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Why did Al Jazeera even bother about Zim looting?

Opinion & Analysis
Al Jazeera logo

AS I was walking in Kwekwe’s central business district last Friday, I came across an avid reader of my articles, whom I know very well.

He was so excited about the Al Jazeera documentary exposing corruption, money-laundering and gold smuggling involving high-ranking officials in Zimbabwe — which had been screened the previous day.

The first thing he wanted to know from me was whether I had already penned something about this shocking exposé — carried out by undercover investigative journalists over a two-year period.

I did not want to dampen his exuberance, so all I said was that I would look into it.

I am not sure if that response shocked him since he concluded that such mind-blowing earth-shattering revelations should automatically make my blood boil.

The same sentiments were, understandably, expressed by other readers and friends. Indeed, they would have been correct — under normal circumstances.

However, in this regard, the situation was a bit different for me. I just did not feel the same enthusiasm, as everyone else. In fact, after watching the documentary, I was overcome by a deep sense of depression — at seeing with my own eyes the extent of the looting of our national resources, in this case, gold, by those connected to power.

Despite having written a lot about such grand plunder of our national resources by the political elite for years — nothing beats actually witnessing it in full view — right there, as these despicable criminals and crooks spoke about their dirty deeds.

What even got me riled up was the manner in which they appeared exceedingly and unashamedly proud of their nefarious activities, regardless of the damage this was causing to the country.

Even today, days later, I am still stunned as to how there could be such wicked and evil people on this planet  who have been overcome by pure unadulterated greed and lust for personal wealth.

People who are willing to cause unimaginable ruin to our country as well as untold suffering upon millions of ordinary Zimbabweans.

Nevertheless, that was not the reason I had not written anything on this so-called “Gold Mafia”, which is prejudicing Zimbabwe of more than US$100 million each month through gold smuggling, and driving the ordinary citizenry into abject poverty.

As a matter of fact, what is contained in the four-part documentary is only a tip of the iceberg compared to the plunder taking place in this country.

What left me totally dejected, though, was that despite this most commendable work by our fellow journalists from Al Jazeera, that was as far as this entire rotten affair could go. There was truly nothing more to expect from Zimbabweans, who are the main victims of this looting.

Of course, deep down I silently wished that this time around, I would be proved wrong.

But, nay, days after the exposé, everyone is going about their everyday affairs as if all is well.

I wonder why Al Jazeera even bothered undertaking this thankless task — expending and investing so much time, effort and money even risking their lives in a project that would not be received with the seriousness it deserves by ordinary Zimbabweans.

My fervent prayer is that they, at least, somehow recoup their expenses from this piece of outstanding journalistic brilliance. As far as helping ordinary Zimbabweans come out of the misery callously orchestrated by these thieving people is concerned, both history, and the past few days, have already proven that we are a hopeless lot.

We are unable to stand up for ourselves, and the future of our children and grandchildren, whose lives are being wantonly destroyed before some have even been born.

As expected, this documentary only managed to be a source of excitable social media, street and household conversation and there is really nothing to expect from Zimbabweans beyond that.

No action! No rage! Zero! Nothing!

When I was listening to an audio recording making the rounds, in which a female speaker was ranting and raving against the exposé, referring to Zimbabweans as “dunderheads” and “ignorant fools”, I could not help but wonder if there was no truth to the insult, as much as it was so painful to hear.

Surely, what type of people would watch such massive looting of their own resources, which directly impacts their livelihoods in the most harrowing way, but still see no reason to be agitated?

When I mentioned this yesterday, I was not particularly surprised to get the usual excuse: Fear.

Zimbabweans are so fond of, and have somehow found solace in this disturbing comfort zone. They simply cite fear of the brutal regime, in what clearly appears as something we now regard as a plausible justification.

They make me question if Zimbabweans were the ones who waged the liberation struggle against an equally heinous colonial Rhodesia regime, or Mozambicans and other nationals did it for us.

Furthermore, no one in his right mind is calling upon anyone to take up arms, or go on a rampage or even undertake street protests, as we are fully aware of how that would end.

Who can forget August 1, 2018, or January 14-16, 2019, when scores of unarmed protesters were gunned down in cold blood as they fled trigger-happy security forces who had been deployed to crush protests?

However, that can never, and should never, be an excuse to simply fold our arms, while those in power turn our lives upside down, because of their insatiable greed.

I honestly cannot understand why we do not even bother trying non-confrontational means of expressing our displeasure and outright rage at this looting by those in power?

What is so terrifying about staying in our homes for an agreed time, and we grind the country to a halt to pile pressure on this criminal regime?

Only last week, South Africans staged a very successful national shutdown called for by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema to force President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration to seriously address the long-running electricity crisis crippling their country.

Of course, results cannot be expected after a single event, but such a massive display of strength is a powerful first step. If only one event was enough to bring the much-needed change, then Zimbabwe would have attained her independence soon after the Sinoia (Chinhoyi) Battle, in which, a small unit of liberation fighters engaged Rhodesian forces on April 28, 1966, and were all killed.

This can never be regarded as a monumental failure or even ill-conceived idea, but will always be recorded in history as a powerful signal of the unflinching courageous desire for independence by the people of Zimbabwe, resulting in a much larger, better equipped and strategised protracted armed struggle.

So, it does not make sense to me when we refuse to stand up for ourselves as the oppressed, impoverished and marginalised people of Zimbabwe.

Indeed, a national stayaway, not matter how impactful, may not be expected to stop those plundering our resources, or immediately put an end to flights to Dubai.

But it will give those in power cause for concern, and serve as a loud warning for further action if the people’s demands are not heeded.

As long as we sit back, always making excuses for our docility and passiveness, then maybe we are, indeed, nothing more than “dunderheads and ignorant fools”.

Honestly, if we do not believe such peaceful non-confrontational mass action as stayaways will work, why then do we think making noise on social media, or penning endless articles, which hardly touch those in power, will yield positive results?

That is the main reason I never really felt the need to join the feverish excitement over the Al Jazeera documentary because I knew that the only thing we will do is talk, talk and talk with practically no action to buttress that talk.

It makes more sense if we kept quiet and get used to our continued suffering, while we allow those in power to do whatever pleases them.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator

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