A few days ago Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai repeated his call for Zimbabweans in the diaspora to return not only in person but with funds to rebuild the country.
He was jeered in London over the same call and caused much tension among Zimbabweans in Britain as the government there waved his speech at asylum-seekers as proof that things were fine and warned that they would be forcibly returned to the “comfort and safety” of home sweet home.
Zimbabweans are generally a peace-loving people to the point of sometimes being desolately apathetic. One unarmed man in a small powerful position can torment dozens of Zimbabweans and subdue them to silence.
I remember a bus driver tormenting and threatening to throw me and another man out of the bus for protesting about his bad driving and the bribe he had given to a police officer manning a roadblock to be allowed to drive a bus with worn-out tyres.
None of the passengers supported our protest. They unanimously agreed to have us thrown out of the bus without a refund of our fare money. We were allowed to continue our trip only on condition of silent humiliation (“you dont own a bus, so you can’t control a bus”).
But shortly afterwards, a front tyre burst and we ended up in a wheat field, lucky enough to have missed a huge tree on the roadside. It was only when their lives had been seriously threatened that the other passengers realised their folly in supporting the driver.
Some people think Zimbabweans are on the cowardly side when they employ what I call survival strategies. Faced with extreme danger to their person, Zimbabweans use two major approaches: run away or fall silent. So, the diasporans took the first option, to escape “to live to fight another day”, as Bob Marley says. It is pointless to be a dead hero. No Zimbabwean will engage in “suicide bombing”. What is the point of bombing and dying if you cannot live to enjoy the benefit of the act?
The Prime Minister has to assure the exiles that the reasons for their “running away” are no longer there, especially in terms of economic and personal welfare — fear as well as psycho-emotional trauma inflicted on them by the state. But while he wants diasporans to return with their purses open, he does not assure them that the reasons millions of them left have been rectified. The political bus still has worn-out tyres.
Recently the youth development ministry announced that it has trained more than 80 000 Green Bombers in the Border Gezi camps. In the negotiations on outstanding issues there are substantial omissions — such as who the Green Bombers are being trained to bomb. All ordinary Zimbabwean citizens know that they are the flies waiting to be devoured by these merciless youths trained in the arts of brutality and human degradation.
As an educationist, I would like to have Tsvangirai’s government tell the nation the exact content of the training courses these youths go through. In normal schools parents know their children’s curriculum. The instructors and teachers have well-recognised qualifications that give the public some confidence in what the students are learning in preparation for respectable careers and professions.
And, in normal schools, parents are assured of the quality of education and training by the frequent visits of inspectors and evaluators. Parents also have the right to visit and talk to the teachers and inspectors who are, as we say in teaching, acting in loco parentis, some kind of second parents.
But in these youth camps, no one is allowed to visit to see what their children are being taught. The results are visible only when the youths come out, equipped with all sorts of skills of human and material destruction. They are taught methods of torture, how to rape their own relatives, how to destroy houses and all sorts of property. At least, this is what Zimbabwean society sees them doing after leaving those camps.
Youths on standby
The Prime Minister is not assuring us that if we return home to rebuild, the destructive youths will not be on standby to destroy, kill and maim as per their training. They are still President Robert Mugabe’s little dogs of war, bent on terrorising their parents, political critics and opponents. It is as if Tsvangirai is saying: come home and, if you are not a member of the presidents party, share the violence with me.
Parliament is there, but basic changes to the laws that forced journalists and other citizens out of the country are not about to be made. The army and police are completely out of the control of the prime minister.
Joint Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa makes a few noises about the arrest of one or two murder suspects, but every sane Zimbabwean knows that the Mwales, the Kitsiyatotas and the others will surely never be arrested anytime soon.
They still salute their murderous bosses who wear medals and look forward to being buried at Heroes’ Acre should they die anytime soon. The same murderers, rapists and torturers are still the heroes parading in our streets and villages.
Yes, the coalition government is a small sign of hope, but who wants a “small sign of hope” in the political turbulence that forced so many to abandon their whole lives and start afresh as beggars and nobodies in other lands? Even the Prime Minister himself is continually insulted, as he was when leader of the opposition. He is forbidden from appearing too much on national radio and TV. The new ministers are treated as if they do not exist.
Police chief Augustine Chihuri will never take orders from Giles Mutsekwa. And innocent people are still being arrested, tortured and imprisoned on fabricated charges. The “disappeared” are still unaccounted for and no one is about to be arrested for illegal abductions, torture and imprisonment of innocent citizens.
Climate of fear
This is the scenario to which Tsvangirai wants people in the diaspora to return. The diasporans know that the Mugabe wing of the government does not respect a word of what they sign for. The Central Intelligence Organisation is still on the rampage, harassing innocent civilians going about their normal lives. The generals are having all they want in a political climate of fear that they know the ageing president thrives on.
I have a feeling that most Zanu-PF leaders are happy that the old man is so old that he has lost control. They are then in charge and no one seems to supervise their public conduct anymore. They can loot and plunder national wealth as well as human lives as long as they sing their daily praises to the “Supreme Leader”. The Mugabe ministers have the permission of the president to ignore the Prime Minister or even insult him.
To the prime minister, for whom I have tremendous respect, I would say: please dismantle the national climate of fear and then ask the exiles to return. As long as the two wings of government are still antagonistic and separate, the people still feel they are being invited back to be the grass that suffers when two elephants fight. Unfortunately, of the two elephants, one has its tusks still intact while the other has only its soft trunk.
Editors Note: Chenjerai Hove is a prize-winning Zimbabwean author living in EuropePost published in: Opinions