A dark day that moved Zimbabwe to another level of suffering and oppression

I remember - as if it were just a few hours ago - waking up as usual at dawn on the morning of 15 November 2017, then routinely checking my WhatsApp, only to be greeted by a barrage of messages to the effect that there had been a coup d'etat, and that the state broadcaster had been taken over by soldiers who were repeatedly issuing a statement and playing endless 'Chimurenga' music.


As much as this was a bit of a surprise, I was not exactly shocked, as
the previous day, international news channels had been awash with
reports of military personnel and tanks having been sighted moving
into the capital Harare. Furthermore, since the sacking of then vice
president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa by then president Robert Gabriel
Mugabe a week before, there had been whispers of the former’s comeback
from self-imposed exile in South Africa to lead a military coup to
oust his long-time mentor and father figure.

Similarly, these rumors were further heightened by a press release
issued by military generals a few days earlier, which undoubtedly was
a warning to Mugabe of their impending intervention.

This was all on the backdrop of years of fierce internal factional
fighting within the ruling ZANU PF party – culminating in the firing
of two consecutive vice presidents (Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru on 9
December 2014, and Mnangagwa on 6 November 2017), at the instigation
of the then first lady Grace – who were all allegedly leading factions
vying to take over from the ailing nonagenarian leader.

That is why it was not, by any means, a coincidence that the sacking
of the two vice presidents, and the coup d’etat against Mugabe, all
occurred around the same period – November/December – as this was just
before crucial ZANU PF congresses, traditionally held in December,
whose climax has always been the appointment of senior office bearers.

Thus, as much as the military intervention, and subsequent takeover by
Mnangagwa, were touted as “targeting criminals around (the then)
president Mugabe, who are committing crimes that are causing social
and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to
justice”, this was just a blatant lie – as the real motive was purely
the fight for political power within the ruling ZANU PF party, and by
extension, Zimbabwe.

It was then a huge mystery – considering the lengthy period in which
these dirty and vicious power struggles and factional fighting had
dragged on and played out in public – how the ordinary suffering
citizens of Zimbabwe found themselves sucked into this purely ZANUPF
mess, by blindly heeding the call for mass marches demanding Mugabe to
step down.

These will forever live in, and torment, my memory as the worst
‘moment of madness’ on the part of some Zimbabweans.

I vividly remember watching – paralysed by unbelivable perplexity and
bewilderment – live television coverage of these marches, with the
massive crowds – coupled by a rally at Highfield’s Zimbabwe Grounds,
that were shamefully attended and addressed by the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) leadership of then vice presidents Nelson
Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri.

I am sure those sitting around me at home could hear me mumbling, in a
trembling and incredulous voice, something like, “What is wrong with
Zimbabweans? Can they not see what is truly happening here? Are we
such fools? Surely, are we willing to be swallowed into ZANU PF
political shenanigans, whilst blindly supporting the taking over of
government by the same vicious and atrocious people who cold-heartedly
massacred and brutalised us since 1980?”

After the bewilderment had subsided, I immediately set down to busily
writing a couple of articles meant to raise awareness on the
disastrous decision that Zimbabweans had made by supporting and
celebrating ZANU PF power struggles, that had absolutely nothing to do
with the ordinary people, but would, in fact, result in continued or
worsening of our plight.

In those articles, I made it clear that, as much as the people’s
boycotting of the marches would not have stopped the coup, but it
would, at least, have instilled a sense of pride and a clear
conscience in the citizenry, with the knowledge that they took no part
in ushering in a ‘new’ government that would, obviously, turn their
lives into a living nightmare.

I reminded the people that these coup-leaders they were supporting and
celebrating were part and parcel of Mugabe’s tyrannical and savage
rule since the country attained independence from Britain in 1980, and
had never had any qualms with his brutal misrule and rampant
corruption. If anything, the ringleaders were accused of being central
in such atrocities as Gukurahundi genocide, and the 2008 post-election
massacres.

What did the people of Zimbabwe truly expect from such a leadership,
now re-packaging itself as a ‘new dispensation’?

Zimbabweans seemed to have forgotten the wise old adage, “a leopard
does not change its spots” – and we were all to be horrendously
reminded on 1 August 2018 (when six innocent bystanders and protestors
were gunned down during post-July 30 harmonised elections riots), and
in January 2019, when another dozen met the same fatal fate. None of
the perpetrators of which were ever brought to book – despite, the
clear findings and recommendations by the Kgalema Mothlante Commission
of Inquiry.

Yet, several opposition legislators, and a vast number of other people
were arrested and jailed for inciting or involvement in the riots.

Since then, numerous opposition and labour rights activists have
either been reportedly threatened and/or abducted by people who have
never been identified or arrested.

Furthermore, since August 2019 – when planned marches by the MDC were
prohibited – virtually all subsequent demonstrations and rallies
organised by the opposition party have been effectively banned.

This effectively rubbished the assurances during the 14 November 2017
coup that, “Members of Parliament (MPs) your legislative role is of
paramount importance for peace and stability in this country, and it
is our desire that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve
your respective political constituencies according to democratic
tenets” – which turned out to be just another smokescreen to deceive
the people.

In the same vein, the economic meltdown which crippled the nation
barely a year after the ‘new dispensation’ came into power, has been
the greatest yoke on the necks of most Zimbabweans – characterised by
all the ingredients that create a perfect ‘hell on earth’ – from
incessant lack of gainful employment, foreign and local currencies, as
well as spiralling prices of basic commodities, fuel, electricity, and
medications, which are also in short supply – whilst, the generality
of citizens earn an average of US$50 per month, leading to inevitable
and completely understandable widespread disgruntlement, manifesting
in strikes, demonstrations, stay aways, and incapacitation by workers
who can no longer afford to travel to and fro work.

However, those who are in power or well-connected to the ‘new
dispensation’, live lavishly as they gallivant all over the world in
chartered private jets, and access world class medical care in foreign
lands, all at the expense of the already suffering Zimbabweans who are
ruthlessly taxed even on their hard-earned meagre electronic
transactions. These ‘crocodiles’ – who seem to revel in feasting on
the impoverished citizenry – also afford to send their children to the
most expensive overseas schools.

Criminal cartels have become the order of the day in this country, as
only a handful allegedly access foreign currency at concessionary
rates – which is seldom utilised for its stated intended use, but,
together with the scarce local currency, is freely and openly traded
on the streets of all major cities and towns with impunity.

So, what happened to the objective of “targeting of criminals around
Mugabe who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic
suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice”?

Not only have Zimbabweans not witnessed the overwhelming prosecution,
conviction and sentencing of those ‘criminals around Mugabe’, but
nothing convincingly meaningful has been done to the ‘new
dispensation’ criminals – as the ordinary Zimbabwean is overwhelmed by
unending and crippling economic woes!

Therefore, as Zimbabweans were clearly naively duped into believing,
supporting, and celebrating a pathetic and cruel hoax – that the
military intevention was for their welfare and wellbeing – it is never
too late for a do-over, and to correct one’s mistakes. As Frederick
Douglas once popularly said – “Power concedes nothing without a
demand”, and “If there is no struggle, there’s no progress”.
Let us never make the mistake of allowing our suffering and oppression
– no matter how choking, debilitating, and brutal – to drive us into a
state of desperation – as this makes us vulnerable to manipulation,
naivety, gullibility, which then so easily results in us making grave
mistakes and decisions that we will forever regret.

Zimbabweans need to be calculated thinkers and strategic planners, who
play their cards very carefully and cleverly – being very careful
never to be used and exploited by those with their own selfish
political and economic ulterior motives. Like wolves in sheep’s
clothing, such people are all around us – purporting to know what is
best for us.

We, the ordinary citizenry know first hand the pain and suffering that
we are going through, and no one – absolutely, no one – can come to us
like the fairy tale ‘knight in shining armour’ claiming to have our
best interests at heart. Only we have the solutions to our own
suffering and oppression.

Zimbabweans should now reclaim their rightful place in their country,
but only through constitutional, peaceful and non-violent means – as
violence is the language of cowards and bullies. As much as the people
of Zimbabwe are divided along political, tribal, racial, and religious
lines, nevertheless we have one thing that binds us together – our
suffering.

Only as a united front can we ever expect to demand, reclaim, and
receive the dignity that each and every one of us rightly deserves as
a birthright. Let us not sell our birthright to those in power, as if
they were more Zimbabwean than the rest of us – like the biblical Esau
who sold his first born right to his younger brother Isaac, for a bowl
of stew.

‚óŹ Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author,
and speaker. Please feel free to WhatsApp/call: +263733399640, or
+263715667700, or calls only: +263782283975, or email:
[email protected]com.

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