How can Zimbabweans be helped when they don’t want to help themselves?

There is a popular Chinese adage – ‘it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana


Indeed, as the people of Zimbabwe, we have endure unbelievable untold suffering, oppression and poverty at the hands of those in power.

We are finding it most difficult to afford even the most basic of necessities in our homes – with parents, particularly fathers and husbands, feeling more and more emasculated and useless by the day, as they fail to adequately fend for their families, pushing many into depths of stress and depression – due to the immense burden placed on their shoulders as the providers.

Our elderly are left uncared for – with their adult children, who are traditionally expected to take care of their parents, themselves facing dire financial challenges – thereby, forced to embarrassingly survive on handouts from well-wishers, or those fortunate enough to receive pensions or social security taking home a paltry US$15 a month (only enough for a loaf of bread a day).

Hospitals have become death traps – whereby, the sick cannot expect to receive even the most basic of medical assistance – lacking simple pain killers, the few cancer radiotherapy machines in the country remaining unrepaired and dysfunctional, surgical theaters poorly equipped, and maternity wards akin to torture chambers for patients.

On the political front – opposition members (including legislators) and civil rights activists continue to be brutally victimized, ruthlessly and violently attacked, as well as constantly arrested on spurious charges, where they are repeatedly denied bail on clearly flimsy and nonsensical grounds.

Who, in their right mind, fails to be enraged by the relentless persecution of opposition CCC Zengeza MP, Job Sikhala – who has been languishing in maximum security prison for over 150 days – having been arrested on14 June 2022, but all his incessant attempts at securing bail turned down under the most preposterous reasons?

Surely, how can someone who has never been convicted of any crime be refused his constitutional right to bail – simply because he has been repeatedly arrested (about 67 times over the past two decades)?

When a single person is arrested that many times, yet no competent court ever finding him guilty of a crime – what does that show?

Is it a sign of an ‘incorrigible and repentant criminal’, as one magistrate sought to portray – or a severe indictment on the disgraceful persecution of a bold and unflinching champion of human rights and democracy, who does not brook any nonsense from a barbaric oppressive kleptocracy?

If the courts have not convicted him of any crime – how can he then be described as an ‘incorrigible and repentant criminal’?

Is an accused person not supposed to be ‘innocent until proven guilty by a court of law’?

As such, regardless of how many times Sikhala has been arrested – as long as he has never been found guilty of any crime – he is an innocent as any other person who has never been accused of any felony.

Furthermore, contrary to the shamefully regurgitated allegation that Sikhala is in the habit of violating his bail conditions, set in previous or current criminal charges – then, why has bail not been revoked in those cases?

Is that not what should be the correct route to take – since bail can be canceled if the defendant is proven to have flouted set conditions?

It certainly does not make any sense for the state not going back to court on the particular alleged breached bail conditions – but, use this as a way of denying Sikhala his constitutional rights in fresh accusations.

Bail is non-penal in character, and neither the amount of bail nor the refusal of bail may be influenced by a desire to punish the accused or to deter other offenders.

Nonetheless, this is not the gist of my discourse – although, I strongly feel that the backdrop was necessary.

My issue, though, is on what we are doing about these injustices, as the people of Zimbabwe.

I was watching the news this morning, and could not help being extremely impressed with how the similarly subjugated people of Iran – especially, those facing the recent unprecedented vicious onslaught at the hands of their brutal regime – have managed to force the UN Human Rights Council to vote overwhelmingly into sending a fact finding mission to the Islamic Republic to probe these heinous abuses.

This was after the highly suspicious death in police custody of a young Iran woman, Mahsa Amini – who had been arrested on 16 September 2022, allegedly for not wearing the Moslem head covering, hijab, properly.

Yet, follow Iranians, particularly women – who had had enough of the endless, oftentimes horrendous, repression, and were enraged at this death – did not simply complain on social media or write articles in newspapers.

They went out of their comfort zones, and the relative safety of their homes and offices – onto the streets to fearlessly protest the brazen callous violation of their human rights by their cold-hearted leaders.

In spite of, so far, over 300 Iranians being savagely killed in cold blood (40 of these being children), and over 4,000 arrested – the brave women of this Middle East country, who have since been joined by their male counterparts, have never relented.

In fact, during the 77th UN General Assembly, in September 2022, Iranians were present in their numbers – as they made their voices loudly heard by the entire world – especially, when their president, Ebrahim Raisi was addressing the gathered heads of state and government.

They have ensured that their unbearable plight under their brutal oppressive regime has remained on the global radar – taking full advantage of any opportunities to keep their story in the spotlight – leading to the most recent victory at the UN Human Rights Council.

The troubling question on my mind is – what are we doing as Zimbabweans to fight for our own rights against a ruling establishment deprived of any conscience, and whose survival is premised on brute force and barbarity?

Are we content, for instance, in simply making hashtags viral on social media, writing daily articles complaining, or as in the case of Sikhala, merely attending his court appearances?

Is that it?

Is that all that Zimbabweans have to offer?

Do we seriously expect a political elite, that has made a notoriously shameful career of repression and heartlessness, to finally listen and take heed of such flimsy half-hearted action?

I am quite sure when those in power read our angry tweets, or even my articles, and watch us complain on a daily basis – they actually laugh at us!

We are indeed fools, worthy of the ridicule!

We are akin to a man who goes to hunt a raging lion armed with only a small stick.

What is the opposition CCC doing with the over 2 million people who voted for their president Nelson Chamisa in 2018, in ensuring that their voices are heard and can no longer be ignored by those in power?

What are the rest of us – who have been subjected to indescribable pain and suffering by the Zimbabwe regime for forty two years – doing in standing up for ourselves?

I feel that our greatest challenge as Zimbabweans is our insatiable greed and an inexplicable desire for self-preservation

We can easily be bought by the ruling establishment – such that we end up witnessing the current ludicrous mushrooming of all manner of crazy antics, with these ‘For ED’ groupings.

Thus, we find those who are willing to be content with whatever crumbs falling onto their laps from the lavish table of the political elite.

In so doing, they are prepared to ignore the intolerable struggles endured by millions of ordinary Zimbabweans – most of whom are failing to afford three square meals a day, cannot send their children to school, and are dying in their homes due to inaccessibility to affordable health care.

Then, we have the rest of us – the millions mentioned above – who want to preserve our lives so much, to the tragic extent that we are not even ready to engage in something as relatively risk-free as staying at home, in national strikes, shutdowns, or stay-aways, as a form of protest.

Who do we honestly believe will come along to our aid and rescue us?

Iranians have watched in horror as their colleagues, neighbors, friends and relatives are brutally killed by security forces – yet, this has hardly dented their resolve for a better Iran, free of oppression and suffering – as they go out onto the streets everyday.

What is stopping Zimbabweans in the diaspora – where the right to expression and demonstration is guaranteed – ensuring that our case receives the much-needed international spotlight, and attracts the attention of relevant organs as the UN Human Rights Council, in order for them to intervene?

Indeed, enough is enough – and, we cannot take this scrounging around for a semblance of livelihood anymore – as each day is a torturous struggle.

However, change does not, and can never, come on its own – just like everything else good in life.

Only death and sickness visits on its own accord.

If the people of Zimbabwe sincerely desire democracy, justice and a dignified livelihood – there is need for a paradigm shift in how we deal with the challenges we are facing in this country – due to a political elite that cares zero about us.

The Chinese were right – it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

Crying, complaining and even angry outbursts have their place – but, there comes a time for real action in putting an end to our misery and suffering.

  • Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]

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