As the nation commemorates the 39th anniversary of the tragic passing away of one of the bravest men ever to come out of Zimbabwe — General Josiah Magama Tongogara — in a horrific, but highly questionable, road accident — one cannot help but wonder whether this country would ever produce men and women with such unwavering and unflinching gallantry that was not self-serving, but totally for the good of all people.
Guest Columnist Tendai Ruben Mbofana
Tongogara committed his life — being prepared to lay it down — to the fearless fight against oppression and subjugation. Throughout his participation in the liberation struggle, he never substituted his love to attain justice for all in this country, for the comfort of survival, or to earn a living for his family, or to score cheap selfish political points. His life became the struggle, and the struggle became his life.
He never chose the easier route, but chose the most arduous and dangerous one. Nonetheless, independent Zimbabwe — where the majority enjoyed freedom and prosperity — swiftly turned back into that dark place of oppression, subjugation, and economic deprivation of the majority.
For the past 38 years — under the very political party that Tongogara, at one time, sincerely believed was devoted to the total emancipation of the people of Zimbabwe — the majority have endured immeasurable pain and suffering — only comparable to the Rhodesia.
Even that comparison is debatable, as those who have lived in the Rhodesian era argue that life was actually better — as there were plentiful jobs (in spite of the limited educational opportunities), workers were paid on time (meagre wages, which, however, could buy the most basic essentials, and a few extra luxuries), most workers were provided with accommodation by their employers, terminal benefits provided a relatively comfortable retirement, and hospitals were well-stocked with all the essential medication, whilst most necessary medical procedures could be done within the country. However, in independent Zimbabwe, the very opposite of the above is true!
If that is the case, why are the people of Zimbabwe not uniting in fearlessly standing up against their oppressors? Where are the modern day Tongogaras? As I write this article, the people of Sudan have entered their eighth day, demonstrating in the capital Khartoum against their appalling standards of living and the oppressive government.
In spite of 40 of their fellow demonstrators being killed by security forces, these gallant men and women have not faltered yet. In fact, according to one news bulletin, the demonstrators’ resolve has only intensified with each person killed by the regime — and the protests are getting bigger and stronger.
Can we, the people of Zimbabwe, learn anything from this?
Are we not able to learn that our constitutional right to peacefully demonstrate and petition — as enshrined in section 59 – is one of the most sacrosanct rights, which we should never take for granted? As most of us are currently wallowing in the worst economic meltdown in the past decade — with the prices of basic commodities, medications, and school fees and uniforms tripling within the past month, as well as shortages of fuel – one would have thought that our first port of call would be section 59 of the Constitution. However, our silence — save for a few quiet rumblings in corners and communiter omnibuses, paints, an illusion of normalcy and acceptance. How can we accept and be alright with such a warped scenario?
Can anyone be alright with suffering?
Of course, some will be quick to point to the events of 1 August 2018 – whereby, at least six people were shot dead on the streets of Harare, during a violent protest over a delay in the announcement of presidential election results. It is understandable that, just as no normal person would be alright with suffering, no normal person would be alright with being killed – thus, the reluctance for any meaningful constitutional action against the regime. However, does a struggle require a ’normal’ person?
Was Tongagara ’normal’?
The genuine struggle for one’s own livelihood — and that of our children and grandchildren – can never be achieved by being ’normal’. It is similar to a mother whose child is trapped in a burning house – would a ’normal’ mother rush into a building she is most likely to also die in?
This requires an attitude that transcends ‘normalcy’. It is a decision that one has to deliberately make — that ”whether I die or not, I have to do this for the sake of my children, or for my nation”. As the saying goes: ”Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to master fear”. The people of Sudan have so far lost 40 of their fellow demonstrators, but that has not dampened their spirits — in fact, they are now even more determined than ever. As the people of Zimbabwe, we need to take charge of our own destiny.
This struggle is for us — the people of Zimbabwe — and no one else can do it for us. Even between 2006 and 2009, we just watched as our livelihoods were being shattered by this same regime —with our currency losing value and a loaf of bread costing billions of Zimbabwe dollars.
Yet, we did nothing!
The same situation is stealthily creeping upon us, yet we still do nothing!
We need to have one common purpose — that is, to demand that our lives be bestowed the value which they are worth.
This is not politics — as this needs not be about the toppling of the government — but an improvement of our lives. In fact, we should never allow political parties to infiltrate our struggle, as these organisations have their own selfish objectives, which are at odds with our own.
Political parties are after political power, and they abuse us to fulfill that objective.
We, ourselves, know what we want, and should be able to stand fearlessly in demanding our lives back. As long as we allow ourselves to be divided by political parties, and other organisations that have their own agendas, we will forever be weak.
Let us be united under one banner: Zimbabwe and no other interests should stand in the way. Unless, and until we ourselves demand our rights without any fear — we can kiss any hope of a better life good-bye — in fact, kusikufa ndekupi?