Candour: Nqaba Matshazi
TODAY, I was tempted to write that we are a nation of cowards and a people who would prefer to scapegoat and look for excuses rather than confront our problems.
What I wanted to write was that we are a people who would rather look for someone to blame rather than confront the real problem.
I thought of this when the boos rang at the National Sports Stadium when South African leader, Cyril Ramaphosa took to the podium last weekend at a funeral service for the late former President Robert Mugabe.
The jeers were an expression of anger at xenophobia in South Africa forcing Ramaphosa to ad lib an apology.
While Ramaphosa got the treatment he deserved, I could not help but feel that we are directing our anger at secondary oppressors, while our primary ones get away scot-free.
Xenophobia is ugly and must be condemned, but we should start by looking at the system that makes our people so desperate to leave this country and be subjected to such dehumanising acts in South Africa.
Home is supposed to be best, but there is a system that is pushing our fellow citizens out of the country and that should be the number one recipient of our venom.
The jeers must have been louder for those that are responsible for the unemployment, joblessness, cash shortages, water problems and power outages, but no, there was silence and we chose to go for the low hanging fruit.
Today, there is so much anger directed at Econet, because EcoCash agents are allegedly charging a premium for cashouts.
But we are not interrogating why EcoCash agents may be so brazen to charge a premium for cash and by not doing so, the real people who are to blame for the mess are not held accountable.
Let me present a picture for you.
In most cases, to buy tomatoes or board a kombi, one needs physical cash, but it is not available.
This forces customers to look for cash and because of the disparity between supply and demand this leads to a healthy black market, which EcoCash agents are more than willing to exploit.
So, the real problem here is not the EcoCash agent, but the banking system that does not have enough money.
Hence, the primary targets for our anger should not be EcoCash agents, even if they are unscrupulous, but rather at the government and the central bank for their failures in ensuring that there is adequate money supply.
We can remove the EcoCash agents, but that will not solve the cash shortage problem in any way.
We are quite content in dealing with the symptoms of the problem, rather than the cause and that is what is holding back this country.
Meanwhile, our favourite punching bag is the sanctions issue, which has generated probably the most anti-intellectual debate ever in this country.
Again, we skirt over the real problems, which are misgovernance, corruption and nepotism, choosing the worst form of shadowboxing.
This is what I wanted to write about; how we look for a scapegoat at every turn and have been reduced to nothing but a nation of cowards, who are driven by our sense of yesteryear exceptionalism.
But the country’s public health sector in general, and the doctors in particular, have restored my faith in Zimbabweans, as they have shown that not everyone is willing to turn the other cheek when an injustice is committed to one of them.
Doctors’ union leader Peter Magombeyi has been missing for several days now and doctors have said they will not return to work until he is found.
This is the bravery and boldness that has been missing from Zimbabwean professionals for a while.
Doctors, nurses and other health workers have shown some tremendous solidarity in the way they have confronted authorities to demand the return of their colleague.
Whether he was abducted by the State or kidnapped by the undefined third hand, the government has a duty to ensure every citizen’s safety and in the end the buck stops with them.
Unless, of course, they want to tell us that they have lost control and there are bandits who are running rings around State security officials.
This country has a long history of unexplained and unsolved abductions and unless the system is confronted, this is a pattern that is likely to go on forever.
The Magombeyi episode reminded me of Edwin Nleya, a captain in the army who went missing in 1989
Nleya threatened to blow the whistle on poaching that was being carried out by Zimbabwean troops in Mozambique at the time.
His superior ordered that Nleya also be involved in smuggling and poaching, orders he refused to obey and for that he was threatened with disciplinary action.
Soon after the incident, he went on leave and when he returned to work, at an army barrack in Hwange, he was told to return home as his vacation had been extended.
He soon detailed that he was being followed, took down the numbers of the cars he thought were following him and one day had to seek refuge at the police, as he feared he was about to be abducted.
As fate would have it, Nleya was abducted in January 1989 and when his wife sought him, Amnesty International reported that the army gave contradictory responses.
Initially, Nleya’s wife was told that her husband was ill and later the story changed and she was now told that instead, he had gone on leave without permission and that his whereabouts were unknown.
Nleya’s decomposed body was found two months later and to this day, his abduction and subsequent death are unsolved mysteries.
The State claimed Nleya was mentally unstable and that led him to concoct claims that he was being followed and that ultimately he had committed suicide.
An inquest was held into the circumstances leading to his death and ruled out suicide.
I remembered the Nleya case because the official statements given to explain his disappearance and that of Magombeyi are not quite dissimilar.
In both matters, the State sought to wash its hands off the cases and came up with far-fetched explanations that would require a suspension of belief.
We were told that Magombeyi left his home going for an all-night prayer.
Surely, the all-night prayer long ended and the State has a duty to find him and ensure his safety.
So, today, I ended up writing about courage and I doff my hat to the health sector workers for being brave against all odds and confronting a system that resorts to brutality at any whiff of dissent. Hopefully, this can send a strong message and be an example in future that Zimbabweans must and will stand up to confront every injustice they face.
Nqaba Matshazi is AMH’s head of digital. He writes in his personal capacity. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @nqabamatshazi