Oftentimes, age is said to be nothing but just a number. Ask anyone in a cross generational romantic relationship and most assuredly, they would parrot like answer that age is only but a number. At face value, it may appear plausible, but, in reality there is more to age than just being a number.
By Cyprian Ndawana
Deposed former President Robert Mugabe repeatedly referred to himself as a young old man in an attempt to regard age as nothing but a number. Yet, his ageing nonetheless progressed utterly oblivious of his claim, proving that mutton dressed as lamb, will always be mutton.
All things being equal, age is destined to be more than just a number in the harmonised elections. With the main presidential candidates, Emmerson Mnangagwa (76) and Nelson Chamisa (40), the outcome will be determined more by their ages than any other factors.
Given that almost 75% of registered voters are aged below 40 years, it is a herculean task for a 76-year-old candidate to be relevant to this expectant age group. As I see it, age is not just a number to this constituency whose livelihoods have been dire due to joblessness.
Despite being merchandised as sweet wine, Mnangagwa is vintage. He was not born yesterday. Young voters regard him as an off-limits presidential candidate. Obviously, his team who are sloganeering, “ED has my vote”, know that theirs is a desperate hard sell.
It is a shared conviction among the under-40 age group that they were impoverished by retrogressive policies. Their despondency towards the government is as self announcing as pregnancy, given that their prospects for employment are diminished by company closures.
While his advanced age distinctly weighs him down, his 38 years in government, as a senior minister in the administration of Mugabe, renders him undesirable for the Presidency. His candidature lacks overtly probity. It is akin to selling ice cream to Eskimos.
Mnangagwa has been at the centre of government since 1980. It is worthwhile to mention that to many people, 38 years is a lifetime, yet to him, it is a ministerial career, whose contribution, singularly and collectively, sadly culminated in gross socio-economic ruination.
He is destined to perpetuate the Mugabe script, which ruined livelihoods of the citizenry, save for the privileged inner circle. Already, he lavished traditional chiefs with cars. However, it took two High Court cases, which his party lost, to expose his following of his predecessor’s relics.
There is evidence galore to prove beyond all shadows of doubt that Mnangagwa is steeped in the Mugabe mindset. Throughout his tenure, Mugabe never apologised even as his decisions, among them, withdrawal from the Commonwealth, were wrong for the country.
Ever since he smashed into the presidency through the unconventional back door, Mnangagwa has been purposefully avoiding to speak about blood-curdling human rights violations that took place under his watch. His claim to restoring legacy is a flight of fancy.
It is impossible for one to start on a new slate before they acknowledge their transgressions, both of omission and commission, to God and men. Attempts at blaming the gross human rights violations suffered in this country to Mugabe alone smack of insincerity on his part.
If Mnangagwa wants to be a politician of substance, worthy of veneration, there is no better starting point for him than to tell the truth, nothing but the truth about his contributions to the blood, sweat and tears citizenry shed as a result of his and others’ collective actions.
Collective responsibility and accountability are the yardstick with which well-meaning leaders are measured. Without the two traits, transparency cannot be attained. It hardly can be regarded as a big ask to demand of leaders to subject themselves to public scrutiny.
As I see it, by ducking and diving from time tasted traits, Mnangagwa places the paucity of his presidential qualities on public display. It would naive of him to expect his past deeds to be of no significance to his future. He renders himself unfit for the office he is aspiring for by so doing.
Fairy tale has it that when an axe with a wooden handle was taken to the forest, trees waved in jubilation on seeing the handle, glad that one of their own, who had been taken away, had returned. Yet, the joy of the trees was short-lived as the handle was used to cut them down.
This story sprang to mind as I reflected on the fate of the Midlands and Matabeleland communities as the Gukurahundi genocide was unleashed on them. Like the trees whose joy on seeing the wooden handle was painfully brief, their joy was likewise momentary.
Sadly, since then, these communities have never known peace. Their hearts are bleeding. They were in celebratory spirit, most likely heartily singing along to then popular song, The Boys are Back In Town, by a rock group, Thin Lizzy, which was fronted by Phil Lynnot.
They were glad for the return of freedom fighters, only to be slain by the very freedom fighters, whose homecoming they were cheerful about. It is this gruesome act that doused the joy of independence to multitudes whose kith and kin are understandably still grief stricken.
Their quest for answers, despite the government appointing a commission of enquiry into the bloodbath, is yet been met. They have had a torturous wait. Yet, they are not the only ones searching for answers; many are praying for explanations to the fate of their dear ones.
The close shave Mnangagwa encountered at the White City Stadium explosion is a taste of what others suffered in the furtherance of their political views. It is my hope that as he waits for conclusive investigations, it dawns on him that many have been waiting for decades.
It amounted to rubbing salt to the wounds of the Dzamara family when the police recently announced a reward for information on the disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara. Although our police is renowned for thoroughness and efficiency, strangely, some case files gather dust.
Besides Dzamara, whose only crime was being at variance with the government, there are many others, predominantly opposition activists, whose politically-motivated circumstances are also yet to be explained. It suffices to state that they were silenced by elimination.
Jestina Mukoko is a rarity to be recounting her horrors in the belly of the fish. Events of the commercial farms seizures are a case in point were human rights were trampled upon with impunity. Those whose limbs and legs were severed consider themselves to be fortunate.
At their unadulterated essence, elections are a right for citizenry to elect their preferred candidates for public offices. But, with the alleged architect of 2008 electoral theft now in higher office, government promise of free, fair and credible harmonised elections, is suspect.
As I see it, the Zimbabwe we want ought be headed by a President with crystal clear conscience, untainted by ill-gotten power and wealth. Obviously, this cannot be the elephant in the room widely considered to be the draughtsman of repression and human rights violation policies.
With the country now a bustling second hand market for cars and clothing, the claim of Zimbabwe being open for business does not tally with reality. And, the temerity to call the administration a new dispensation on the backdrop of corruption and genocide is despicable.
Indeed, age will not be just a number in the harmonised elections. However, Mnangagwa has the inexcusable moral duty to open up on operations that earned him the nickname, Ngwena.
If his insistence that the Gukurahundi genocide was resolved by Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo is truthful, the commission of enquiry report could long been published.
Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana is a public speaking coach, motivational speaker, speechwriter and newspaper columnist. email email@example.com cellphone +263776413010