Telling the truth

Over Christmas I spent a little time in the rural areas. One day, as I was being taken to meet some old friends, our driver stopped to give a lift to a couple of beardless Grey Bombers and indulged in a polite, positively fawning conversation with them.

Asked them if they had a busy Christmas and nodded encouragingly when they said there was less violence in the bars than last year (though where were they last year to be able to make the comparison?) I ventured to remark that people who used big sticks on strangers in the street were a bigger hazard than drunks. That was rather pointedly ignored.

Later, back in town and riding a kombi on the last stage of my journey home, I could not ignore the marks left by police batons on the windscreen. This kombi crew were veterans of the ongoing war they have to fight with the police for their very survival. I was prompted to ask myself some questions.

First, why are we all so obsequiously polite? I know we all hope that Zanu (PF) and the BSAP or whatever they call themselves now have turned over a new leaf, but what difference has this made?

Yes, we had a peaceful election – because none of us protested on the spot at any of the blatant abuses which cried out to Heaven for rectification. Peaceful it was, but it wasn’t free or fair. What sort of foundation is that for lasting peace, which is impossible without justice?

Have we forgotten how the magic word “reconciliation” was misused in 1980? Are we seeing another attempt to close our eyes, forget our injuries and hope that the leopard is changing its spots? Isn’t it more likely that if we sweep all that torture, rape, murder and arson under the carpet, it will all fester there until we have a new outbreak that makes the “Third Chimurenga” and all the ruin that followed look like a children’s tea party? Rine manyanga hariputirwi isn’t made any less true because the new recruits weren’t taught that traditional wisdom in school or in their Border Gezi camps. It is time we taught them.

But we need to remember there is a difference between not forgetting old grievances and trying to repair injustices that still hurt us.

The axe forgets; the tree does not. What we have heard from Zanu (PF) since 1980 has been a curious mixture of the axe telling us trees that we must forget the injuries it inflicted on us, mixed with constant reminders of the evils committed by everyone else, from Mzilikazi through Cecil Rhodes right down to Tony Blair. Yes, Blair is a nasty little man, who should be hauled before the International Criminal Court for the death and destruction he helped George W. Bush to bring on Iraq, but what has he done to Zanu (PF) to justify their virulent hatred? I’m not aware that he committed any crime against me or you. Zanu’s quarrel with him is a personal one, so why should we be involved?

Listen to the trees and you hear a different story; survivors of torture who are still in pain, relatives killed in election violence or the Gukurahundi genocide, livelihoods destroyed violently; for farm workers in 2000, for the urban poor especially in 2005 and in the recent smaller repeats of that madness.

Yes, we trees have seen enough violence to last a few generations, but we do know the perpetrators and don’t see Tony Blair or “the British” in the front rank among them. Then, if forgetting our hurts doesn’t improve anything, can suffering more stolen elections and the constant threat that they will “go back to war” if we protest build peace? Sweep it all under the carpet, but those horns will eventually break through.

Unfortunately, the longer people try to hide inconvenient facts, the deeper damage they do and the more violent the final reaction can be.

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Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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