Ten years ago, I was on a bus to my rural village, sitting by the window, looking at a policeman telling the bus driver that the tyres
of the bus were unsafe. The driver bribed the policeman right in front of us and was waved on. I protested loudly that I was not risking my life for the
bribe. The driver stopped the bus and appealed to the passengers for sympathy. The whole busload was against me, with abusive language and
threats to have me thrown out for interfering in matters that were none of my business.
Ten minutes later, as the bus sped along, that same front tyre burst, ending with us in a wheat field at Kintye Estate. A nation held to
ransom by just one man: the powerful driver. Apathy even in the defense of one’s own life, total resignation to fate in the hands of others.
We claim to be ‘the most peaceful people’ in the region, but it is insulting when peacefulness degenerates into massive apathy to the point when it becomes an
insult. I remember one time a whole vice-president saying the people should vote for a baboon if the ruling party gave them the animal as a parliamentary candidate. It was at a rally. The people cheered and laughed as if a new economic programme had been announced. They were, in fact,laughing at being insulted. They were laughing at being called zombies who
are not supposed to ever think of the quality of candidates the ruling party gives them to support.
Instead of rebelling and protesting, they laughed and cheered. Instead of throwing rotten eggs at the politician, they lifted him shoulder-high, a hero and master of the art of politics.
Currently, the vegetable vendors have been dumped in Belvedere in a worse place than Mbare. One would expect them to stand up and demonstrate against that abuse. The city dwellers too, should gang up with them and show Ignatious Chombo that they will not yield to his dictatorial ways of running cities. But no, the people are ‘peaceful’ even when they know that they have been badly wronged.
They fear police violence. They fear a night in police cells. So, they do nothing about it. They fear to fight for their dignity and freedom. Their families starve, and they feel powerless! Bad laws are made and the citizens don’t even bother to challenge their local member of parliament. Our members of parliament walk around with pomp, showered with ‘Chef! Chef! Chef!’ by the electorate who are reduced to mere sub-human children by the powerful.
I remember challenging my then member of parliament, Irene Zindi, and her bouncers came for me like hungry bulldogs, wanting to maul me to death for
demanding certain answers from her as my constitutional representative. The people gathered there just looked on hopelessly.
The current problem in Zimbabwe is not just the government. The people are the main problem. Just how can someone be asked by the police to demolish their own house, and they do it, with tears in their eyes? Elsewhere in the world, the citizens would fight or die, rather than give in. Not in my country. They tear down the house, and sit on the rubble, mourning. In other countries, the community
teams up, challenge the police to leave the family alone, and threaten to burn the bulldozers.
No one is prepared to die for their principles and rights in my country. We have allowed a dictatorship to grow in our own garden. It is pointless to look at the world with starving eyes and say,
‘Help us, Tibajuika, we are helpless. Koffi Annan, please rescue us!’ As long as citizens so easily accept humiliation, they are their own enemies.
If you don’t sweep your own backyard, the whole town will be filthy. The corruption and abuse of human rights happening in the country do not happen
in a vacuum. It is made to happen by living, real political leaders, but their families smile and cheer with glee as they receive the loot. The EU ban should be broadened to include relatives of government officials who open and run foreign bank accounts on behalf of corrupt politicians and the children of politicians are studying comfortably in foreign universities. Efforts by the outside world can only help to complement the sacrifices of the people on the ground. If the people were fighting viciously for their rights, South African president, Thabo Mbeki, would probably not hesitate to impose a travel ban on Zimbabwean politicians. In 1979, Rhodesia was forced to come to its senses by South Africa. In 2005, Zimbabwe can be forced tocome to its senses by South Africa too. One week of sanctions by South
Africa will remove Mugabe from power or force him to engage in serious dialogue with his people. Simple.
By our zeal to worship power, we created the monster who is Mugabe. We have to remove that monster ourselves. No international community can do it for us. Zimbabweans should just learn to be aggressive about their freedoms, to leave the comfort of their houses and participate in the restoration of their own freedom: in the streets, in bars, in churches, in schools, in universities, everywhere. Every time there
are demonstrations, not many from the rich suburbs are prepared to risk their skin by waving a placard at Africa Unity Square. The demonstrators
come from the townships, but the benefits which come later go to the people of the suburbs whose salaries are already high.
During the military coup against the urban poor, all those faces of the victims were simply demanding that hope be restored to their lives. Genuine hope can only come from the
peoples’ own refusal to be forced into hopelessness. Freedom comes from sacrifice, and sacrifice means self-deprivation today in the hope and belief
that relief is in the making, that the future is bright provided one works for it.
If Zimbabweans allow fear to continue to infiltrate their entire imagination, nothing will change during our lifetime. In crucial times, it takes much pain to gain one’s freedom. And those who have the illusion to
think that freedom will just be given on silver plate have only themselves to blame when they do not get it. So many broken families, so many deaths,so many displaced citizens, so many millions forced out of their country by violence and economic neglect: we should be ashamed of ourselves, and we should publicly refuse the political abuse, not just mumbling purposelessly in the privacy of our houses.