Zimbabweans’ naivety and gullibility our greatest weakness

I was amazed listening to last evening's Voice of America (VOA) Studio 7 news, whereby People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti was venting his disappointment with the cabinet appointed by Zimbabwe's new president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.

Tendai Biti

What amazed – rather, flabbergasted – me the most, was not the disappointment expressed by Biti, but his sudden turn-around, as he was one of those who celebrated former president Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s downfall, and giving his thumbs-up to this so-called ‘new dispensation’.

Unfortunately, he was not the only one, as thousands of people strewed over the streets of the cities of Harare and Bulawayo, as well as gathering at the National Sports Stadium for Mnangagwa’s inauguration – as they celebrated this ‘new dispensation’.

Included in this euphoria were leaders of all of Zimbabwe’s major opposition political parties, as well as most respected political, social and economic minds.

Be it as it may, I and a few others failed to see the reason for this sudden hysteria that gripped the nation of Zimbabwe in November 2017.

Was it the downfall of Mugabe?

Were there signs – that some of us were obviously missing – that this ‘new dispensation’ was God-given and that the dire situation in Zimbabwe would finally improve?

Granted, the majority of us in Zimbabwe were very excited over the long-overdue demise of Mugabe’s presidency – whose tyrannical and incompetent rule had been the only one this country had  ever known since independence from Britain some 37 years ago.

It was so refreshing – and even, historical – witnessing the exiting of Mugabe and the installation of a new president – something I never thought would be in my lifetime.

However, that is where my excitement ended!

What else was there to be ecstatic about?

The appointment of Mnangagwa as the new president?

Certainly, not!

The very fact that the military was instrumental in the removal of Mugabe as the president – who had been elected in 2013, and another election due in a few months – is a very worrying warning sign of grave things to come.

Secondly, the intervention of the country’s military, as a culmination of ferocious internal ruling ZANU PF factional fighting, left a bitter taste in my mouth, since this set a dangerous precedence.

Thirdly, the installation of Mnangagwa – who is also well-known for his viciousness, which is not too different from his predecessor – as the new president, did not inspire in me any optimism, as he had always been unquestioningly supportive of Mugabe’s failed policies.

Furthermore, Mnangagwa and his military comrades, were instrumental in using brute force in subduing any dissent, from as far back as the Gukurahundi era – where over 20,000 innocent men, women, and children were callously butchered in the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s, something I witnessed with my own eyes – to the gruesome brutality metted on the opposition after the defeat of Mugabe in the 2008 elections by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Richard Tsvangirai.

So where would my confidence in this ‘new dispensation’ come from?

In addition, Mnangagwa never espoused in any significant detail how he would be different form Mugabe, besides the usual eloquent speeches filled with promises – something every politician is well-versed in.

This is one lesson that Zimbabweans have not learnt – that every politician should be treated with scepticism, as they are generally a bunch of liars, whose only true mission is to serve themselves.

Thus, as much as Mnangagwa’s track record had been less than enviable, there was need to give him the benefit of the doubt, whilst still being very cautious.

However, he undid any cautious hope that could have been placed on him by appointed most of Mugabe’s trusted lieutenants – who had been credited with the nation’s dismal performance over the past years, – into his cabinet.

As much as it would have been prudent to give Mnangagwa the benefit of the doubt, his actions in the first week of his presidency proved beyond any reasonable doubt that he was not different from his long-time mentor and leader Mugabe…he truly had been a good learner.

This is where my worry over Zimbabweans arise!

How could we have been so optimistic and hopeful over Mnangagwa’s takeover?

The euphoria that gripped Zimbabweans was not, by any stretch of the imagination, cautious.

A huge section of our society had overwhelmingly embraced this ‘new dispensation’, including all the major opposition political forces in the country – as was witnessed by their comments, and even speeches at a rally organised by veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle to push for Mugabe’s ouster.

It was even clear when the military intervened in both ZANU PF and government affairs that, if Mugabe was to go, then Mnangagwa would take over – so what was there to celebrate?

Was the removal of Mugabe, and his replacement with his long-time protégé, worth that much excitement?

I am reminded of a joke that we used to make in the 1980s and 1990s, whereby, we would poke fun at how Zimbabweans would ululate at virtually anything that Mugabe said – even before he had finished his sentence, and it so happened that what they thought he was saying, was not the case!

Even the once famous Zimbabwe musical group, Bundu Boys, had a song that alluded to this fact, saying that ‘tinoridza mhururu ngoma isati yapfumbira’, meaning that we celebrate before what we are expecting has not even manifest.

That is our greatest weakness as Zimbabweans.

We do not take our time to seriously consider and evaluate an issue, before we run to conclusions.

Is that why we have so naively and gullibly elected the very same faces time after time, yet we complain that these people never fulfill their electoral pledges?

Are we so afraid of completely cutting off this toxic relationship we have with these untrustworthy politicians – both in the ruling and mainstream opposition parties?

Furthermore, had we become so obsessed with the ‘Mugabe must go’, or ‘Mugabe must fall’ mantra, such that we had lost focus that the real problem we had was not merely limited to only one man, but the whole ZANU PF system, which drove Mugabe’s regime.

We confined and misdirected all our energies on the removal of Mugabe, yet the problem was far bigger than him, but was a wider ZANU PF issue.

Probably, the slogan over the years should have been ‘ZANU PF must go’, or ‘ZANU PF must fall’, so that we would not lose our focus on the real enemy of the people.

Our misdirected focus on Mugabe as an individual – as opposed to being a mere symbol of a whole rotten ZANU PF system – led to the misplaced excitement and hope that engulfed Zimbabweans when he resigned.

The same system that destroyed the country is still very much in operation, and one wonders why we seem to thinks our situation will improve.

Had Zimbabweans become so desperate and lost all hope, such that, we now grasp and welcome anything?

Are we seriously not confident enough to rally together and script our own bright future – even without this obviously questionable opposition.

We have the numbers, and that is all we need.

The opposition’s prompt embrace of this ‘new dispensation’ – and their sudden U-turn, after the announcement of Mnangagwa’s cabinet – exposes their political immaturity, unreliability, and immorality – as I strongly suspect that their initial support was merely based on selfish interests, as they hoped to be part of the gravy train.

They knew that Mngagagwa’s government would not be any different from Mugabe’s, but the fact that they would be back to lavish lifestyles – as they did in the unity government between 2009 and 2013 – was enough for them to sell their souls to the devil.

However, now that they have been left out in the cold, their eyes are suddenly opened.

Zimbabwe needs a genuinely new dispensation, and 2017 has been the year for change, as the old and worn out guard – in both ZANU PF and the opposition has been exposed as weak and selfish.

Indeed, Jehovah God has heard the suffering people’s cries, and He is answering, but not in the manner Zimbabweans currently perceive it.

God has exposed these people who have betrayed our trust, for who they are – and now the ball is firmly in our court.

We should never look down on ourselves, as God has placed tremendous power within us that we can be the drivers of our own progress and prosperity.

We still have 10 months to go till the next elections, and we need to remain open to God’s wisdom and leadership and we take full charge of our own destiny – completely rejecting the current dispensation and mapping our own future as a country.

Let is stop being so desperate, so as to settle for crumbs, for we deserve better.

We need not continue placing our hopes in people who have clearly failed us – as we have seen these people’s true colours – but, our destiny is our own responsibility.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should you invite him to speak at any gathering and event. Please feel free to call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or (calls only) +263715667700, email: [email protected] Please also ‘Like’ the ZimJustice page on Facebook.

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