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A Zimbabwe imprisoned by the past


I have suffered more under my brother’s keep than I have suffered under the hands of the “enemy”


Report By Vince Musewe

I am told by psychologists that as we get older and become somewhat irrelevant or not as useful to society as before, there is a habitual response in our mind of trying to recreate the past. This is because, the past affords us a false comfort, an illusion that we are still in control, needed and therefore important.


We hide in it to avoid the truths that may face us. Anything that challenges that paradigm is therefore treated as a threat or an adversary, simply because it confirms our fears.


The grim truth is that, because the majority of our politicians are of the older generation, we continue to be imprisoned by the past in their imagination.


To derive comfort, they must hide under the skirt of the liberation struggle lest they become exposed to the harsh reality of a new generation seeking an open and free society.


They must therefore do all they can to deny the existence of a reality they cannot fathom and resist the inevitability of change. Like a drunk holding on and scared to stagger on lest he falls, their minds refuse to accept a new reality and move ahead.


For me, that about sums up the root cause of our continued struggle in ushering a new democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe and the disagreements around our draft constitution. This is a clear indication that ZANU (PF) remains frozen in the past and refuses to acknowledge that the world has indeed moved on and that they must either move with it or be left behind.


With regard to our history under colonial rule, I cannot stand in front of any forum and defend it. I cannot discount the injustices of racism, economic exclusion and the human degradation perpetrated against my father and those of his generation, because they happened to be born black. I cannot be insensitive to our many comrades who died during the struggle and veterans of the struggle who today, receive a paltry USD130 a month as a war veteran’s benefit. That is embarrassing and a shame.


It is incomprehensible for anyone to defend colonialism and the suffering it brought onto us and our dead generations. I cannot dare ignore the bigotry of the Smith regime, the crimes committed in defence of exclusive ownership of our land by a white minority. I cannot imagine, the verbal and physical abuse meted against black Africans on the farms and in the cities of the then Rhodesia.


Yes our past was so dreadful that we must never forget it, but at the same time, we cannot afford to let its demons to continue to shape what we can become. The liberation struggle was a just cause which we must continue to cherish and we must honour those who risked their lives and livelihoods for our sake. That history, no matter what, cannot be expunged or wished away but it is exactly that: history. We must now move on.


We must take note of the past, but we must hasten to expunge any idea that our aspirations and imagination today must be bound by its limitations. Other nations have endured much greater injustices and risen again to greater heights, not by blaming the past, but by looking into the future and expending their energies in creating it. We must do the same.


In order to do that, the first thing we need to accept is that Zimbabwe’s current economic problems have been manufactured by black Zimbabweans themselves. We must accept that it is our misguided efforts that have created our current social condition and not an amorphous entity out there. We must stop blaming the West imperialism or the white male for our problems.


The second issue we must all agree on, is that Zimbabwe can rise again and it can indeed, finance its own development because we have the resources and the skills to do so. We can once more become what we used to be: a successful and proud African nation that can feed itself and others. That is the new paradigm we must choose to operate under and reject any idea to the contrary.


Of course we must solve the political problem we face before this can become a reality. In my book, the enemy is not out there, nor is he the white male, but he is amongst us. I have seen the enemy; he dwells in the past and imposes his fears on our future.


He uses threats of violence against our ideas about the future. He progresses not because of talent or hard work, but by advantage of his political standing. He justifies the future with the past and cannot accept that, despite our dreadful history as a nation; we still can and must rise above it.


If there is anything we must do now, it is to do all we can to close this sad chapter of our history and this requires courage and an unshakable belief in ourselves as individuals who deserve better.


Oh, how wretched I have become, for I have suffered more under my brother’s keep than I have suffered under the hands of an imagined “enemy”.


Vince Musewe is an independent economist based in Harare. You can contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com






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