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The existential crisis of Zim’s national identity

The dream of an inclusive and egalitarian society began to pale in the face of corruption, political polarisation and an ever-widening wealth gap.

"THE ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King Jr

These profound words resonate deeply within the hearts of Zimbabweans, as we find ourselves grappling with an existential crisis that strikes at the very core of our national identity.

Throughout our rich history, we have fought against colonialism, struggled for independence, and yearned for a future defined by justice and equality.

Yet, today, we must confront the painful reality that our collective vision of a united Zimbabwe is threatened by divisions, inequality and a loss of purpose.

To understand the crisis we face, we must first reflect on the historical context that has shaped our nation. Zimbabwe’s journey towards independence was fraught with bloodshed, sacrifice and the tireless efforts of social justice activists who dared to dream of a country where all citizens could thrive, regardless of race, ethnicity, or social standing.

The struggle against white minority rule, led by figures such as Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and Robert Gabriel Mugabe, birthed a collective identity that transcended the boundaries of tribe and language. It was a powerful vision of a diverse nation united in the pursuit of equality and prosperity. But as the years rolled by, cracks began to appear in the foundation of this national identity, eroding the very essence of our shared purpose.

Post-independence, Zimbabwe faced myriad challenges — economic, political and social. The dream of an inclusive and egalitarian society began to pale in the face of corruption, political polarisation and an ever-widening wealth gap.

The promises of equality and justice that reverberated through the airwaves during our liberation struggle seemed to drift away like the morning mist, leaving behind a disillusioned and divided citizenry.

At the heart of our existential crisis lies the question of who we truly are as Zimbabweans. Are we a nation bound by a common purpose, striving for the betterment of all citizens, regardless of their social, economic, or political standing? Or have we allowed ourselves to be consumed by factionalism, tribalism and the pursuit of personal gain at the expense of the collective good?

The scars of our past cannot be ignored. The Gukurahundi massacres, the chaotic land reform programme and the erosion of democratic freedoms have left deep wounds that continue to fester.

These wounds have heightened ethnic tensions, widened social divisions and sowed seeds of mistrust among our people.

Zimbabwe’s national identity is at a critical crossroad. We must confront our troubled past with honesty and humility, acknowledging the wrongs committed, and seeking reconciliation and healing.

This journey will be painful, as wounds that have been left unattended for far too long are finally brought into the light. However, it is through this process of self-reflection and truth-telling that we can forge a new identity anchored in justice, inclusivity and unity.

To overcome our existential crisis, we must address the glaring inequalities that persist within our society. It is a painful reality that many Zimbabweans continue to grapple with poverty, unemployment and lack of access to basic services.

The dream of an equitable society, where every citizen has an equal opportunity to succeed, has been shattered for far too many of our people.

We must also confront the demon of corruption that has plagued our nation for a long time. The pervasiveness of corruption not only undermines our institutions but also perpetuates a culture of moral decay and distrust.

To reclaim our national identity, we must hold those in power accountable and demand transparency in decision-making processes. Only then can we restore faith in our government and rebuild a society based on integrity and social justice.

But perhaps the most crucial aspect of overcoming our existential crisis is fostering a genuine spirit of inclusivity and respect for diversity.

Our national identity cannot thrive if it does not embrace the richness of our various cultures, languages and traditions.

We must move beyond tribal divisions and tribalism, recognising that our differences are a source of strength rather than a cause for division. It is in this spirit of unity that we can build a Zimbabwe where all voices are heard and all citizens feel valued.

As a social justice activist, I am no stranger to the challenges we face as a nation. I have witnessed the pain of the disenfranchised, fought alongside my fellow activists for a more just society and dreamed of a Zimbabwe that lives up to its full potential.

But I am also filled with hope, for in the darkest moments, the flickering flame of unity and resilience burns bright within our people.

Let us harness that flame, my fellow Zimbabweans, and embark on a collective journey towards a renewed national identity. Let us rekindle the spirit of justice, equality, and compassion that once ignited the hearts of our ancestors. It will not be an easy path, but it is one that we must walk with determination and unwavering commitment.

Our existential crisis is an opportunity for reflection, growth and transformation. Let us rise to the occasion, standing tall in times of challenge and controversy, just as Martin Luther King Jr implored everyone to do. Together, let us rebuild our beloved Zimbabwe, forging an identity that reflects the true essence of our collective dreams and aspirations. - Kumbirai Thierry Nhamo

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