Statistics and data are a very complex and delicate science – which needs to be treated with the utmost caution and care, as interpreting them is never a simple and straightforward process – since how these are interpreted may either shed truth and light upon a particular issue, or be abused for dangerous lies and propaganda.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana
In fact, some of the world’s most shocking genocides and acts of brutality were based on the misinterpretation of statistics and data, aimed at portraying a specific unenviable image, which could lead to feelings of hatred or fear against a particular group or grouping – be they, foreigners residing in a country, members of a targeted tribe, race, religion, or even gender.
For instance, if I said that, 56% of the US (United States of America) incarcerated population were represented by African Americans and Hispanics, and that in 2014 African Americans alone made up 2.3 million (or 34%) of the total 6.8 million prison population – how would you interpret that, as pertaining these two racial groups’ criminality and criminal dispossession?
Yet, would that be the true picture – if we fail to incorporate other critical factors, such as the economic, social, and educational circumstances these specific groups exist under – considering this is a country with a terrible and regrettable long history of racial inequalities, segregation, and injustices, which drove these groups, especially African Americans, onto the peripheries of US society, and alienating them from opportunities enjoyed by others groups, as the Whites, thereby making them feel there is no other life than crime?
In the wrong hands, can these figures not easily be used to paint African Americans and Hispanics as nothing more than rogue outcasts, who have absolutely no regard for the law, and are inherently prone to criminality?
I can give another example.
Latest figures show that, HIV/AIDS is 1.62 times more prevalent amongst adult women than men, and 59% of new infections among young persons aged 15 to 24 years in 2016 occured amongst adolescent girls and young women.
With only these statistics in tow, how hard would it be for a mischievous misogynist to disingenuously peddle the narrative that girls and women were more promiscuous than boys and men – since this virus was mainly transmitted via unprotected sexual intercourse?
I can even go deeper by alluding to the fact that Zimbabwe districts as Bubi, Bulilima, and Tsholotsho – whose HIV prevalence rates stood at 21.5%, 20.8%, and 20.7% respectively, as well as being amongst the highest in the country – “proved” that the people of Matebeleland region were more sexually immoral than in other parts of the country, in an attempt to sow seeds of hatred and division in Zimbabweans.
This, notwithstanding the fact that there are numerous other physiological, economic, and societal (usually patriarchal) reasons – which make the female gender more susceptible to HIV infection – as well, as the massive deindustrialization and economic disenfranchisement of the Matebeleland region, that have forced many into commercial sex work as a means to survival.
There is always a hidden story behind any statistics and data – and, if not told holistically, truthfully and accurately can easily lead to misinterpretation, misinformation, and eventually turmoil.
Which brings me to the results of the just-ended Zimbabwe parliamentary and local government by-elections held over the weekend, on March 26, 2022.
As much as the ruling ZANU PF managed to “protect” their seats in the rural areas, and also winning with phenomenal margins – against their nearest rivals, the two-month-old CCC (Citizens Coalition for Change), who garnered paltry votes in the same regions – the story is not as clear-cut and straightforward as at first glance.
Indeed, if given such figures as in Mwenezi East (where ZANU PF had 12,177 versus 1,573 of the CCC), or Murewa South (ZANU PF 11, 125 and CCC 1,729), or Chivi South (ZANU PF 6,832 against CCC 1,414) – anyone would be forgiven for concluding that the newly-formed opposition party had performed dismally, and had no chance at all in the face of the “immensely popular” ruling party.
However, let us hold our horses right there!
Politics in Zimbabwe is not as simple as that.
After the liberation struggle of the 1960s and 70s, it should be remembered that the then revolutionary ZANU (through its military wing, ZANLA) declared most of the areas they had overrun, as “liberated zones” – in which, no one else was allowed to operate, and regarded as “no go areas” for the opposition for the past 42 years of Zimbabwe’s post-independence history.
Rural folk have never known any real freedom, peace and tranquility, as have always been held under hostage by the Zimbabwe regime – who have instilled such crippling dread in villagers, through downright harrowing blood-curdling brutality, with the use of party thugs and security forces, as well as traditional leaders.
What we witnessed in 2008 is an apt illustration – whereby, the pre-election period was relatively peaceful and conducive for the opposition to freely campaign in the rurals – as if, for some strange reason, then president Robert Gabriel Mugabe had inexplicable confidence of winning, in spite of a clearly strong and popular opposition.
Who can forget the mesmerizing “Morgan is More” adverts that were repeatedly beamed on the state broadcaster, ZBC TV?
This resulted in the main opposition at the time – MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) led by Morgan Richard Tsvangirai – amassing victories in quite a number of rural areas, in the March 29, 2008 harmonized elections, thereby securing a parliamentary majority (with 96 seats, versus 94 for ZANU PF), as well as Tsvangirai beating Mugabe by 1,195,562 (47.87%) to 1,079,730 (43.24%).
…of course, much later, Mugabe was to inadvertently admit that the walloping was far greater, meaning the official figures were doctored by the electoral commission.
I am sure this shocked ZANU PF to the core – such that, not only were these results withheld by the electoral commission for weeks, but also a cold-blooded reign of terror was unleashed upon mostly rural folk, in spiteful retribution for voting for the opposition…leading to the GNU (government of national unity) that lasted from 2009 to 2013.
Such a savage and barbaric response to electoral loss by the ruling party is legendary – and, is exactly what shackles people in rural areas, gripped by indescribable fear, as they live in perpetual fright of death and destruction at the blood-dripping hands of the ZANU PF regime, should they vote for the opposition.
Therefore, for the CCC – besides being only two months old – to even garner 1,729 and 1,414 and 1,583 votes in Murewa South, Chivi South, and Mwenezi East respectively, is a mighty feat and “resounding victory”, in its own right.
Those hapless villagers – no matter how few compared to the ruling party’s numbers – exhibited profound and unmeasurable bravery to do what they did, something that they should be commended and respected for as our modern-day heroes.
Herein lies the immediate challenge for the CCC.
They need to understand the psyche of these valiant men and women – who boldly exercised their inalienable right to universal suffrage, by voting for whomsoever they wish, and putting aside their fear (no matter how justified), in the face of real grave danger.
What exactly makes these intrepid men and women tick – such that they overcame the odds, by proving themselves a cut above the rest?
These are the characteristics the CCC needs to bring out in the rest of the rural folk – reminding them of their prior bravery, in the face of a similar onslaught by Rhodesian forces in the 1970s.
They were tortured, maimed, killed, and even placed in “restricted areas” (so-called” keeps”, or concentration camps) – yet, never faltered or wavered in their determination for a better Zimbabwe for all its people.
The CCC should now meticulously study and embrace those strategies of the liberation struggle – for, Zimbabweans are still to see any real freedom and liberation – in order to infiltrate those ZANU PF “no go areas” and “keeps”.
Zimbabweans have waited for their true independence for far too long, and the breaking of the shackles of oppression still binding them – as such, can not wait a day longer.
We have suffered enough, and the sooner the rural folk came onboard the unstoppable train of freedom, the sooner Zimbabweans will finally enjoy real liberation.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org