On April 18 2011, Zimbabwe will turn 31. On August 28 1963, Dr Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) delivered a historic and defining speech, known as the “I Have a Dream”, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington DC.
On Monday was his birthday, a day now a national holiday in the USA in honour of this great human being who chose to be the change that he wanted to see and understood the fierce urgency of acting now in the face of injustice.
Like MLK on this momentous day, I was happy last week to reflect on my own circumstances that have seen me on the receiving end of justice, for on Friday 14 January 2011, the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa, who only in November 2010 implored the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy not to hear my submission on the SMM matter on the grounds that the matter was sub ju dice but now feels unrestrained in paying for an advertisement in the media dealing with the very issues he felt strongly must be kept from the public eye.
Thirty one years ago, the Zimbabwean flag was raised heralding a new beginning and independence came as a beacon light of hope to the majority like the Emancipation Proclamation had done for millions of Negro slaves who had been in the words of MLK “seared in the flames of withering injustice”.
I was only 20 years old then and even at that age I knew that this was a momentous occasion that brought with it new possibilities and opportunities to create a just and equal society founded on universally accepted values.
Now it’s almost 31 years later and as I reflect on the journey travelled, I am reminded of the observations made by MLK about the condition of the black person in America after 100 years since the Proclamation when he remarked that:
“. . . the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination; 100 years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity; 100 years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”
So today, I find myself in a shameful condition and asking myself what the architects of our Republic some of whom are still in state power had in mind when they negotiated the end of a colonial order and wrote beautiful words of the Constitution proclaiming to the nation and the world that the promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would be honoured.
Independence brought with it the promise of a future free from injustice and indeed by appending their signature to the constitution, Zimbabwe’s founding fathers were signing a promissory note to which every citizen was to fall heir.
As I read the contents of the advertisement by Chinamasa I came to the inescapable conclusion that there can be no doubt that with the worldview that informs the actions of Chinamasa, Zimbabwe has clearly defaulted on this promissory note in so far as guaranteeing justice and equity.
As MLK observed, “Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds” I still believe that the bank of justice can be allowed to be hijacked by a few evil people while the majority are reduced to the role of spectators.
I still refuse to accept that the bank of justice so many sacrificed for to create has insufficient funds to make good on the promise.
I have come to accept that the bank of justice can be bankrupt if we the citizens fail to discharge our obligations to it by trusting only state actors to fill the bank with moral capital to keep it going while our silence and inaction becomes the order of the day.
The security of justice that we often take for granted can only be realised if we are vigilant.
I was naïve to expect that the wheels of injustice would stop with the advent of independence. I now know better.
As I read the 8 page supplement in the Business Herald of January 14, I could not help but ask what kind of mindset would compel a government minister in a post-colonial state to communicate to the public through a paid supplement?
After three decades of independence, we are justified in asking whether it is in the interests of justice and equity for the government to spend the money of the people in the manner that Chinamasa is doing?
What is Chinamasa trying to hide? Why would he not want my voice to be heard?
Why would he not be patient to allow the portfolio committee to complete its investigations before publishing self serving statements?
I also had a dream that one day Zimbabwe would be nation of laws in which the rule of law and not rule by law becomes the order of the day.
I had no idea that within the first 31 years of independence a day would arrive when a Chinese investor would be more acceptable to black investor who at 20 years of age was also a victim of a past unjust order.
I have no doubt that if Zimbabwe is to be great nation as it should we have to go back to the drawing board and use our own experiences to ask the question:
“What kind of Zimbabwe do we want to see?”
MLK is long gone and yet his words are as valid to the Zimbabwean story as they were to the American one.
I am acutely conscious that when a minister chooses to spend money to communicate a message on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe then one must know what time it is.
It means for any affected party, the bar has been raised and to defend oneself one needs the resources to do so.
To imagine this drama has pitted one black person against another would clearly suggest that there is a serious fault line in the construction and performance of the promise.
Independence was a consequence of struggle and pain that was expected to give birth to a new dawn.
Regrettably, without justice, freedom will not ring and without freedom and respect of the rule of law, Zimbabwe will not rise to the level that it should.
We are the custodians of this promise and yet when tyranny and justice reigns some chose to see the struggle in personal terms.
If MLK had been small-minded and self-centered, the story of America would be different.
In the tradition of MLK, I believe that there can be no better way to fulfil one’s promise than to refuse to accept that the present can be the business of someone else than me who has the privilege to act now.
I will over the next few weeks attempt to unmask the import of what Chinamasa is saying and lay bare the implications of his actions on the promise.