A letter to Farai Maguwu

chris_kabwatoDear Farai,
Greetings to you. Now, Farai, we have never met but your story has gone around the world via the nemesis of all tyrants and their servants the Internet. (Pictured: Chris Kabwato)

Firstly, I wish to thank you for your courage and patriotism. In life we have choices we can choose a life on the margins, unperturbed or we can choose to contribute to the transformation of our communities.

You have chosen to hold the state and the society of Zimbabwe accountable. Now accountability is a very long and incomprehensible word to the politicians and securocrats who have plundered the nations resources for three decades.

Farai, politicians and men with guns fear another word truth. It is a strange and inconvenient word more suited to a Sunday congregation than to the affairs of the state. It is for standing for the truth that you are being persecuted. Your tormentors wield an array of laws and guns to hold you hostage in cells and elsewhere.

Ian Douglas Smith

Is it not ironic that that the laws that Mr. Ian Douglas Smith chiselled have now been refined in order to silence the voices of the people that fought so gallantly for a free Zimbabwe?

Mr. Smiths Law and Order Maintenance Act becomes Mr. Mugabes Public Order and Safety Act (POSA)! Ah, Farai, the more things change the more they remain the same.

You see when a revolution is exhausted ideologically and morally it begins to eat its own children. I think of the French Revolution and its cry of Libert, galit, fraternit and the consequences for leaders such as Robespierre, Danton and many others.

They all started off with the fervour of transforming their society death to the monarchy. Well, they did send Louis XVI to the guillotine (the National Razor) and then they turned on each other.

You see Comrade Robespierre set up something called the Committee of Public Safety a very ironic title when you think that in just thirteen months of his Reign of Terror some 40,000 people were sent to the gallows.

Its called paranoia and the scramble for power and resources. Terror is not something born yesterday. Idi Amin, Kamuzu Banda, Mobutu Sese Seko, Sani Abacha we have a glorious list of evil men to set precedence to the Zimbabwean regime. Malawi Congress Partys Young Pioneers become ZANUs Green Bombers (themselves heirs to the Youth Brigade of the 1980s).

The Fate of Vultures

Think of how the diamonds of Marange are just like the diamonds in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and the oil in the Niger Delta. Do the people of the Niger Delta matter when oil is taken from their land? Do the people of Marange matter when diamonds are found in the belly of their land?

When I think of Marange I recall a poem called The Fate of Vultures by Nigerian writer, Tanure Ojaide:

O Aridon, bring back my wealth

from rogue vaults;

legendary witness to comings and goings,

memory god, my mentor,

blaze an ash-trail to the hands

that buried mountains in their bowels

lifted crates of cash into their closets.

Later in the poem Ojaide opines:

You can see when someone believes freedom is a windfall

And fans himself with flames of flamboyance

Now, Farai, I say all this because I think it is important for us to understand the nature of the beast we are dealing with. If I may come closer to home the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Floribert Chebeya, the head of a local NGO called Voice of the Voiceless, was found dead in his car on the morning of June 2, 2010, reports The Economist. The evening before, he had set out to meet a police chief, John Numbi, a close aide of President Joseph Kabila and one of the countrys most powerful men.

You would know about this story, Farai, so I wont go into details around the increasing repression in the Congo. What is significant is that Mr. Chebeya was a critic of Mr. Kabilas silencing of political dissidents. An investigation is going on now but the sinister tones are very clear.

I dont wish to scare you by bringing up Mr. Chebeyas demise at the hands of the forces of darkness. What I wish to alert you is that many people are watching every step of the state and the extra-judicial forces.

It will burst

You are not alone at this your hour of need. Remain steadfast on the dry rock of principle.

You should also take courage from the certainty that this regime of impunity will come to pass in the same way that someone elses regime of Never in a thousand years crumbled in 1980. As Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awonoor, writes it will burst. It has to burst.

I wish your family strength as they agonise over your situation. I also wish them the strength to share your vision and to recall the words of this poem by Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin:

Yet fear shall fail to conquer our warmth

Since each has

A sunny side of a cause to serve,

Though distant cries come breaking

On our threshold

And homes tremble

With the terror of the earth,

Though glories are uprooted

And many more shall be.

Though heroes lament

Birds wail

Fowls feast

And waterfalls sucked dry

Yet fear shall fail to conquer our warmth.

Yours in solidarity,

Chris Kabwato

Editors Note: Chris Kabwato is publisher of Zimbabwe in Pictures (www.zimbabweinpictures) and also director of Highway Africa, a media and technology institute at Rhodes University, South Africa.

Kabwato writes this open letter to Farai Maguwu, the director of the of Centre for Research and Development, who is languishing prison after he was arrested about three weeks and charged with communicating false statements prejudicial to the state after he wrote reports detailing alleged rights abuses by security forces at the notorious Marange diamond field.

Post published in: Opinions

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