Zimbabwe has taught me how easy it is to oppress people!

There is a popular saying - "if you don't want a prisoner to escape, don't let him know he is in prison".

Tendai Ruben Mbofana


A bit cocky, it may sound – but, this is one of the most packed saying I have ever come across – mostly, because it hits close to home, whose truth has an uncanny and eerie resemblance to the prevailing situation in my own Zimbabwe

In fact, I would dare manipulate this adage into – “if you don’t want a Zimbabwean to rebel, don’t let him know he is oppressed”!

This was more true yesterday, when I came across a lady – whom I immediately assumed was a school teacher – speaking with obvious exceeding excitement, after she had been accepted to be part of the national census, slated for this year, as an enumerator.

What caught my attention – and, quite frankly, found a bit unsettling – was this disproportionate euphoria merely over something as simple as being one of the many who would be counting people in the country.

My own late beloved father – who had also been a school teacher, similarly partook in such exercises as a census enumerator, and electoral polling officer – yet, I never saw him exhibiting such unrestrained animated joy.

Understandably, my mind began wondering what could be the real reason behind this teacher’s jubilation.

The answer was quite clear – this was a chance to augment the paltry salaries that civil servants, and any other Zimbabweans, earned – in a country whereby, over 74% of the population earned less than US$5.50 a day, and nearly half living in extreme poverty on less than US$1.90 per day.

My mind went further in theorizing that, if Zimbabweans could so easily be thrilled and excitable over an extra few dollars – in the midst of slave wages, that were not even enough for the most basic of survival necessities – then, it would equally be easy to make them forget the fact that they were actually oppressed in their own country.

As a matter of fact, judging from the teacher’s apparent exhilaration – in the face of this “timely salvation” on the part of the same government, which authored her immense and indescribable suffering, in the face place – made me seriously doubt whether she still realized that she was more a victim of this callous regime, than a “blessed” beneficiary.

Whereas my father, some three or four decades ago, never regarded participating in censuses and elections as a “godsent” – meant to rescue him out of drowning in a sea of poverty, but actually found the entire undertaking burdensome and tiresome – today’s impoverished teachers welcome this “help” from the perpetrators of their misery, as some form of benevolence.

I am sure this is what psychologists refer to as the “Stockholm Syndrome” – which the Zimbabwe government has perfected into an artform.

How then, will Zimbabweans break the chains of oppression and subjugation that have been shackling us for decades – pushing us over the cliff-edge into a dark abyss of untold suffering and poverty – when we regard these little trinkets as some form of “goodwill” by those who we should be holding accountable for presiding over the destruction of our once prosperous nation, through ruinous incompetence, mismanagement, and corruption?

All the government needs to do in order to keep Zimbabweans docile and in check, is to thrown us a few crumbs from their opulent high table, lavishly ordained by ill-gotten wealth, attained through the plunder of our national resources – and, we will be happy and content.

Just give our unemployed futureless youth some silly “empowerment projects” – which are nothing more than an insult on their pride and dignity, compared to their impressive levels of education – and, we can expect our children to be singing the praises of their oppressors.

Turn our wives, who are trapped in households wallowing in extreme poverty, into some stone age bush “bakers” – with lies that they will soon be competing with the largest established companies – and, presently they will be excitedly wearing regalia bearing the face of their tormentor.

One simply has to spend a day at the local market (musika), or bus rank, to witness the heart-wrenching scenes of grown men and women jubilantly (more due to narcotic drugs and alcohol, presumably on account of stress and hopelessness) carrying out their trade in selling all manner of wares – in the hope of earning even one dollar to feed their families – to fully understand the magnitude of the impoverishment in Zimbabwe.

And, nearly all of them would be donning ruling party regalia – either as a sign of gratitude for the “crumbs” they have been given, or out of pure fear of being denied access to these stalls.

…as did occur a week ago, when ZANU PF lost the Kwekwe parliamentary and local government by-elections on March 26, 2022 – whereby, all those suspected of voting for the victorious opposition CCC candidate were kicked out of the musika.

Interestingly though, when I spent a few hours at the main Kwekwe musika last weekend, listening to what these vendors had to say about this move – there was a loud chorus of indignation, in which they vowed not to vote for the ruling party in next year’s presidential elections, as they could not understand why they had to be punished over the defeat of a “child”, when the “father” still wanted to be voted for in 2023.

I just pray that, these people finally go beyond mere protest votes – as a result of them being evicted from their vending stalls – but, are wise enough to realize that, the only sure guarantee for their long-term REAL  prosperity (where they live dignified and comfortable livelihoods) – would be to finally and totally reject their abusers.

This is my hope for the entirety of the Zimbabwe population – that, we, once and for all, stand up against the miserable “crumbs” we have been receiving from the ruling elite – but, boldly reclaim our respectability and honour that we deserve, by kicking out those who have destroyed our dreams.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com

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