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Sikhala’s unjust incarceration is greatest threat to activism

Opinion & Analysis
Job Sikhala

A tyrant will always be a tyrant — and, like the proverbial leopard, it is foolhardy for anyone to expect him to change his spots.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon the people being oppressed to stand up for themselves, to force the dictator to respect their rights.

Without that, there is really no reason for our continued moaning and moping over the seemingly endless struggles we face everyday, at the hands of a heartless wicked dictatorship in Zimbabwe.

In fact, the incomprehensible perpetual inaction and docility we shockingly witness among Zimbabweans is arguably the greatest threat to our freedom, and the work of activists in this country.

How can we honestly expect evil to end, when good people merely stand by, watch, and do nothing?

Would this not embolden the oppressor, thereby worsening the already dire plight of the ordinary citizenry?

Surely, when a diabolical leadership is permitted to thrive unfettered — what do we expect as a consequence?

Are we not to expect the dictator to become more brazen, and the situation more harrowing?

I look at how both ordinary Zimbabweans and the main CCC opposition have practically stood aloof — while, intrepid and militant political activists such as Job Sikhala wallow in prison for 160 days on charges largely regarded as spurious — and repeatedly denied his constitutional right to bail, and his trial never getting off the ground.

Not only does my heart bleed, in pain over this ruthless persecution of one of our most vocal voices against injustice in Zimbabwe, but also at how ordinary citizens — for whom, Sikhala is sacrificing his own life and livelihood — easily abandon those fighting for their rights, and restoration of their dignity.

This is such a frightening thought!

As we move into 2023, with many of us carefully weighing our resolutions for the new year — one of the questions in my mind is:  “Is it really worth it”?

Is it really worth placing one's life and livelihood on the line, in the hope for a better Zimbabwe for all its citizens — yet, if the brute might of the repressive regime were to descend on me, in all likelihood, no one would lift a finger to defend me?

I always wonder if Zimbabweans actually believe that people such as Sikhala, or Hopewell Chin’ono, or even myself are suicidal and have a death wish upon ourselves.

If Sikhala’s own political party (for which he is vice chair, and legislator) and, the rest of ordinary Zimbabweans  cannot boldly and forcefully stand up for one of their own —  I shudder to image what will happen to the rest of us, mere insignificant and unknown mortals?

What will become of me, for instance, if I were to be persecuted?

Does CCC or the suffering subjugated Zimbabweans ever consider what Sikhala is going through right now, or the plight of his family which has had to endure 160 days without their father and husband, as well as the income he used to bring for their upkeep?

Yet, there are those who would rather protect their own backs — fearful of facing the same ordeal as Sikhala — never taking any meaningful action to, at least, try and secure their fellow comrade’s release.

I ask — who, then, is dispensable in this struggle for justice?

Whose life and security is above everyone else’s, such that, they should be protected and spared at all costs — while, the rest of us place our lives and the livelihoods of our families at stake on a daily basis?

We also have families —  in case, this was not known.

We also have wives and children who need to see their husbands and fathers everyday — just like every other family in Zimbabwe.

Yet, it is as if our families are insignificant and do not matter — as the rest of Zimbabwe and the opposition shield theirs from harm.

As we go into 2023 — with my new year’s resolutions about to be put on paper — I ask myself,  “Are we the fools in this course of action as we have chosen to risk our lives, by fearlessly standing up and speaking out against injustices, corruption and maladministration in Zimbabwe”?

Are those who are not taking any action, keeping their mouths sealed, and arms folded, the wise ones — who are placing their own wellbeing and welfare ahead of the country ?

Maybe they are!

Indeed, maybe we are the idiots — for assuming we had the backing of both the opposition and ordinary Zimbabweans in our fight for the rights and dignity of all citizens.

What is more painful is how Zimbabweans are so good at encouraging and revving up political and social justice activists to keep going — yet, when we fall into the hands of the oppressor we are mercilessly abandoned as sacrificial lambs.

Indeed, in any struggle there are those called to take the lead in being more vocal and even militant, and are prone to be targeted for persecution — something witnessed during the country’s 1960s and 70s liberation struggle.

However, these people were never abandoned to languish in detention, restriction or prison — but, there were thousands of young men and women who were out there bravely taking on the colonial regime.

As such, even if the likes of the late  tyrant Robert Gabriel Mugabe spent 10 years behind bars — that was for a good cause, since the valiant efforts of thousands of our sons and daughters of the soil in the trenches, were bound to bear fruit in an independent Zimbabwe.

This is what is glaringly missing in today’s Zimbabwe.

What good cause is there for Sikhala wallowing in prison right now — in the absence of any tangible action by those of us outside — which could guarantee a free Zimbabwe?

If there are those deluding themselves that elections scheduled for next year are what will bring the desperately-needed change  — then Zimbabweans are still too naïve for their own good.

They clearly do not know the ruling regime very well, yet!

I have said this before, and will say it again.

In this new liberation struggle, we do not need arms of war, or violence of any shape or form  — but to make our voices heard through passive resistance.

It boggles the mind why Zimbabweans are not even prepared to undertake such non-confrontational means, such as engaging in crippling prolonged national strikes, stayaways, or shutdowns — where no one’s life is placed at risk, and we merely stay in our homes till our demands are heard.

Right now as I write this, the United Kingdom is limping on one leg, as virtually every vital sector and institution — including, hospitals, ambulances, rail, buses, and borders — are crippled by national strikes, as people demand better wages and working conditions.

No one needs to be directly facing off with authorities — but, simply staying at home, can be any effective powerful tool for change.

Why are we not even bothered to attempt that — and, at least, see where it takes us?

Of course, I have heard every excuse in the book from my compatriots.

One of these is that Zimbabwe is now a highly informal economy, and as such, people cannot afford a day away from their income-generating projects.

Granted, that is true but that further buttresses my assertion that Zimbabweans are selfish.

Surely, who then is expected to sacrifice their own life and livelihood for Zimbabwe?

How much has Sikhala — a lawyer by profession — already lost, due to his long incarceration?

According to some estimates, over a hundred thousand US dollars in potential revenue — based on prevailing legal charges.

Imagine what someone like me (with my family) who is already financially struggling, stands to lose should anything happen to me?

As a matter of fact, my family is suffering significantly already — as the nature of my activism has closed employment doors for me — on the basis of prospective employers perceiving me as placing their companies in great danger.

So, I ask this again — who exactly is disposable in Zimbabwe, and should be sacrificed while, everyone else protects their own lives and livelihoods?

It is so unfair and downright cruel. This is a defining moment for Zimbabwe.

The manner in which Sikhala has been abandoned to the wolves — with virtually no one coming to his rescue in a more meaningful  manner, using the language understood by tyrants — leaves the rest of us feeling dispensable and disposable.

In so doing, the social justice movement is under threat of gradually weakening and even disintegrating — as more and more activists re-evaluate their priorities.

Not as a result of the oppressive regime’s brutal policies — but rather due to the lacklustre approach by ordinary Zimbabweans, which has made our sacrifice seemingly meaningless and pointless.

Zimbabweans should not be surprised to hear less and less voices from the social justice movement in 2023.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]

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