Maybe we are what’s wrong with Zimbabwe

It has been said that for evil to triumph, good people must sit back and do nothing. I cannot help, but think how true this statement is when we look at our problems as a country. Beyond that, I have had time to think about how we, as Zimbabweans, may in fact be our own worst nightmare minus the politicians we blame.

Source: Maybe we are what’s wrong with Zimbabwe – NewsDay Zimbabwe January 11, 2017

guest column: PAUL KASEKE

It seems to me that our mindset and attitude as a people is conducive for the suffering we experience. We make suffering a welcome reality.
I dare go as far as saying we provide an incubator and breeding ground for our continued suffering.

I generally don’t spend much time on the comments section for any post or article where Zimbabweans have occasion to respond. Why? Well, the answer is simple really: We are so trapped in a web of hatred and negativity, we hardly have anything constructive to say about each other as citizens. If you want to get a quick guide on new obscenities to insult someone with, just a glance at one of the comment sections will be sufficient. Rather pathetically, we are very good at tearing each other down when someone takes a stand or views things differently. We don’t just disagree as mature adults should, we name-call, we insult, we swear and make it a point to destroy others’ esteem.

We don’t critically engage on the substance of the matter, but like our politicians we attack the person and not their views. Take, for example, the abduction and subsequent torture of Patson Dzamara in November last year. Any article, comments or feeds containing this story are likely to include phrases like “this is what you wanted so don’t bore us with your story” or “you wanted the attention and now you got it” or something along those lines.

Instead of being enraged that something like this can happen to someone for simply exercising his constitutional rights, we celebrate when evil seems to take the lead. It such conduct that allows injustices to continue to exist in Zimbabwe and the perpetrators get encouraged by either our express support or our silence.

We poke fun at the things that should upset us, we make memes, we have WhatsApp jokes about such and, as a result, here we are. We laughed at the bond notes and made clips for them, that is why the government felt at ease when introducing monopoly money as tender.

Name-calling is the order of the day whenever something is discussed. I suppose it starts from our politicians who use social media to hurl insults and use profanity, but it is a culture I have seen spring in all things Zimbabwean. Whatever the cause may be, we have generally lost the ability to show concern for each other and engage in constructive discussion.

When Fadzayi Mahere and others were arrested late last year, the first thing I saw on social media was: “Iron lady in iron braces — fits perfectly” and I could not believe that a clearly unlawful arrest was being celebrated by the very people whose rights she and her friends sought to protect. Even if she stands for something you don’t agree with, how do we get to a point of celebrating an arbitrary arrest? What kind of sick society have we become that we enjoy the suffering of other people? This is probably why we deserve the government we have. We like to distance ourselves from them and call them names but we have in more ways than one become exactly like them.

When Evan Mawarire was arrested, the same pattern of ridicule and crude commentary followed. We all know that there were no legitimate charges, but even then, some among us celebrated the arrest and his departure after being publicly threatened by those in the upper terraces of power. Some “youths” were only too happy to issue more threats and these were applauded by their audience.

What disturbs me is not those who make these threats, but the fact that there is an actual audience that applauds such kind of behaviour. It is those that sit and cheer on that leave me with chills because it means they share the same mindset, even though they themselves aren’t brave enough to share it. They are among us and complain about the state of affairs yet applaud the same government’s oppressive acts.

When it comes to corruption, we cannot sit back and blame the government alone when corruption itself is a bilateral act that requires two parties for it to take place. If government officers asked for a bribe, but received nothing from the citizens, then no corruption would take place. The vice continues to grow because we, as citizens, fuel it and provide it with a lifeline. We pay the bribes to evade fines, to get tenders, to get projects approved and to get ahead of the pack. While we can point a finger at the government for its corruption, we must also look deeply at ourselves and ask what we have done to end corruption. In my view, we have done nothing, but allow corruption to grow by being willing actors.

Corruption in Zimbabwe is not only an upper level problem — it is systemic. It exists at grassroots level. For example, some parents pay bribes to get their children into schools outside the zoning system. As a result, the zoning system has become useless. That may seem like harmless corruption and for a good cause, but the principle is the same. Some pay to get a driver’s licence and others pay to have debts cancelled illegally. Everywhere you go, corruption has become a national language we are generally fluently conversant in. Here’s a harsh reality: Changing who is in power will not change the fact that corruption is so widespread and has become what we do. There is, of course, some truth in stating that some people have become corrupt to survive in Zimbabwe and the ultimate blame should be on the government for forcing people into such situations, but we remain responsible for our own contribution to the continued existence of suffering in our beloved nation.

Maybe we are what is wrong with Zimbabwe because we keep quiet when we should speak up. Maybe in 2017 we need to hold our leaders accountable a bit more. Maybe we need to participate in forums, meetings, parliamentary processes and others where citizens are mandated to get involved in. Maybe we need to stop condoning acts of evil and refuse to let injustices take place before our eyes. Maybe we need to rally behind people that are doing something positive for us instead of attacking them. Maybe we need to get involved in rebuilding Zimbabwe and not leave it to politicians.

My hope for 2017 is that we can look at ourselves and ask if we are part of the problem or the solution. I know we still have some very principled citizen who refuse to compromise regardless of the fact that everyone around them is. I know that not everyone is corrupt and not everyone is part of the problem, but if you are, then instead of asking how the government can change Zimbabwe, ask how you can change Zimbabwe. To those that work tirelessly for the betterment of the people of Zimbabwe, keep doing what you do even if nobody sings your praises or puts your name out there. It is more honourable to work for a cause than for applause.

Maybe we are what’s wrong with Zimbabwe, but in 2017, let’s be counted as being what is right for Zimbabwe.

Paul Kaseke is a legal adviser, commentator, analyst and sessional law lecturer with the Wits Law School & Pearson Institute of Higher Education (formerly Midrand Graduate Institute). He serves as director and current Group Chair of AfriConsult firm. He writes in his personal capacity. You can give him feedback via email: or follow him on twitter @paulkasekesnr


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    Nyoni 5 years ago

    Yes we all are to blame for keeping quiet to all that do us wrong. Being humble only makes others take advantage of our attitude. This regime has destroyed our self esteem, our people feel useless and it seems to get anyway here in Zimbabwe you must be a member of ZANUPF.

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    Morty Smith 5 years ago

    Zimbabwe’s problems go back to the roots of the “liberation struggle”. Zanu and to a much lesser extent Zapu fought a foreign sponsored terror campaign to take over the country. Their sponsors were USSR, PRC, North Korea, Cuba and other totalitarian states. The essential criminality of many of the “liberators” was entirely overlooked, or even considered an advantage. Zanu especially was a criminal operation right from the start. All men of decent conscience were sidelined, expelled, imprisoned or killed until only the very most rotten elements were left and this is what has ruled the country since 1980.

    Any serious resistance has been and will be met with terror. It is not little thing to stand against Zanu. Any person who cares for themselves and their loved ones will hesitate.

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      Let us not forget the criminal colonial government that asserted its dominance over the natives at gun point, which was also supported in more ways than one by the equally repressive South African apartheid government, and you realize they are criminals everywhere. Its important to look at more than one side of the coin so we can have a complete and accurate narrative, but I get what you mean Morty Smith

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      Whilst its important not to overlook the criminality of the liberators, let us not forget the criminality of Ian Smith and his government and all other colonial adminstrations before him, who suppressed the natives at gunpoint and ruled as dictators, denying the masses the right to vote when they were only 2% of the population, just because they had the firepower to control the nation, let us not forget that this criminal government was also supported by another totalitarian state, apartheid South Africa in order to survive sanctions imposed by the international community, so everyone clearly was a foreign sponsored terrorist, depending on the color of your skin at the time. Just because Ian Smith and co built an impressive economy, of which I admire him for doing, does not absolve him of being a criminal to the black masses, but I get what you mean. I just want a complete narrative to be told from multiple perspectives

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    Mazano Rewayi 5 years ago

    Leaders are a reflection of the people they lead. We are basically a selfish and cowardly lot. An average zimbo will first think of his/her gain before the collective benefit and he wants that gain at minimal cost to him/herself. Our tragedy is that the Zim “leaders” are cut from this cloth and are failing to rise above the mediocrity. Since exceptional leaders are rare nowadays and whole societies cannot be transformed over night, what is required to salvage the country are systems that can turn our handicap into a national advantage. Strengthening and safeguarding inclusive group based national institutions/organisations will be a good way to start. As a minimum, let’s agree to put the organisation above all individuals in it. Decisions should no more be about the “chairman” but all who form and belong to the group. A tall order perhaps, but certainly the only way to create the necessary checks and balances to suppress individuals excesses.

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    Once a society is beaten into the ground, through terror, economic, infrastructure and social collapse, it’s every man for themselves and families survival across the board. There are no enough hours in the day to (a) make a living, put food on the table and so on, when spending hours in a bank queue, foraging for basics, ducking and diving here and there. (b) There is no time to debate this and that – the plan is how do I get through tomorrow. (c) As the situation deteriorates, corruption and bribery creeps in and breeds like a cancer in every walk of life and this is the only way to survive, or go without.
    We know what the problems are but lack solutions for the very above reasons and coast from day to day, hoping a miracle will turn up.
    The solutions are not easy, but first of all –
    (1) Is to rally the people, they know their plight and hardship from urban to rural
    (2) They have to actually believe there can be change, but they also need to know how the change can be accomplished without promises of the Garden of Eden. Too much has been destroyed, so it is patience
    (3) The leaders need to align themselves into a strong coalition and go to the people with a plan
    (4) They need to rally the international community via the United Nations with their solid plan for support and help
    (5) They need to work with trusted elements of the Civil Service, military/police and other institutions, including the business sector to develop a strategic plan without squabbling between themselves
    (6) They need to start lining up candidates with fit credentials to make a new start and re-build
    (7) A stolen election is not an option – this is do or perish time, so get working, even against the odds
    (8) Victory, will rid us of the parasites that have plagued our people, for too long now
    (9) It’s time to see smiles on faces and not of despair – children going to school on a full stomach
    (10) it is not impossible but a realistic possibility
    We deserve better and why not!

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    Ngoto Zimbwa 5 years ago

    Encouraging to see some degree of consensus here.
    The problem we face is a huge one but they say, “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
    Anyone is going to be better than bob.
    Lets get rid of him through a grand coalition.

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    Tsotsi 5 years ago

    Black Zimbabweans are reaping the results of an atavistic, savage and cruel whirlwind of revenge against White Zimbabweans who mostly wanted to forget the past, try to understand, reflect, make amends, then move on. Stupid and based on bitterness. Until the massive chip is removed, you cannot rebuild.