|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Angola and Zimbabwe – The Frontline States
Right after independence, in 1975, a great sense of African solidarity ran across the Angolan society, regardless of the realpolitik of the time. “Our struggle continues in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa”, highlighted a propaganda slogan.
Nowadays, South Africa and Namibia have built solid grounds for freedom, peace and stability through reconciliation, democracy and political commonsense, in the past 15 years. While Angola is battling its way up, from the shambles of war and misrule, the other Southern Africa country, Zimbabwe, is on its way down. This country had made great human progress, in 20 years of independence.
At some point, I decided to visit Zimbabwe to learn how that once-lighthouse for Africa’s human development and stability had gone so wrong. Civil society player A. Nongongo gave me the most compelling explanation on why such a well-educated people had failed to prevent the country’s derailment. He said Zimbabweans were driven to have the best education possible and to strive as individuals, but were not taught to be citizens. The belief of the people was that the State was to protect and provide them with a sort of paternal guidance. But, in reality, there was a fine line between the role of the State and that of ZANU-PF.
The ill resolved land redistribution and the not much love between black and white communities, had been idling for almost 20 years. At a crucial time, these were fanned to flame. They were politically re-mastered by ZANU-PF leadership to reassert its control of power. It made the landless, the poor, the veterans and the opportunists believe that the day had come for them to share the spoils. But, as in Angola, only a few have benefited from chaos. When it happened, according to A. Nongongo, the critical mass was somewhat at a loss.
The ensuing political battles have been a defeat to Zimbabwe’s people and its achievements. Today, thousands of Zimbabweans are damned to die of starvation. Most of the people have to live in a state of permanent fear.
The twist of democracy
Zimbabwe has become a landmark case on how an electoral process can be used to further plunge the country into darkness and how it is used to twist a democratic system back into a de facto tyranny.
Angola and Zimbabwe, though in different circumstances, share a common trend. At crucial moments, both civil societies put much emphasis on the hope that the international community and elections would or could help resolve the situation, and not on internal pressure.
In Angola it happened, once again, in 2002, after the death of then rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, with the expectation placed on the outcomes of talks between the contenders and the role played by the UN and international observers.
As for Zimbabwe, the faith was placed on the international community’s sanctions after the 2002 presidential elections, widely condemned as rigged. The highly flawed and questionable 2005 parliamentarian elections further strengthened Mugabe’s regime grip on power, as his party ZANU-PF was awarded a two-thirds majority.
Thus, people have lost the belief in their own ability and courage to change the situation of the country to best serve people’s needs.
Like Angola, Zimbabwe’s civil society is overwhelmingly dependent on the goodwill or strategic conveniences of foreign donors. In Angola, such reliance happens in a country with abundant natural resources, which renders its power holders the most effective means in corrupting and squandering of resources.
Meanwhile, Mugabe’s regime has sought legitimacy, through an internally combined use of a resounding black-nationalist rhetoric, violence and unjust laws. This did not cost him, it helped him. He added the diplomatic support from African countries and, more recently, mass demolitions of neighborhoods suspected of being strongholds of opposition supporters.
Had Mugabe plenty of natural resources (oil) to offer, he would have mastered the support or the silence of the West as well as Dos Santos, from Angola, and Nguema from Equatorial Guinea.
In both circumstances, the international support has not been helpful to changes neither in Angola, where the government uses and abuses it, nor in Zimbabwe where the civil society and the opposition had received it plenty. Or else, one can say what a mixed blessing!
Such a fact is a lesson on how fundamental is internal pressure, regardless of factors of fear or fragmentation, and how fickle international support can be.
The shield of fear
In both countries fear of repression has been highlighted as one of the main hindrances for people to push for changes.
Let us, for the moment, exclude fear from violence as an argument to justify people’s passivity to demand accountability from and the halting of power abuse by government. One has to bear in mind that usually violence is executed by the foot soldiers, the masses themselves.
During the liberation struggle for independence, and until very recently, in countries like DRC and Angola, to name two that I am most familiar with, scores of fighters would run against bullets - chests out - because they believed witchcraft had bullet proofed them. Che-Guevara learnt about the belief in dawa during his expeditionary mission to Congo.
This is to explain that the matter of fear has to do more with the challenges of the unknown, rather than with its imposition by or might of the aggressors or rulers. Fear is a perception, after all, which can easily be overrun by a strong and common belief.
It is up to those claiming to be alternative leaders to transform the fear of the unknown into an attainable will for change and better days ahead. It is initially about courage, mobilization and wisdom against political banditry, disguised in the form of rule.
A successful story
South Africa has been registering a very successful reconciliation and democratic process, because people fought for it and with their lives when it was necessary. The resoluteness of people in the townships like Soweto, in standing up defenseless against an all mighty and ruthless apartheid regime, greatly inspired ordinary people around the world to espouse their cause.
Those who most suffered, like Mandela, were the most engaged in promoting the truth and forgiveness but, above all, the restoration of South African black dignity.
The images of blacks being chased in Soweto have been replaced by those of a fast developing country, of Mandela’s world statesmanship, Charlize Theron’s Oscar and the hosting of 2010 Soccer World Cup. After all, it has become a country with pride for all its citizens.
It makes only sense for us to continue to fight for our freedom and to learn from one another’s experiences, strengths and weaknesses. We have to share regional solidarity, this time not by way of political leaders’ engagements, but united by the common suffering of ordinary people and against misrule. As, from Angola to Zimbabwe, a luta continua.
As John Kerry has remarked, the “future doesn’t belong to fear; it belongs to freedom.