, until the rise of the Pan Africanist and civil rights movements in the 20th Century.
In other words, not only does once-off independence seldom guarantee freedom and liberty for the ordinary people, but there is need for the same people to ensure that those rights are observed by the ruling class, as well as waging further liberation struggles for this cause.
Of course, subsequent fights for justice, equality and prosperity need not necessarily be violent on the part of the oppressed people, but, as witnessed in the 1960s US civil rights movement, these could be in the form of civil disobedience and passive resistance.
In standing up against the ruling elite who would, understandably, be terrified of losing their privileged livelihoods, which they enjoy at the expense of the vast majority, there is to be expected a ruthless and barbaric response, usually by means of deploying military might.
Nonetheless, as again seen in the (one-sided) peaceful civil rights movement, led by the likes of Martin Luther King Jnr, or more recently, in Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, the people had to be prepared to endure the brunt of the regime’s menacing force, by standing firm for their beliefs and causes, regardless of the inevitable loss of life, beatings up, torture and arrests.
Without such courage, there should never be any hope for true freedom and liberty. Which brings me closer home to Zimbabwe.
We should stop dreaming of any change in Zimbabwe at least for the next 20 or so years.
That is, unfortunately, the unbridled and painful truth.
Let us not hide behind our fingers and lie to ourselves.
As long as we are not ready, or are too cowardly to stand our ground against a heinous sadistic regime, we can kiss a tearful goodbye to any hopes of genuine “uhuru”, whereby each and every Zimbabwean enjoys the loudly talked about, but elusive, rare and never-seen “fruits and gains of our independence”.
Only until we have a new generation of braver people, who will be willing to place their lives on the line for the country, can we ever talk of positive change, and a New Zimbabwe.
Nevertheless, for now, let us forget about any change… at least, not in the foreseeable future.
The governing Zanu PF is already well aware of the crippling terror gripping the people of Zimbabwe, and that is what will keep the ruling elite in power for decades to come.
That is why I always say those dreaming of change next year at the 2023 harmonised polls are mere daydreamers.
That will never happen!
Even if five million people were to cast their ballots for opposition Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa, and less than 5 000 for Zanu PF’s Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (that is to say, if he is the “last man standing” in the gruelling intra-party factional fighting), what and who will stop the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission from announcing Mnangagwa as the one who actually garnered the five million votes?
Even when everyone has the V11s (polling station tallies) to prove that Chamisa won resoundingly, how many of his supporters will be prepared to risk their lives in standing against the brutal regime?
We all saw, in utter shock and horror, what transpired on August 1, 2018 when six unarmed protesters, most of whom were later proven to have been fleeing, were fatally shot in the back in cold blood after public outrage at the unexplained, curious and suspicious delay in announcing presidential election results, pitting Chamisa and Mnangagwa.
After the obvious fear instilled in the population at these scenes, who will stand up when something sinister occurs in 2023?
Or, we will hear “the elections were rigged” song all over again, for another five years until the next ones in 2028?
Then the cycle repeats itself.
In fact, this has happened twice already in 2008 and 2018.
There was quite credible evidence, especially by way of V11s, that then MDC leaders Morgan Richard Tsvangirai and Chamisa won against Robert Gabriel Mugabe and Mnangagwa, respectively.
If political science professor Jonathan Moyo’s claims are to be believed, as stated in his ExelGate book on the 2018 presidential elections, then Chamisa won by a wide margin — as well as Mugabe’s own inadvertent confession to having been beaten by over 70% by Tsvangirai.
Yet, what did we do about that?
So, why would anyone expect anything to change in 2023?
I think Zimbabweans will have to be content with merely venting their frustrations, and even do a bit of daydreaming, on social media so as to let off some steam, and feel better about the unbearable economic and political situation, but should never seriously expect any real change in Zimbabwe anytime soon.
As long as we are such unmitigated cowards, Chamisa will grow old, and go into the grave, without ever tasting power in Zimbabwe.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher and social commentator. Email: [email protected] He writes here in his personal capacity.