The oppressor will never voluntarily give freedom

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DEAR Mr President,

It is yet another week and I sincerely hope that this epistle, like the previous one, finds you well. With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe, we can only pray that you will stay safe, Your Excellency. We wouldn’t want any unfortunate development at this critical juncture. Our financial resources are limited and will have, in any case, to be deployed in those critical areas requiring urgent attention, particularly the education and health sectors.

I have vivid memories of your misplaced priorities in 2019 when, despite the dire economic state in which we found ourselves, you were ready to construct a catacomb where your late predecessor, Robert Mugabe, would be buried.

Fortunately, the family of the deceased came to our rescue, taking advantage of your foreign trip and buried Mugabe in Zvimba. I know you loved him dearly and would do anything for him.

You boasted arrogantly about how you had saved Mugabe from political extinction and how you resuscitated his waning political career in 2008. We all know the price that had to be paid for the resurrection of Mugabe’s career.

Members of the opposition paid with their lives, forcing the late Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC to abandon participation in the run-off. You orchestrated a brutal political campaign against the opposition and whose effects will take years for us to recover from. Your Excellency, we bear in our bodies the physical and psychological scars of your brutality.

You have always served the nation with distinction and your record is there for all to see. You were there during the Gukurahundi atrocities when you served as our State Security minister between 1980 and 1988. Credible reports estimate that over 20 000 people in Matabeleland and the Midlands lost their lives in what Mugabe described as “a moment of madness”. Given your illustrious political career, I have no doubt that you feel, Mr President, that your exceptional qualities are required to steer the ship of State to its intended destination.

There can be no denying that a lot still needs to be done for us to be where we deserve as a nation. But, I have serious concerns about the direction of our nation, more so when taking into account the sorry state of human rights ever since you took over power in November 2017. I have tried, like the prophet Jeremiah, to be silent about these unfortunate developments.

However, the more I remain quiet about these political matters is the more they become, as it were, like fire shut up in my bones. I find it difficult to contain them and my heart won’t let me do it. My love for Zimbabwe is too strong and I am conscious that silence is betrayal. As Martin Luther King Jr observed, “[m]an’s inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good”.

There is a huge temptation to remain silent and focus on my personal life. But there is also an irresistible urge to speak up. The struggle for human rights, human dignity and worth, and social justice requires more than just silence. And, I am not the type that simply keeps quiet. Zimbabweans worked together to free themselves from the bonds of domination and exploitation imposed on them by white minority rule. They had learnt the hard fact that “the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it. Freedom is never given to anybody. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance” (Martin Luther King Jr).

I feel so strongly that your regime has become increasingly intolerant. You have adopted the same brutal tactics that characterised Mugabe’s rule. Daily, you are imposing unnecessary restrictions on our social and political lives. Lives were lost needlessly in August 2018 and January 2019. Brazenly, you turned a hospital into a court to persecute three female opposition politicians regardless of their recent ugly experience of abduction, torture, degrading and inhuman treatment. We expect justice for Cecilia Chimbiri, Joanah Mamombe and Netsai Marova.

Statements by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo and Patrick Chinamasa are a futile and puerile attempt to save face. Your regime is abusing court processes to settle political scores. This is something that you may live to regret one day. We have been there before and there is absolutely nothing new under the sun.

The excesses of your regime are the very reason that will force us to confront you. You might be secure in your comfort but no condition is permanent. Those who preceded you had also enjoyed considerable comfort before the tables turned on them. A time is coming when we will say enough is enough. We are slowly moving towards saturation point and once that happens, no one will be able to stop oppressed people who are determined to unchain themselves from the shackles of your dictatorial regime.

You can see Your Excellency that I can hardly shut my mouth.

In conclusion, here is some advice from Umdala Wethu: “Of course our history has made us what we are, and the recent period of that history was distorted first by the influence of remote empires, then for ninety years by direct colonial rule. It is up to us to do better now” (Joshua Nkomo).

Till next time, enjoy the rest of your week Your Excellency!

Mutsa Murenje holds a PhD in social work from The University of Newcastle in Australia. He writes in his personal capacity.

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