IN this crazy world of ours, only a fool should expect their aspirations and goals to just fall like manna from the heavens.
Anyone who genuinely supposes that their dreams and objectives will be given them on a silver platter, without ever the need to put in the required proverbial sweat and tears, need to have their head thoroughly examined.
As the saying goes, “there’s nothing for free under the sun” — as such, anything good is worth the price.
In other words, if one desires success and prosperity in this life — then, there is need to put in the required effort, and make the necessary sacrifices.
Expecting anything different is purely wishful thinking. Nothing happens on its own. Even death requires something to trigger it. This logic similarly applies to our lives and livelihoods here in Zimbabwe.
Having spent the past two decades facing unrelenting economic hardships — leaving over half the population in extreme poverty (barely surviving on less than US$1,90 a day), and two thirds of employed Zimbabweans earning way below the poverty datum line (PDL) — it is clear that there is urgent need for a paradigm shift.
As companies continue to limp, on account of a dysfunctional and unsustainable national economy — with nearly 90% of Zimbabwean adults not formally employed, and university graduates forced into vending — there is no denying that it is imperative for renewed thinking and a fresh formula for our emancipation.
In a constitutional democracy — as that is what Zimbabwe is supposed to be, on paper at least, there are a plethora of tools at the suffering citizenry’s disposal to push for their improved wellbeing, and a dignified livelihood that they all deserve.
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Though regular elections are a central component of this constitutional democracy — as a vital cog in choosing the leaders we want, and rejecting those who have turned our lives into a nightmare — over the past 20 years, this has proven not a very effective weapon for change.
Every election since the turn of the new millennium has been heavily disputed, mostly characterised by allegations of fraud, and unbelievable heinous atrocities against opposition supporters.
This was after the formation of a formidable opposition by the now late Morgan Tsvangirai and his allies in 1999, which proved to be the first real challenge to Zanu PF’s grip on power since the country’s independence in 1980.
As we begin a new year, 2023, with another crucial election slated for around August or so, why should anyone expect a different outcome than has been the norm since 2000?
On what basis can Zimbabweans, especially the millions who have had enough of the endless harrowing daily struggles of poverty, seriously dream of change in 2023 when elections are still going to be conducted under the same conditions as those of the past 23 years?
Why are we, as the ones enduring the brunt of Zanu PF disgraceful misrule, oppression, and large-scale looting of our national resources, apparently not ready to fully utilise other tools in our constitutional democracy toolbox, in pushing for meaningful reforms that would guarantee truly peaceful free, fair and credible elections?
What logic is there in expecting to repeat the same thing, but expecting a different outcome? Is this not what Albert Einstein ascribed to insanity?
The beauty of our constitution in Zimbabwe is that is provides for several avenues for making our voices heard as we demand our rights.
Indeed, it has been proven, over the course of Zanu PF’s four- decade reign of terror, that exercising some of these constitutionally-enshrined tools can be a death-wish — with a cold-hearted trigger-happy regime, that has absolutely no qualms shooting unarmed civilians — as happened on August 1, 2018, and January 14, 2019, after some protests in Harare, in which scores lost their lives at the hands of security forces.
So, it is perfectly understandable when ordinary Zimbabweans — no matter how much they may desire change — to be wary of any such action as street demonstrations, since they know that may very well be the last thing they ever do.
Nevertheless, marching on streets, no matter how peacefully — with the real possibility of either being arrested or gunned down — is not the only provision in our Constitution.
There are other less confrontational means — which, I have written about several times before. Yet, for some reasons I still fail to grasp, Zimbabweans appear afraid of even those.
Surely, what is there to fear by merely staying at home, as a form of protest?
What is there to be terrified about when we do not go anywhere — possibly, spending the day in quality time with our families — yet, at the same time, sending a very unequivocal message to those in power that we have had enough, and we demand real democratic, electoral and security sector reforms?
In other countries, national strikes, shutdowns and stayaways are a most effective method of protest — when the entire country is temporarily brought to a standstill, until the people’s demands are heard and fulfilled.
This action is strictly about pressuring the regime for that change we want — and, not, in any way, to push for illegal regime change.
We should never condone unconstitutional means of changing our governments — which is why I was fiercely opposed to the November 2017 military coup, since that set a very dangerous precedence — something that may actually end up being used against any future democratically-elected government (including, in the event of the opposition winning elections).
Of course, I have come across those expressing their legitimate concerns that, as Zimbabwe has been reduced to a nation of street vendors and other informal operators — missing work even for a day under this tough economic environment, is as good as committing financial suicide.
Granted, I do understand this logical reasoning. However, I have two responses to this.
Firstly, as already highlighted at the beginning of this article — Zimbabweans have to make those painful decisions, should we seriously desire the change, for which we have been longing.
Nothing good comes for free — but, there is always some price to pay.
Our fathers, mothers, older brothers and sisters courageously gave their very lives to fight colonial rule — so, what stops us from forgoing a few hours or days of our income, to fight for an even brighter and better economy?
Besides, how did we manage to survive the long periods of COVID-19 strict lockdowns — where we went for months not permitted even travelling into the central business district to buy food?
In life, we need to be visionaries and not to be driven by petty selfishness and short-term goals, where we fail to see the bigger picture in our actions and decisions, as we merely focus on the now.
Secondly, even if we are to still attend to our small informal “projects” — let us not forget that there is nothing to stop us making our disgruntlement and grievances loudly known.
Of late, the oppressive Zanu PF administration has been in the habit of banning or denying permission for any form of protest, gathering or even prayer service — perceived to be against the ruling establishment — but, that can never prevent voices of dissent, as there are 101 ways of achieving this goal.
We can still travel to our workstations, while repeatedly honking our car, commuter omnibus, truck horns throughout the journey as a way of protesting our sickening plight.
Similarly, we can even attach various symbols on our vehicles — whether brazenly carrying written demands, or more subtle symbolism (such as ribbons or balloons of specified colours) in conveying known messages.
No one is required to seek permission from authorities to engage in such forms of protest.
Furthermore, musicians have always been a critical part of any protest, going as far back as our liberation struggle, with well-known artists such as Thomas Mapfumo, the now late Oliver Mtukudzi, Zexie Manatsa and many others taking the centre stage.
Today, we need the same breed of musicians, and other artistes.
They do not even need to make their identities known — as they secretly churn out various songs using pseudonyms, with music that is specially targeted at the youth.
It does not matter at all that this music will never see the light of day on State radio stations, as similar fate befell legends like Mapfumo, Mtukudzi and Manatsa during the colonial era, yet their inspirational songs of freedom still managed to reach the masses.
In this age of phenomenal technological advancements, the task is relatively easier since this protest music can freely be shared among the population and, listened to via devices such as mobile phones.
With over 90% of the Zimbabwean population claiming to be of the Christian faith, our church organisations can be another place of spreading the message of change, while simultaneously encouraging peaceful protests against injustices and oppression.
That is why during the colonial period, we had the clergy in the form of national heroes, Ndabaningi Sithole, Father Emmanuel Francis Ribeiro, or even Bishop Abel Muzorewa, and many others, who stood out as exceptional leaders of the people.
Zimbabwe desperately needs religious leaders who do not throw their weight behind evil — as we have watched in utter horror with these so-called “Pastors 4 ED” or “Mapostori 4 ED” — but, a new breed of Sitholes and Ribeiros, who never blindly supported oppressive leaders, under the distorted and deliberate misinterpretation of the Bible’s instruction to “submit to authority”.
Real Christians do not stand with wickedness.
I could go on and on, but it is clear that as oppressed Zimbabweans, who have been marginalised from the economy through the plunder of our national resources by those in power, we have no justification not to stand up for ourselves.
The time has come that we finally realised that if we seriously desire our lives and livelihoods to change, then we need to take action.
We need to finally wake up to the fact that nothing will improve for us if we do not do it for ourselves. No one will do it for us.
If we let 2023 pass without us taking real firm action, we should not cry foul come August or September since the story is going to be the same as 2008, 2013, and 2018.