I still have school textbooks published in Rhodesia for the so-called “European education” – which I have kept dearly, due to the exceptionally high learning content, compared to the mediocre stuff in our schools today – nonetheless, there is one aspect that always touches a nerve.
In touting Rhodesia’s phenomenal and indisputable successes, on the economic front – most particularly, achieved in the 1960s and 1970s – there is always mention of “troublemakers” and “rabble rousers” who apparently always sought to disturb the splendid “peace and harmony” which had been cultivated in the country over the course of decades, ever since the coming in of the Cecil John Rhodes-led Pioneer Column, who occupied the land between the mighty Limpopo and Zambezi rivers.
In other words, ever since this country, that we call Zimbabwe today, was colonized by the British, through the BSAC (British South African Company) in 1890 – leading to the brutal racial subjugation and segregation of the majority of its indigenous people, who were forced into subservience through military might – as far as the ruling elite were concerned, the “peace” experienced after murderously quashing the first Chimurenga/Imveko (uprising) was a good thing, which should never have been shaken.
This is the same “peace” that had led to the phenomenal “prosperity and development” witnessed in the country over the next eighty years – leading to then prime minister Ian Douglas Smith, audaciously claiming, “Our Africans are the happiest in Africa” – until, “troublemakers” and “rouble rousers” emerged onto the scene, and started preaching the doctrine of “independence”, “one man, one vote”, “majority rule”, and “liberation struggle”.
As if that was a bad thing.
Why have I brought up this issue today?
Well, it is quite simple
Today (10 August 2021), is another important day on the Zimbabwean calender, Defence Forces Day – coming hot on the heels of yesterday’s Heroes Day – on which the nation celebrates and appreciates our men and women in uniform, who protect our “country, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity, and to uphold the Constitution”
In other words, our defence forces have the commendable, but very difficult, mandate of keeping the peace in Zimbabwe.
This is a role that the country’s ruling elite love to reiterate whenever an opportunity presents itself – portraying it as key to Zimbabwe’s prosperity and development, especially on the economic front.
I could not agree more – as, indeed, peace is more precious than all the gold and diamonds of this world.
Nonetheless, whenever I hear those in power preaching long and hard about this critical need for “peace” – which we are supposed to have “enjoyed ever since attaining independence from colonial rule in 1980”, clearly ignoring the cold-blooded massacring of over 20,000 civilians in the 1980s by the military, and the subsequent politically motivated persecution, murder, and brutalization of opposition and rights activists till this day – my mind can not help drawing parallels with what I have been reading in those Rhodesian school textbooks, ever since I laid hands on them some 40 years ago.
The question that I have had then, and what I am still asking today is, “What defines peace? Is peace merely the absence of violence – more specifically, lack of rebellion against oppression? And, is the sort of peace experienced in Rhodesia, and now in Zimbabwe, worth the paper it is written on?”
Was there truly any “peace” in Rhodesia between the crushing of the first Chimurenga, and the advent of the ” troublemakers” in the late 1960s and 1970? Is there “peace” in Zimbabwe today, and who are today’s “troublemakers”, who need to be crushed”?
Can a people be truly said to be living in peace, when they are being ruthlessly oppressed – with any form of dissent being violently stifled, with savage and barbarous cold-heartedness – whilst, the majority wallow in abject poverty, as the country’s abundant resources are unashamedly looted, and parcelled out amongst a few in the ruling elite?
When a wife and her children live in perpetual petrifying fear of their husband and father, who abandons them to starvation and lack of basic necessities, whilst he prodigally spends the only income, permitted in the household, on his own lustful pleasures – and, can not utter even a word of protest, as they know the merciless pounding that will be unleashed upon them – can we honestly say there is peace in that household?
Again I ask, was there truly any peace in Rhodesia? Is there any peace in Zimbabwe today?
There is certainly more to peace, than merely the absence of violence – and, an oppressed people, who are too afraid to speak out or stand up against their tormentors, can never be said to be living in peace.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 /+263733399640, or email: email@example.com