by Tendai Ruben Mbofana
I do not enjoy being the only pessimistic voice in a room full of over-joyous people, whose optimism is merely based on fantasy – yet, reality would be painting a far different picture.
Most likely I would be called a ‘kill joy’, or ‘party-pooper’, or ‘wet blanket’, or ‘sour pants’, or even more unsavoury terms – but when the issue is literally a matter of life and death, it is better to brave the situation and tell it as it is
It is pointless to see an impending danger, yet keep silent, in order not to spoil the joyous atmosphere -because, when the inevitable finally happens, the guilt of having kept quite will be too hard to cope with, than the possible ridicule had one given the warning. I distinctly remember when I started writing social justice articles in the local media in 1989 when in Form Three at Kwekwe High School.
I wrote about the misgovernance, corruption, and cruelty of the ZANU PF government, and warned of an imminent economic meltdown – yet this was in the midst of relative prosperity in the country. This invited widespread ridicule – even from my best friend Brian, and my ZANU PF staunch supporting father – as they thought my writings and warnings were inspired by immaturity.
This never discouraged me, as I continued unabated – in spite of one or two threats from ruling party fanatics. I actually attracted invitations from such parties as Edgar Tekere’s Zimbabwe Unity (ZUM), which I rejected, as I did not want my views to be determined by anyone else’s ideologies.
I continue with the same philosophy. Nevertheless, my views proved not to have been so loony after all, as the years after 2000 witnessed the manifestation of all the mismanagement, corruption, and cruel governance that I wrote about in the 1980s.
Nevertheless, today I find myself in the same unenviable situation, as one of the lone voices seeing through the pomp and fanfare gripping the nation of Zimbabwe, after the intervention of the military, the subsequent resignation of President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, and the inauguration of Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as new president.
It appears the whole nation has being won over by these events, as they are immersed in so much joy, based on reasons I do not fully grasp.
Understandably, the vast majority of us had been calling for the stepping down of Mugabe, as he had, over the decades, presided over the destruction of a once vibrant nation, and the wanton violations of human rights through atrocities, and the brutal treatment of dissenting voices.
Most Zimbabweans had reached breaking point, as their suffering under Mugabe’s presidency had clearly become unbearable.
Nonetheless, Mugabe was not a lone ranger – he had a ZANU PF team that unwaveringly supported him throughout this period of destroying the once bread basket of southern Africa, into a basket case that it is today.
This ZANU PF team unquestioningly defended his every action, and partook – be in by commission or omission – in the gross violations against the country’s population.
Nevertheless, when Mugabe was eventually pressured out of office, this same ZANU PF team took over the reigns. During the ‘intervention’, they made it quite clear that their action against Mugabe was merely as a result of his old age – turning 94 years old in a few months – and his wife’s influence and divisiveness in the ruling party.
They intervened because they had been expelled – or being threatened to be expelled – from both ZANU PF and government, solely due to factional fighting. This infighting and eventual ‘intervention’ had absolutely nothing to do with the ordinary welfare of the people.
Had there been no threat on these people’s positions on the gravy train, there would never had been any such intervention.
This was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a people-centred revolution. This had nothing at all to do with fighting corruption. This was not a result of any disenchantment with government mismanagement, or human rights abuses. It was all about self-preservation and self-aggrandizement. So, where is all this excitement from ordinary suffering people emanating from?
Where did the people of Zimbabwe get the notion that this intervention was for them? How did they get it into their heads that their circumstances were about to change for the better? Please would someone help me out in this regard, because I am not reading from the same script as the rest of the country. The ‘new’ government is not new at all, as these are the same ZANU PF people who were in charge whilst the country was being run into the ground.
Not merely the same party – that could have been rejuvenated – but the same faces responsible for our untold suffering over the past 37 years. So what has changed?
Throughout the destruction of the ordinary people’s lives – socially, physically and economically – these ‘new’ people never questioned Mugabe, but actually defended him, at times violently. None of them ever raised a voice, so what changed now?
Unfortunately, none of them is bothering to even explain what was going on during Mugabe’s days, and why they supported him, as compared to what is happening now.
I know that all of us are sinners, and we all need forgiveness and repentance, but these people have never shown any signs of remorse, and that they regret what they did during the Mugabe years – and now see the light.
In fact, during Mnangagwa’s inauguration, he lauded Mugabe as a great leader and mentor, whose legacy should be preserved for all time. Not that we expected him to humiliate and verbally abuse his former leader, but there should have been some signs that he no longer supported his policies.
However, that was not to be. The inaugural speech was full of the same political hogwash that is to be expected from any politician, but was devoid of any clarity and depth. Yes, we all know the problems that bedevil the people of Zimbabwe, such as cash shortages, unemployment, company closures and lack of foreign direct investment, corruption, need of recapitalization of local industry, amongst a whole host of others.
Obviously, he had to talk about these during his address – the same could have been done by anyone. The question not answered was: what clear policy changes does this ‘new’ ZANU PF government have, and why were these never adequately addressed during their tenure under Mugabe? Zimbabweans should have by now become wary of empty talk from politicians.
Did they not celebrate in 2013 when they were promised 2 million jobs under ZimAsset – and ended up giving ZANU PF over 60% seats in Parliament?
Are these not the same people who were now complaining? And, are they not the same people celebrating again, after another set of empty promises? Do we ever learn? What about the issue of human rights, why was that issue so conspicuously never addressed in the speech? Was that not one of the very pressing issues dogging the country for decades?
Promises by politicians are, by nature, not worth the paper they are written on – especially, if the people making them are not new at all, but the very same people who have been making these same unfulfilled promises for 37 years.
Should the people not be a bit more sceptical when dealing with such people? Given the history of these people, why would we just jump to believing them, without taking them to task as to what exactly has changed.
Why should we believe them now? As mentioned earlier, they have not even bothered to explain why they failed under Mugabe, and why they will now succeed. At least, the people need to hear that before giving them back our trust. Are we so gullible?
Who can forget the ‘turning guns into ploughshares’ eloquent inaugural speech by then Prime Minister Mugabe in 1980 – yet, barely two years later, thousands of mostly Ndebele people were being butchered in a senseless genocide?
That was the beginning of an endless stream of lies, lies, and more lies – by the same people we are celebrating today as heroes and saviours.
Mugabe also talked passionately about fighting corruption – even his excuse for firing then vice president Joice Mujuru was premised on that – as well as, addressing cash shortages, attracting foreign investment. However, what came of that? Our calling for the removal of Mugabe was no means limited to one individual – it was about the whole system he represented. He was not a one-man band, as he had the very same ZANU PF people who we are now celebrating. We wanted him out as the face of the oppressive, corrupt and inept government.
This can be likened to the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ anti-apartheid campaign in the 1980s and 90s. It was not merely premised on Mandela. It did not mean that once one man was freed from prison, then all will automatically be well. True, when he was eventually released from prison, as expected and understandable, there was much jubilation – but they knew fully well that the struggle against apartheid was nowhere near over.
Mandela was merely symbolic of the struggle, but there was far much more to it. If South Africans had been as naïve as today’s Zimbabweans, they would have merely been content with the release of Mandela, and considered their problems over – thus, leaving their ‘hero’ F.W. de Klerk in office as the man who finally released Mandela.
However, fortunately they were wiser, and carried on the struggle. Mugabe was just symbolic of a failed and oppressive system, and his removal should have been the start of the disassembling of the whole caboodle.
As the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy – Zimbabweans have been lied to for far too long by politicians, and as such should be very wary – but to so easily and readily embrace the same ZANU PF people who were running a failed and brazenly corrupt government for 37 years is beyond comprehension.
As I have already alluded to, everyone deserves another chance, but when that person has been lying and abusing you for 37 years, normal common sense will dictate that – even though the person is forgiven – but it takes a long time for trust to be restored.
So, where is our trust for this same ZANU PF government coming from? Have they bothered to explain themselves, or at least be respectful enough to apologise and acknowledge where they erred in the past. That is where the building of trust starts from.
Zimbabweans need to wake up – and really fast, because ZANU PF has managed to pull a fast one over them, and reestablished itself as a heroic party without much effort. Do Zimbabweans suffer from some serious case of the ‘Cinderella complex’, where someone immediately and thoughtlessly fall in love with their perceived saviour?
However, Zimbabweans were never saved from anything, except one man – whilst, the rest of his brutal ZANU PF gang remains. If a mafia gang removes their aged godfather, it does not automatically turn those same people into a well-meaning honest group.
Unless, if they come out clearly in the open to confess and repent of their crimes – then there would be a starting point to rebuild trust.
For ZANU PF to merely say let bygones be bygones, and that we should not be prisoners of the past – without any remorse, and acknowledgement and expression of apology – is akin to someone who has not changed at all and is unapologetic, but merely does not want to be held accountable.
This is a very dangerous sign of things to come. Imagine a husband who has abused his family for 37 years, and yet the best he can say is, ‘let’s forget the past and move on’! Zimbabweans please let’s be serious!
Zimbabweans only get the government they deserve, and from now on, should we cry tomorrow, we only have ourselves to blame, and should not expect any empathy from anyone.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should you invite him to speak at any gathering and event. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also ‘like’ the ‘ZimJustice’ page on Facebook.