It is amazing how literature immortalises individuals, taking them through the corridors of time, decades and centuries ahead of their day of death.
Source: Animal Farm Zimbabwe – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 31, 2016
Alex Rwaangira & Paul Kaseke
Even in death, the greatest writers of our time still speak through their work. The classic allegorical piece by George Orwell, Animal Farm, first published in 1945 can be equated to a conceit of the pressing crisis in Zimbabwe.
In the book, many animals were subjects of a Mr Jones and were victims of his tyrannical rule. Fortunately or rather unfortunately, a boar called Old Major had a dream of a farm where freedom and equality would be a reality. He managed to sell his vision successfully. Sadly, Old Major died and there and then, the crisis, like that in Zimbabwe was birthed.
A young and smart boar called Napoleon, used his intellect, charisma and eloquence to convince other animals that he was indeed the ideal candidate to take up the leadership role.
Like the Biblical Joshua after the death of Moses, he was to take the ‘Animal Farm’ into an era of milk and honey, equality, freedom and justice for all. All the animals loved what they were hearing and made the cunning Napoleon their next leader. Little did they know, however, that he was just a wolf in a sheep’s clothing, much to the detriment of the common good.
Napoleon empowered himself more than the general citizenry and he made sure that he, and a few of his loyalists enjoyed and plundered resources of the land, at the expense of the led. As if that were not enough, he became the travesty of his discourse and did exactly what the oppressive rule of Mr. Jones did, much to the chagrin of the rest of the animals in the Animal Farm.
Of course, George Orwell did not pen this piece solely for the love of animals. In his own words, the book describes events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union.
While Orwell wrote with the Soviet Union in mind, his work also prophetically speaks to the Zimbabwean story we find ourselves reading with each passing day.
The work speaks to our own liberation struggle in a sense because during its infancy a leader rose quickly through the ranks. He used his intelligence, charisma and eloquence to rise up to the secretariat and later on the presidency, marking the genesis of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
To those that elected him initially, it was more than enough for a leader to lead a new country. Just after this historic election, the regime and ruling elite conspired and plotted the greatest crime by an independent Sadc member State against its own people. It was in the shape and mould of the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s, which transpired in Matabeleland, in a phenomenal story of brutality and tribalism. The Napoleon of our times has engaged the divide and rule strategy in an attempt to cling onto power.
Through the Gukurahundi massacre, which claimed an estimated 20 000 Zimbabwean citizens, he sought to establish fear amongst citizens, so much such that none will interrogate, critically analyse, question or voice a concern over his policies and leadership. Suffice it to say, the government seemed to justify the killings as a moment of madness. With respect here are a few nagging questions that this raises:
Who was mad?
Should the mad lead?
Did the madness come to an end or it has intensified with the passage of time?
The crisis and tragedy of Zimbabwe is that it recorded the worst inflation rate in the world in 2008. Zimbabwe ranks top among the world’s poor countries; it has an astronomical if not hysterical unemployment rate of 92%. At some point in time, the International Monetary Fund described our motherland as a highly indebted poor country after she had failed several times to pay back its debts to the global monetary institution. That situation remains same and nothing has changed.
It is a public fact that government coffers are running dry and that nutrition and health in Zimbabwe is greatly compromised because of the poor rains last season.
Consequently, many people are struggling to make a living under such circumstances, with some going to bed without eating anything. That adds to the narrative of the discussion for today, the pressing story, the story of the crisis in Zimbabwe, to Zimbabweans, by Zimbabweans.
Zimbabweans have resorted to cross border trading to fend for their families and pay the bills. Sadly, Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha, has banned importing some basic commodities in an attempt to promote non-existent local products. That defies logic as the tiny and malfunctioning local industries have no capacity to meet the demands of the populace. That move needs an urgent quittance, but then again, cluelessness on the part of the ruling class is a large part of the discourse for today — the crisis in Zimbabwe.
In this Animal Farm democracy and freedom of both speech and expression are nothing, but mere rhetoric enshrined in the Constitution, which have never seen the light of the day. In our Animal Farm, whenever one rises and speaks against Napoleon on policy issues, the only response and reaction solicited from the government and the ruling party is the issuing and execution of warrants of arrests, torture or worst still, even abduction of responsible citizens.
In this Animal Farm, media rights have been greatly compromised, undermined and violated with several journalists being arrested for writing against Napoleon and his government’s policies. In this Animal Farm, there is a super citizen whose decisions, activities and actions are immune to scrutiny. Somehow, Napoleon and his government have a stubborn tendency of thinking they constitute an institution of gods who can never be questioned by mere mortals.
For this reason, Napoleon takes great pride in seeing people fight over his succession, knowing well that it will have them bickering amongst themselves instead of seeing the problems his leadership has created.
In this Animal Farm, some animals were created more equally than others. For this reason, government has failed for years to provide clean and safe running water in suburbs like Mabvuku, Tafara, Zengeza and Kuwadzana, but they would probably not notice this themselves because they don’t stay there so they couldn’t care less. Equality has levels it would seem, but the ordinary citizen with no influence, connections or wealth is at the bottom of the ladder, while Napoleon and his government enjoy the fruits of the liberation struggle alone.
The American civil rights leader, the late Martin Luther King Jnr. once said: “There comes a time when silence becomes a betrayal.” The silence of organizations like the Sadc and the Afican Union is an insult to the true ideals of Pan Africanism that the African forefathers like among others, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela had. This Animal Farm needs people true to the ideals of justice, prosperity, unity and freedom for all to speak up before itis too late.
When the avalanches of problems outnumber the production of solutions one can logically say leadership is in serious deficit.
If Zimbabwe was an aeroplane, then, it would be on auto pilot heading to a large mass of igneous rock. If the leadership of Zimbabwe was a memory stick, it really must be one in dire need of some formatting. That is the magnitude of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Fortunately, the citizenry are tired and now angry of the government which has failed to deliver. The citizens are now rising in peaceful protests, with a collective voice saying “enough is enough”. It is easier to outwit opposition politics but no ruling party in this world can outwit united citizens on a noble cause. The people have shown the government their stand point, with Itai Dzamara, Evan Mawarire, Patson Dzamara, Promise Mkwananzi and others leading civil movements in a very peaceful way.
Zimbabweans should work hand in glove in fighting against the crisis in the country in a peaceful and tactical way. It’s about time we join forces in spite of our political affiliations and ideological differences and speak against injustice, corruption and poor governance in a peaceful and constitutional manner.
Together we shall overcome; together we are unstoppable and indomitable. Together we can give this version of the Animal Farm a happy ending.
Alex Rwaangira and Paul Kaseke are commentators and analysts. They write in their personal capacities.