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.

mugabes2

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?

zimbabwe-sleepover

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.

murambatsvina

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.

 

Advertisements

Reflections on why the Bond note demonstration failed

Ndabaningi Sithole replying to his younger brother in a letter in 1977 raises a very interesting point on renewal and regeneration: ‘Seriously though, Mas you and your generation must begin to formulate and express your views on all and every issue. My generation is on its way out, whether we like it or not. We have done our part, sometimes not as well as we might have liked to.’

Unfortunately, four decades later we are still stuck with the same leadership; yes, that very same leadership that Ndabaningi Sithole said in 1977 was on its way out. Even the heavens seem to be conspiring against Zimbabwe’s regeneration. The old is refusing to die and the new cannot be born.

However, this year has been a bit promising. Young people have stepped up and have begun to play their part, reclaiming their space and taking full ownership of their own destiny. They are leading from the front, calling and organising demonstrations and stayaways. Doing exactly, if not more than what Ndabaningi Sithole expected from his young brother’s generation.

But if we are to be truly honest with ourselves, recent demonstrations and stayaways have been quite unsuccessful. It might seem we have taken a step back but rest assured our struggle is going forward. At such times, we can only but draw inspiration from Abraham Lincoln’s words ‘revolutions do not go backward’. But to make this statement true for Zimbabwe, we must interrogate the reasons why recent demonstrations have flopped and learn our lessons.

Thus, this article is not meant to bash those who are stepping up, but is an attempt to provide a few lessons for our struggle going forward.

Coalition building

Winston Churchill’s remarks to his private secretary just a few hours before the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union are quite instructive to this politics of coalition building. The secretary inquired how Churchill, an anti-communist, could reconcile himself to being on the same side as the Soviets. Churchill’s reply was clear and unequivocal: ‘I have only one purpose, the destruction of Hitler and my life is simplified thereby. If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of commons.’

This is the attitude pro-democratic forces need to embrace. They might not agree with one another on many issues but they must build alliances and work together for they share a common enemy.

It does not help that student, labour union, political party and other grassroots movement leaders learn about a demonstration they are expected to participate with their constituencies through social media. If constituencies they represent are important in making a demonstration successful, it follows that they must be involved in the planning and organisation of the protests.

Everyone is free to exercise their right to protest. But to build proper mass protests, we must start working together and stop trying to outdo each other.

Grassroots mobilisation

This takes me back to my time as a student leader at Great Zimbabwe University. We once organised a demonstration against an increase in the catering fees. We knew everyone was against the fee increase and therefore assumed that everyone would join in. Unfortunately, our demonstration was a flop not because people did not agree with us, but because we failed to prepare.

At least we learned a valuable lesson grounded in political realism. Human beings do not always do what they ought to do, sometimes they need a strong push. Mass action is rarely impulsive, it needs cultivation and proper organisation. Twitter and Facebook might be good tools to help spread the word but they are inadequate. There must be mobilisation on the ground and yes this requires a serious investment in both human and material resources but there are no two ways about it.

What is the end game?

This is the most burning question we still need to address. People want to know the immediate objective of any action they are to undertake. It is perfectly legitimate for people to raise this question because in the arena of politics, people are primarily moved by self-interest, after all protesting in Zimbabwe can be quite costly.

People have participated in demonstrations in the past and yet none of their concerns have been addressed. Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that some people can become a little disillusioned.

In order to counter this disillusionment, we must make our objectives unequivocally clear for everyone to understand. Secondly, we must learn to pick our battles. We can’t call for a demonstration after every two weeks, this makes the whole exercise very tedious for most people. We ought to be a little more creative in our protesting, we should not restrict ourselves to just street demonstrations. Finally, we must pursue our objectives to the end. We cannot protest against corruption and stop when no one has been arrested or at least fired from government. If through our actions we  do not achieve our objectives then we must do a rethink of our actions.

Change means friction

As Saul Alinsky in his book Rules for Radicals informs us ‘change means movement and movement means friction, we should never expect change to come without the abrasive friction of conflict.’

When we demand change, we must be sensitive to the process of action and reaction. We must anticipate the regime’s actions and adapt our tactics to shifting circumstances, we cannot afford to become trapped in our own ways.

I sincerely believe that our ability to pick ourselves up and learn the valuable lessons we can learn from last week’s temporary setback will determine if this generation of young men and women have what it takes to give birth to a new Zimbabwe.

I remain hopeful, a new Zimbabwe is possible in Mugabe’s lifetime.

Bond Notes: Our refusal to learn from history

The study of history has a moral purpose, so we are told. It is believed that studying history can create better citizens in a free society. At least this is the shared belief among authors of history books. I am sure the government of Zimbabwe shares this belief too. At one point, they wanted to make the study of history compulsory. In any case, why would anyone read history books, if not to learn from them? Continue reading

The last Stay-away was not a failure it was just less successful

Protests by their very nature have their ups and downs. It is a very difficult exercise, to sustain protests over a long period of time. However, that said, I think the failure to understand our economy’s new realities was at the heart of why this last stay away was “less successful”.

Continue reading