credit, skills, freedom and the necessities of life. Those seven years may look a hopeless wasteful descent into poverty and decay. But to the insider there are definite stages of movement, much of it positive. Nothing stands still.
There has been a noticeable shift from acceptance of control from the top (top down) to a demand for local initiative (bottom up). The government’s gut reaction to any movement in society is to want to control it. During these seven lean years we have seen attempts at control extended not only to the election process but also to the media, the judiciary, the unions, the NGOs and other civic bodies. Whatever the thinking behind this the desire to control seems to arise from a fear of people making their own decisions, which might eventually lead to the ruling party losing power.
Each of the seven years carries its own story. In the first years we saw much use of force to drive people off their property and attain the desired election results. In the middle years attempts were made to channel finance and the economy in a desired direction and more recently we have seen a further demonstration of force at the time of Murambatsvina, which is still going on.
But at the same time there is a quiet revolution in process and the government realizes it and is even buying into it. People are starting their own organizations at the grass roots. These have nothing to do with politics but are simply for small and medium sized enterprises. While the government at first wanted to control these too – and even set up a Ministry to do this – they now realize that the best hope of growth is where the people themselves run their enterprises in the way they want. So the government has wisely backed off and even applauded the efforts of small entrepreneurs.
Another sign of strength oozing back is the way dialogue and inclusiveness is quietly taking the place of confrontation and exclusion; you are either with us or against us. In fact dialogue and inclusiveness is much more ‘traditional’ and ‘cultural’ than their opposites. In a distant rural area of the country recently a small community rejected a leader who thought he was in his position ‘for life’ but they still retained him on the committee.
Before the seven lean years began people were content to enjoy the fat years – such as they were. They were not ‘fat’ for everyone. But now people are starting to realize you cannot leave everything to government: each one has to take some responsibility for his or her life. And we are beginning to do it. Not long ago I visited the citizens of Hatcliffe Extension. They were frantically busy building their houses. I noticed one lady, who was in the midst of cooking for the brick moulders, was growing a strawberry plant. Strawberries in Hatcliffe Extension?
One of my favourite proverbs expresses the wisdom that people are resilient. Simba mukaka rinosinira. No matter how much you draw the milk it oozes back. To the outside observer Zimbabwe may look like a drained reservoir at the end of the dry season. Seven years of evaporation has left us bereft of