Of course, there is the additional benefit of bonding between father and son.
However, the icing on the cake is the opportunity to refresh my memory on things I learnt in school some thirty or so years ago – whilst at the same time, acquiring new learning on knowledge we were never made privy to during our day.
Of particular interest during our History lesson yesterday, was the rise of nationalism in Zimbabwe, and the struggle for independence from colonial rule.
As I was taking my son through the reasons for the advent of nationalism – leading to the various protests movements, and subsequently the armed liberation struggle – I found one particular occurrence rather worrisome.
With each point we studied, as to the injustices faced by the indigenous people of Zimbabwe (referred to as Africans during the colonial era) at the hands of the settlers (Europeans) – for clarity and emphasis, I would make real-life references, to incidents he had personally experienced or witnessed.
For instance, we visited my mother’s rural home in Rusape over the recent ‘Heroes Holiday’ – in which he had a first hand taste of the consequences of such callous and barbaric racially discriminatory laws, as the Land Apportionment Act, the Land Tenure Act of 1969 – whereby, the black population was evicted and dispossessed of their fertile lands, and placed on largely infertile, rocky and dry areas.
I reminded him of the saddening and heartrending situation we came across in Rusape, in which the villagers were expected to eke out a decent living from farming on that inarable soil, full of huge boulders, and the rainfall patterns being unreliable, without any alternative sources of water, leading to incessant droughts and hunger.
This was in stark contrast to the massive commercial farms we had passed by, along the long drive from Kwekwe (using the Harare route) – which were well-watered, using irrigation, were located on obviously good land, and owned by relatively well-to-do farmers.
These discrepancies were glaring for all to see.
Nonetheless, what stuck out even more conspicuously – like the proverbial sore thumb – was the fact that these were no longer colonial times, since we eventually attained our independence some 42 years ago, on 18 April 1980.
Therefore, the question that was inevitable to ask was, “why are we still living in the Land Apportionment Act, and Land Tenure Act era, yet we are supposed to be a independent people”?
Was the so-called ‘Land Reform Program’, unleashed at the turn of the new millennium, and characterized by brutal violence, not touted as ‘addressing historical imbalance’ – yet, a long 42 years down the line, after the taking over of power by the ZANU PF regime, these ‘colonial imbalances’ still persist, with nothing substantial having changed.
The only detectable change, though, is that – instead of white farmers occupying these vast tracts of fertile, productive and highly profitable land – we now have a new breed of black settlers, who are occupying the best land, whilst the majority of Zimbabweans continue to be restricted to colonial ‘reserves’ and ‘Tribal Trust Lands’.
Which ‘historical imbalances’ were corrected?
Surely, can one black person, usually those in the ruling elite or aligned to them, possessing a farm as big as the eye can see – yet, most ordinary poor villagers squashed onto some sandy rocky drought-prone land – honestly be described as having ‘addressed colonial imbalances’?
If anything, as we were in Rusape, I could not help noticing the huge electricity pylons, holding up thick cables passing overhead the villages – which themselves, nonetheless, had no other source of power, expect firewood (resulting in persistent deforestation) – betraying the continued discrimination against these people, where the vast majority of Zimbabwean reside (about 10 million).
As a matter of fact, according to the latest preliminary figures by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat), there has been an increase of 61.4 percent of those migrating from urban to rural areas (contrasted to 38.6 percent from rural to urban) – meaning that, the rural population is exponentially rising.
However, of the 38 percent of Zimbabweans with no source of electricity, 83.7 percent are in rural areas.
And, this is 42 years after independence – gained after a grueling and gruesome protracted armed struggle, waged on the premise of such injustices and marginalization between the ‘have’ and ‘have nots’, the rural and urban, or those in former white areas and those in ‘African reserves’ and ‘Tribal Trust Lands’.
As I looked at the power lines passing over the village in Rusape, the heartlessness and savagery of the ZANU PF regime filled me with rage – surely, these cables were carrying electricity to some people further afield, but cruelly and tantalizingly denying those directly underneath – who are forced to endure dark nights, have to sit in smoke-filled kitchens, and are cut off from modern day necessities as ICTs (information communication technologies), or even creature comforts like television.
A nearby school, Tsindi Primary, was a tragic example that nothing had changed at all since the colonial period – since the place was a sorry sight, as if some abandoned structure, with an old-fashioned windmill (which I seriously doubt still serves its purpose of pumping water), obviously, similar to the surrounding villages, had no access to power, and the decrepit buildings betraying a lack of even a basic science laboratory.
Was the appalling standards of education for the black majority, as compared to the predominantly urban privileged, not one of those factors that led to the rise of nationalism in Zimbabwe – well, at least, according to the Zimbabwe history curricula?
A similar deplorable state affects the health care system – which is virtually non-existent, with the far and in-between clinics severely incapacitated and dysfunctional, without the most basic of medical needs and personnel.
I will not even waste my time on today’s traditional leaders, who have been turned into nothing more than glorified versions of colonial ‘Native Commissioners’ – being abused by the ZANU-PF regime, purely for the benefit of the ruling elite, as their personal political commissars, who have been stripped of all their dignity, no longer serving their purpose as custodians of our culture, but merely puppets of those in power, for a pittance.
Under such an unenviable sickening environment, how are our rural folk supposed to escape poverty and suffering – since, it is quite clear that the current state of affairs, inherited from the colonial era and meticulously nurtured by the ZANU PF establishment, is designed to keep the majority of Zimbabweans trapped in a vicious circle of impoverishment, guaranteed to jump from generation to generation?
Why has the Zimbabwe administration been hesitation, or reluctant to genuinely address these glaring colonial imbalances – a whole 42 years after independence?
Is it not obvious that those who took over the reins of power in 1980 were not interested, at all, with the plight of the majority of the oppressed, discriminated and alienated majority – but, their major concern was the fulfillment of their own self-serving interests?
That is why I have always insisted that, those ruling over the country, hijacked the mass nationalist movement – through a well-orchestrated and systematic elimination of real liberation leaders as Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo, who was killed in a suspicious car bombing in the Zambia capital Lusaka, leading to the arrest of several high-ranking ZANU hierarchy – in a bid to use our Sons and Daughters of the Soil, who bore the brunt of the bloody ruthless struggle, as mere pawns.
No wonder these illustrious men and women were immediately abandoned and forgotten soon after independence – only for a few to allow themselves to be used again, as agents of violence, during election time.
The bigger question is, “If the ZANU PF regime couldn’t even fulfil liberation struggle promises, why should anyone expect them to do any better with today’s pledges”?
They never cared for us yesterday, why suddenly start caring for us today?
Is it not pure insanity to expect any different?
- 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, or email: [email protected]