The New Year and the State of the Nation in Zimbabwe: Beyond the Politics of Catastrophe and Violence

Can this New Year be that of restoration of political, economic, social, juridical and psychological sanity in Zimbabwe? Will our leaders put the people first? Can 2010 be the year of redemption and salvation?

These are pertinent questions as we take stock of the state of the nation after three decades of uncertainty, violence and hostage to a selfish leadership that covered crony-party-capitalism under the respectable gloss of patriotism nationalism. As we reflect on the state of the nation after three decades under a single party and a single leader, there is need for all concerned citizens and intellectuals to be brutally honest about the state of our national affairs and the responsibility of both the leadership and the citizenry.

No one in his or her right senses can doubt that the turn of the new millennium witnessed Zimbabwe sliding deeper and deeper into economic, political, social, juridical and psychological quagmire of unprecedented proportions. There is no doubt again that in our search for the reasons for this national malaise and catastrophe, our leaders and citizenry have not been honest. Self-criticism has been lacking. We found it easier to apportion blame to other people some of whom have not even set foot on Zimbabwe. Our leadership in charge of the state reduced itself to the status of complainants and assumed the identity of victimhood. They openly avoided accountability for anything. They resuscitated a familiar psychology of inferiority precisely at that time that the ordinary majority of our people looked up to them for leadership. They even embarrassingly blamed citizens they were expected to govern, polarising the nation into war veterans, patriots, puppets, traitors and sell-outs as they continued to pursue fatalistic crony-party-capitalism involving primitive style accumulation of houses ahead of the homeless citizens and land ahead of the landless peasants. Even when diamonds were discovered at Chiadza, the nationalist-military junta in Harare and its cronies and clients, unleashed merciless primitive accumulation accompanied by violence.

On top of this, every five years, the hapless citizens of Zimbabwe, have been exposed to the empty rituals of electoralism, which our leaders has since 1980 turned into a time to kill, maim, and torture instead of a time to renew the social contract with the electorate. Two cases in point are the 1980s open-state sanctioned and shameless violence that claimed the lives of more than 20 000 civilians lives in Matabeleland and Midlands regions and the post-29th of March 2008 open-state-sanctioned and shameless election-related but military-orchestrated violence that adversely affected areas of Masvingo, Mashonaland, Midlands and Manicaland, as the war-veterans, army officers and militias fought to destroy all those who exercised their right to vote by choosing the MDC as their next government and Morgan Tsvangirai as their president.

Against this background, how can we evaluate our state of the nation in the New Year? Should we not be ashamed of ourselves for active complicity in the destruction of our institutions, our nation and eroding our human values? Are those who raped, maimed, killed, tortured and actively participated in reversing the peoples verdict in an election ashamed of themselves? Should they not take advantage of the existence of the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration to repent? How can we forge together a common citizenship in a New Zimbabwe in which tribalism, racism, regionalism and violence become things of the past? This is a mammoth challenge for the Inclusive Government for the New Year. Can the cries of the victims and the fears of the perpetrators be reconciled without comprehensive social justice based on truth and repentance? For how long should the political elites exhaust all their energies in competition for state control instead uniting to take forward economic reconstruction, democratisation of state institutions, reforming the security sector and uniting the nation?

This New Year must be the moment of change of mindset in our people and in our leadership. As I said in my recent book entitled Do Zimbabweans Exist? Trajectories of Nationalism, National Identity Formation and Crisis in a Postcolonial State (2009), there is need for our people and our leadership to desist from the simplistic notion of a pre-existing Zimbabwean identity. We must strive to continuously build this identity through pursuing inclusionary rather than exclusionary politics. The record of our past indicates a dismal failure in this area as manifested in the readiness with which we point guns at each other without remorse. Members of the state secret service are confused to the extent that they spend time searching for enemies of the state among their sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers. The army and the police have reduced themselves to a militia rather than a respectable national force. For how long will we continue to sniff each other like witch-hunters? All this indicates the pertinence of re-visiting the notion of the existence of a respectable Zimbabwean identity that can repel and resist the imperatives of inter-and intra-community violence as well as state violence. Only once a respectable and durable national identity is constructed can we bury the scourge of violence in our midst. To do so we need true nation-builders not racist and tribalists masquerading as nation-builders.

The year 2010 must be the moment of restoration of rule of law and certainty in our nation. Our country needs national healing after three decades of living under an arrogant leadership that claimed to have died for the people. That mentality must die. Our national economy needs to be liberated from a venal clique of military-nationalist capitalists without any patriotism and national interests. Re-branding Zimbabwe must be invigorated in the direction of re-building Zimbabwe as a progressive, democratic, developmental state. Zimbabwe must be returned to the ambit of international community of states and the politics of un-strategic intransigence and belligerence that leads to national death must be avoided. Zimbabwe must adopt a new thought-out strategy of engagement of global powers without necessarily making itself a pawn of the powerful nations.

Finally, our leadership and our citizens must realise that Zimbabwe is at cross-roads in which the old are dying and the new are being born. It is undergoing a generational leap-forward. The crisis is only that the old are taking time to die and the new are taking time to be born. In the interval, monsters have come to the centre of politics, spoiling everything and generating new crises. But a generation whose time to go has come cannot over-live its welcome in Zimbabwe and elsewhere else. In the same vein a generation whose time has come to take the reins of the state cannot be stopped by anyone. This reality must give Zimbabweans new hope in the New Year. Let us push forward with this hope in mind and we will realise our national dreams.

Thank you.

Dr. Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni is a Zimbabwean Academic writing from Johannesburg South Africa and can be contacted on

Post published in: Opinions

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