Masarira was right, we are a nation of cowards

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2017. This is a line I have recited year in year out. However, this year I have found it difficult to recite this common but beautiful line. How could I not feel the emptiness in those words when I know fully well that a big part of our Zimbabwean family is going to go to Christmas unpaid?

Our wise government decided to pay nurses and the security sector on the 21st of December, teachers on the 28th of December and the rest of the civil service on the 3rd of January next year. I am just trying to imagine a married couple, both civil servants. What kind of festive season are they going to have? A bleak Christmas, that I can tell you without reserve.

However, this mistreatment of civil servants is nothing new, their salaries have been below the poverty datum line for the past two decades now. Basically, they are national servants, like literally servants, unfortunately unappreciated servants. Trust me I know what I am talking about, I am a son of two retired civil servants, both educators by profession. Guess what, even after retirement, these senior citizens still get a raw deal.

But let’s rewind a little bit, help me understand, why did the government chose to pay nurses and the security sector earlier than others? I am sure you can agree with me, paying everyone a fraction of their salary before Christmas and the rest later sounds more sensible, right? At least this would have been fair to all civil servants and more importantly it would have ensured that all civil servants were going to have a decent Christmas with their families.

I am pretty sure that this is what a government that pretends to care for its citizens would have done. But of course, that does not make political sense. It’s called divide and rule fellow Zimbabweans. This is what a regime that is only concerned by power retention does, especially when elections are less than one and half years away. It’s not like we did not know that the Zanu PF regime regards certain civil servants more equal than others. In this current climate, were public dissent is fashionable, a strike or disgruntlement from the security sector can have far reaching consequences. This is why the regime had to send a clear and unambiguous message to the security sector, saying that even though we pay you peanuts we still have your back.

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Yes, it is official the president’s spokesperson told us that the president was off to the far East, on his annual leave together with his family. It’s probably too much to ask for, but one would have thought that a caring president would forgo a holiday with his family in solidarity with the unpaid civil servants. But forget that, Mugabe is way past pretence, he does not care what we all think anymore. Besides it would be unfair to his family, they have diamond loot to spend and very limited time with Mugabe considering his age.

This brings me to a post I saw on Kudzayi Kadzere’s Facebook wall a couple of days ago, he was asking how we Zimbabweans have allowed ourselves to normalise the abnormal, how we have come to accept the unacceptable. Is it not amazing how the country is relatively quiet, we are only hearing whimpers and growls in beer drinking places and on social media when a majority of civil servants are going for the festive season unpaid? Oh, cry beloved Zimbabwe, how have we allowed ourselves to accept the unacceptable? Men and women spend sleepless nights in bank queues and are only allowed to withdraw measly amounts from their accounts, normalising the abnormal, haven’t we?

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Last week Linda Masarira sparked a storm in a tea cup online, the entire week was spend discussing tribalism and how unfit Linda was to lead a protest movement in Zimbabwe. That very same week Mugabe gave a state of the nation address and Chinamasa presented the budget for 2017 and all we could do was talk about Linda. How did we become so good at majoring on minors? We are so easily distracted maybe we need blinkers as a people. If we are not careful, we will end up fighting each other instead of Zanu PF the real enemy of progress. As the optimists say, there is a silver lining to every dark cloud, at least we now know that we still have tribal tensions that need addressing, I presume a job for all of us in the new Zimbabwe.

However, Linda’s message in politically correct language is that we are all cowards. In fact, we are a country of cowards, too timid and docile, incapable of standing up for ourselves. Forgive me for saying that, I stand to be corrected if I am proven wrong but can someone tell me, how did we (Zimbabweans) fail to fight back when our homes, makeshift industries and livelihoods were destroyed during operation Murambatsvina? I would like to think that if another man is able to destroy my home and I am not able to put up a fight against such provocation, then no amount of further provocation will ever force me to fight. No, not even sleeping at a bank queue or only being allowed to withdraw $50 a day or having one’s payday postponed, will make me stand up for myself.

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Is it not funny then to hear my generation, the born frees and those born during the height of the liberation war saying to the war vets, ‘you can take the country back to where you found it, we will liberate it ourselves.They believe that the only reason they did not fight in the liberation struggle was because they were either not yet born or old enough.

I am sorry but even if this generation was old enough it would not have fought in that liberation struggle. How could it? When it cannot fight this current oppressive system. I am not even talking about campaigning for the opposition in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe or in the heart of Mashonaland central, where one’s life would be at risk. I am talking about simple things such as participating in a demonstration that has been organised by other people. If you cannot spare a few hours to the national cause doing simple things such as walking, singing and perhaps running away from the police then please forgive me, your words are hollow when tell me, you could have fought in the liberation struggle.

We must admit, we are a generation of cowards. For we have been successfully intimidated by the police baton stick, we are afraid to be choked by teargas and are traumatised by the mere thought of spending a few nights in the jail cells. Let’s admit we are cowards and the least this generation of cowards can do is to mobilise each other to register and eventually vote the regime out, at least in the voting booth there is no need to fear because your vote is your secret.

 

Tsvangirai must listen to the unspoken words and read between the lines: Coalition Talks

There can be no doubt that Robert Mugabe’s grip on power is slipping. The so called one centre of power can longer hold Zanu PF together. Even after expelling a whole faction led by Joyce Mujuru, factionalism remains rife in the party.

Not only is Zanu PF riddled with factionalism but 2016 has also seen a rise in public discontent marked by public sector strikes and street protests. Bond notes have come, they might be able to cure symptoms like cash shortages and bank queues in the short run but rest assured they will not be able to resolve Zimbabwe’s underlying economic problem. At some point in the near future the country will not be able to finance its ever-growing import bill. Which will in turn cause high inflation, shortages of basic goods and the re-emergence of the black-market.

Not so good news for the ordinary person but in all intents and purposes a conducive environment for the opposition to thrive going into the 2018 elections. In spite of this promising prospect, the opposition in its foolishness has turned its knives towards one another.

No, we will not allow them to kick the ball into the woods (kurovera bhora musango) when the goal is gaping. Their minor squabbles will not detract us from the task at hand, change is too an important objective to forgo on account of a few inflated egos.

Whether or not to participate in 2018 elections without reforms.
As we all engross ourselves with preparations for 2018, the opposition must make its position on 2018 clear. We need to know if they will participate in the next general elections or not. What we know is that Zanu PF is most unlikely to institute further reforms. Common sense tells us, they will not reform themselves out of power.

I hope no one thinks that the opposition is capable of forcing these reforms through Zanu PF’s throat. Remember, all it took to stop the NERA demonstrations was a single police order issued by a little known Chief Superintend Newbert Saunyama who commands the Harare district.

We therefore, must expect a flawed electoral playing field going into 2018. Never the less, an election boycott is still unacceptable, a no brainer at least in my humble opinion. Timing is everything in politics. In 2013, boycotting the election made sense. Then, the opposition had leverage, even the SADC mediation team advised the opposition to boycott the election. Not only that, the world’s eyes were on Zimbabwe and more importantly, Zanu PF was in desperate need for legitimacy after the sham 2008 election. Unfortunately, boycotting the next general election is not different to closing the stables when the horse has already bolted. The boycott will certainly make headlines for a couple of months but will be soon forgotten, just like how we have forgotten crises in Burundi and Ethiopia.

A case for a coalition
If we are to participate in the next general elections, then we must draw lessons from the opposition in Seychelles and Gambia who recently won elections against authoritarian regimes in their respective countries.

Seychelles’ opposition having boycotted the 2011 elections, demanding electoral reforms, came together and formed a coalition which contested parliamentary elections this year. The coalition won a majority in the parliament for the first time since the country returned to multiparty democracy in 1993.

In Gambian for the first time in two decades, the opposition came together and formed a coalition, rallying behind a single candidate who ran against president Jammeh. They were able to bring president Jammeh’s 22-year rule to an end by re-energising their support base in the face of intimidation and other underhand tactics employed by the former president.

With this positive message coming from across Africa, that it is possible to defeat these tyrants, it is sad to hear all this bickering in the opposition camp. More so, when they all believe that a united opposition stands a much better chance of unseating a weakened Zanu PF from power. Only through a coalition can the demoralised voter be re-energised. Joining hands shows a serious intend of purpose and has the potential of exciting the new voter, creating a momentum that has been lacking ever since that election in 2013.

As I have highlighted above, I am no fan of boycotting the 2018 elections. But assuming there were no reforms and the opposition were to boycott the election, would it not be better to do so collectively under the banner of a coalition?

An indictment on Tsvangirai’s leadership
In the midst of verbal insults and bickering, great leaders have the ability to read between the lines, to listen to the words unspoken. If only Tsvangirai could listen, listen not only to his kitchen cabinet, I am sure he would hear the smaller opposition parties begging for his leadership.

The only reason why smaller parties and outsiders took the initiative to set the Cape Town talks is because Tsvangirai has failed to provide that much required leadership. If 2018 is going to mean something then he must step up and take responsibility, time is not on our side. After all the objective of the coalition is to try and rally behind his candidature against Robert Mugabe in 2018.

There are those who do not want Tsvangirai to join hands with anyone, saying the MDCT is big. Of course, it is true that Tsvangirai leads the biggest opposition party in the country but what honour is there in leading an opposition party that never gets power? History is awash with so many forgotten opposition leaders. He must be reminded that he stands to personally benefit from working with his former colleagues. Even in elementary politicking one is taught to work with their enemies to achieve their objectives. We cannot afford to miss another opportunity in 2018, its totally unacceptable considering how vulnerable Zanu PF is at the moment.

Decision time
Politics is always a game of imperfect choices, decisions are never completely right or wrong but never the less they must be made. All we demand from the opposition is clarity. They must come clean with the people of Zimbabwe who have placed their hope for a new Zimbabwe in them. They must tell the people whether they want to form a coalition or not and whether they will participate in 2018 elections or not.

The people have a right to know the options on the table, 2018 is too important an election to walk blindly into.