guest column Grace R Chirenje
A story is told of a young child about five years old who attended church with his mother and father. During the service and as is normal with such a young soul, the young child started to stand up and down, wriggle and fidget.
The mother tried with all her might to get the young soul to settle down to no success. After what seemed like half of the service, the father eventually boomed in his stern-father voice and told the child to sit down.
The child quickly jumped back into their seat. After a minute, the child looked up at the father and with a straight-plus innocent face said; “Father, I may be seated, but in my heart, I am standing!”.
Today as Zimbabwe, we are that five-year-old telling our leaders that we are standing, and standing so tall they ought to be very worried indeed.
November 2017, hahahahaha! I will not say where I was and doing what, but I can, indeed, share that I was not part of the celebratory march on the streets of Harare. It is not that I did not want former President Robert Mugabe to go, I did.
I was exhausted with repeating the same old narrative and hearing the same old screams from the same old people. However, mine was a protest that emanated from understanding that when you remove the splinter, the body will still feel the ache of the prick. That body is the system that took years to refine and that has seen you and me suffer at the hands of a few arrogant and selfish leaders whose purpose is bent on amassing wealth for personal aggrandisement.
Ours is a struggle against egocentrics bent on massaging tattered and frail egos that are in urgent need of rehabilitation.
However, we are a broken people who have been abused time and time again and have realised that ours is a struggle to remain sane, so we do what we can to stay afloat. A little more like that young family attending the same old church and only the five-year-old has the decency and sanity to challenge the boredom of the goings-on by showing the very best version of who they are.
It is when we let ourselves be abused by those with narcissistic tendencies that we begin to even question our own sanity because the levels of gaslighting are just beyond imagination.
Where did we go wrong? Is it the time we decided to unite and fight for our liberation from the British coloniser? Or maybe, it could be when we started calling each other shefus (chefs)? Is it that time when we just let things slide on our watch? Or maybe it is because we have failed as a people to call out bad behaviour and just think things will get better? Where did we go wrong as Zimbabwe? It is quite paradoxical because at times we hold hands and make sure that we come to each other’s aid like with the disaster response to Cyclone Idai.
At times, it is celebrating what we all hold dear to our hearts and unlike the five-year-old we can’t fully express — November 2017! Well, whatever it is, we have sadly lost the plot as a people. The genesis is what we need to seek, and we get back to addressing the root causes of this madness we find ourselves in.
We could also just create some form of methodology to this madness so that we rethink ourselves and afterwards then reframe our ways of being.
Our current narrative
I am just imagining that child locked in a tag of war with the mother on being at their best behaviour in church and this is the church we are talking about. It is regarded by many as a sacred space for enhancing spirituality. As I was growing up, my mother would merely give me “the look” and immediately I knew what I had to do and where I had to go. Clearly, this five-year-old in question had a totally different mother, probably not our strong, eyeing African mothers.
Whatever the case, there was some challenge of power. A standoff of some sort. The same is happening with us now in Zimbabwe. We know that there is something better than we can experience. We are very clear on what we want to see happen to us as a people.
We understand our history and how things are supposed to progress. It is very clear. We do not care who is leading and how they got there. I mean, if whatever celebration that happened on November 17 is anything to go by, then hmmmmmmmm, we have lots to know and learn.
So, the thing is many people want a preservation of their dignity at all costs. With what we see happening in Zimbabwe today and the struggles people are facing with regards to monetary (currency) issues, electricity, transport, health and you name it, we are slowly moving towards a disastrous narrative.
Even if activists and journalists get arrested, they aren’t the only ones experiencing the country’s meltdown, no gun can stop an idea whose time has come.
Time will come — so yes, we may be seated, but…we are standing! If this was a horror movie, it would be that part where one would say, be very afraid because the levels of pressure would have reached explosive heights. People just want change, they are tired of having their dignity stripped off.
What we need
That mother to the five-year-old was very powerful and tactful. It is not because she didn’t know how to get the child to sit; she did.
Mothers, when they want things done, they will make them happen.
This forceful way of the father with the child obviously led to a backlash.
We need to be embraced at this time and not be brutalised. We need to be understood. We need fuel. We need electricity in our homes. We need clean water.
We just want our children to go to school and return home to do their homework in electricity-lit homes. We want access to reasonably priced health services and basic commodities. That is all we want.
An economy that has no strings attached to it; where leaders seem to be unsure of what they are doing and keep playing around with facts on how best to make things happen. We want our Zimbabwe; the real one you went to war for.
The one you dreamed of as you lost tens of thousands of lives. We are becoming rather tired. I am tired of watching leaders treat us the way they are, treating us like we are dunce and unable to take action.
I often sit and wonder if our leaders are also just seated there, wondering what the hell is happening to Zimbabwe. I swear, they should be as baffled as us if things are at this level.
For the how and why? Maybe, they are as baffled as the father being told by the five-year-old that the child was seated, but in their heart they were standing! Leaders are voted into power by us, the voters (at least that is what it ought to be in a purported democracy like Zimbabwe!). We need to stand up Zimbabwe and here I am, not at all subverting a constitutionally elected government.
All I am saying is that we cannot continue to make fun of our narrative. We cannot keep participating in a story whose actors seem forever fictional. We need to lock arms and redefine our narrative.
It is not up to the government, civic society or whoever you are thinking. Each of us has a part to play in ensuring that Zimbabwe becomes who she is supposed to be.
However, what is critical at this juncture is that we each realise what is needed is the courage of that five-year-old.
It is time we amplified our voices and say that even though we are seated, yet we are standing and maybe, what we really do need is to then stand both in heart and action.
Zimbabwe is not a holiday destination for some of us, it is our home, it is everything we have ever known. You and I need to rebuild this nation, life by life, day in and day out. Now is the time and no other time, but right now — let’s do. this!