The Face of the Struggle for Zimbabwe

By Patrick Huni

Well, we literally went to bed with Zanu PF, took no precautions, and Zanu PF raped us in our sleep.

In my sojourn in South Africa, I have had the opportunity to witness first hand the post-traumatic aberrations of the Apartheid System which ended 14 years ago. The resultant stress is still with the majority of the people, particularly the previously disadvantaged groups (PDI), still fresh and vivid as if it was a few years ago. The economic inequalities are still evident, but there is a pervasive spirit of optimism. The government is at great pains to advance the economic well-being of the average PDI South Africans, they being unapologetically preferred above former Whites and all foreigners both in business and employment. It is only those poorer PDI individuals who believe the government’ must bail them out by way of handouts that have not had their lot improve much in the 14 years of independence.

You could therefore say that things are looking up’ for South Africans. At least they are committed to protecting their democracy, having firstly put in place a constitution that makes it that much easier, most importantly the limit of presidential terms to two. With the Zimbabwe experience, one would need extra genius to destroy an economy in about ten years, after which time the president would have to go. Also, they do not directly vote for a presidential candidate, he is seconded to government by the winning party and can therefore be recalled. Similarly with Cabinet ministers et al. The only ingredient missing which is therefore a threat to this young democracy is an effective, reasonably large opposition party.

Which is where Zimbabwe now is! The former opposition, the winning party (which should be the ruling party!) now is a formidable force to reckon with. Why, they took control of Parliament this week, for the first time ever in the 28 years of Zimbabwe Independence. Take note of the years, at half that time, Zimbabweans probably were in the bliss South Africans currently find themselves in. In 1994 anybody who prophesied the chaos Zimbabwe is in now would have been labelled an alarmist heretic and burnt at the stake.

We were happy with the party of the people, Zanu PF. We had a saying then, Zanu Vanhu, Vanhu  iZanu loosely translated,  Zanu party is of the people, and the people are the party Mugabe would have made it a one party state at some point were it not for Edgar Two Boy Tekere and his ZUM party who got three seats in the early 90s Parliament election. He knew the evil heart of his erstwhile colleague, and risked his personal comfort to prevent that catastrophe. He must be remembered fondly in Zimbabwean history. Someone of repute must take that plunge, quit the ANC and lead a vibrant opposition for the South African democratic space to survive.

By the time Morgan Tsvangirai rose to ascendancy in the early 2000s, firstly through the Labour Movement, then through the Civic Groups, namely the NCA, the damage to the democratic space in Zimbabwe was complete. I was reading the Zimbabwe Constitution recently comparing it with a more democratic one of South Africa, its amazing how much repression is institutionalised in it though many years of calculated amendments to limit democratic space. As an example, the simple determination of who can be a citizen has many winding paragraphs formulated with the idea of disenfranchising bona fide citizens of their status. It’s really amazing, and it goes for everything. Even universally accepted human rights are included with qualification in that constitution.

By that time (early 2000s) you had people who believed they were born to bear rule in the country. They had turned themselves into career politicians and could not envision any other role outside of government, and never thought their hold on power could ever be seriously challenged. What happened then was they became more and more inept at addressing the concerns of the ordinary man on the Chitungwiza bus, as one of my lecturers was wont to say. This worsened to the extend where they no longer knew what to do, and as time went on, it moved to a place where they could not do anything, even if they wished, to turn around the economy. That is where we are, 28 years after independence. The only positive thing is, we could have a vibrant democracy going forward if only we can handle the current delicately balanced political impasse, and here I appeal to all concerned.

This is the face of the Struggle for Zimbabwe. It is first and foremost for democratic space. It is a struggle for a country we can be sure that its future is protected by institutional provisions in our constitution and other laws. It’s a struggle for a country we can feel optimistic about; we can plan our future on, which holds the prospect of true prosperity for all citizens. Not one of us wants to die in far-off lands. Initially, many moved out to horn their skills hoping to come back cleverer for the experience, but many are finding themselves hostages in these foreign lands because of the deteriorating political situation back home.

We made our mistakes, and must all take our fair share of the blame. We trusted Zanu PF the way no man will ever trust his wife. It was like letting your wife get into bed with another man, night after night, while she vowed all the time it was only sharing a bed, and you were only too ready to believe it. Can you blame her if she finally presented a bastard to you? Well, we literally went to bed with Zanu PF, took no precautions, and Zanu PF raped us in our sleep.

How do we correct this? Our resistance has to be steadfast. It will be good if it does not have to be violent, I am happy Tsvangirai is thoroughly a man of peace. Negotiations overnight are not realistic, that two week time-frame was just ambitious. Let us be prepared for many rounds of talks, and many failed such rounds. As the natural external pressure is brought to bear on the warlords one at a time, the negotiations will become more and more fruitful. What ordinary people can help with is to blow the whistle on these power-mongers on their businesses outside Zimbabwe, have these frozen or seized and when each and everyone of them begins to suffer personal losses, they will be prepared to listen better. Let us be in it for the long haul. South Africa’s talks started while Mandela was in prison. He was released in 1991 and the fruition of the talks was only 1994.

On each one’s individual part, in as much as we enjoyed false comfort, peace and prosperity during Zanu PF’s  good days, let us take the pinch of the struggle boldly, as a naughty boy takes his stripes. He dare not wail, after all he was fully aware of the consequences of his actions. Let us not put pressure on Tsvangirai and company to accept anything stupid to short-circuit our suffering. It will be folly and short-lived. We need a total overhaul of our institutions, starting with the Constitution. Even when MDC comes to power, it must be in a totally different space, a truly democratic space. Never again must we have the prospect of such failure in governance. Never, ever again, once beaten, twice shy. My only words of comfort: If we hold on, it cannot be too long now, the writing is on the wall for Mugabe & Co. But even if it’s long, let’s hold on, Evil will never prevail over Good.

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