Silence a thing of the past

Source: Silence a thing of the past | The Financial Gazette August 18, 2016

SILENCE  no longer lives in this till-recently peaceable country whose citizens had been mute and docile for far too long a time, and who watched passively from the sidelines even as the nation’s economy started its free fall at the turn of the millennium.
For sure, the Zimbabwean economic and political turmoil did not start today. For close to 20 years, the citizenry has watched in a bewildered stupor as, due to a potpourri of ill-advised policies; corruption; lack of transparency; capital flight; fiscal irresponsibility; elitism; partisan friction and yes, sanctions — the southern African country degenerated into a bastion of poverty.
Impoverished and finding themselves with ever-dwindling opportunities of eking a living, an estimated 1,5 million Zimbabweans unable to stand up and negotiate better conditions from their ruling elite have left the country seeking greener pastures, leaving behind millions others suffering in silence under the yoke of an impoverishing and insensitive government.
But make no mistake; it has not been politics as usual in the Zimbabwean corridors of power. This has been a winter’s nightmare for the ruling ZANU-PF party as it battles with an upsurge of dissent.
Civil disobedience is on the rise, and more is beckoning this spring as citizens express their frustration, hunger and poverty.
Hardly a week goes by without demonstrations from one group or another on one aspect or other. Demonstrations have been hinged on what the general populace feels makes up the cocktail of causes that have led to the deterioration of their quality of life.
Three meals a day is a luxury the majority of citizens can ill-afford; let alone tuition for their children, rentals and utility bills.
The country was ranked 156 out of 187 on the 2014 UNDP Human Development Index. According to the World Food Programme, 72 percent of the population live below the national poverty line (living on less than US$1,25 per day).
Thirty percent of the rural poor are considered to be “food poor”, or “extremely poor”.
Food and nutrition security remain fragile and subject to natural and economic shocks in Zimbabwe. Chronic under-nutrition remains relatively high, despite some improvements.
Dietary diversity is generally poor and consumption of protein is insufficient. Only 11 percent of Zimbabwean children, six to 23 months, receive a minimum acceptable diet.
Unemployment rate is over 90 percent, while industry capacity utilisation stands at less than 40 percent and more continue to lose their livelihoods daily. With such dire circumstances prevailing, grievances and demands from the masses, who are raising their newly-found voices, abound as such protest demonstrations have been the order of the day.
If it is not about the missing US$15 billion from diamond revenues; it is about the 2,2 million jobs ZANU-PF promised at last elections in 2013. Or the recently introduced Statutory Instrument 64 which banned some popular goods from being imported into the country.
If it is not that then it is about Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s 20-month plus stay in a prime hotel at US$450 a night. And a latest one that said “No” to the bond notes which the Zimbabwean government is planning to introduce in October.
Voices that have been a shrill in government’s ear and continue to grow louder in intensity and scale include those of pressure groups and political and economic activists such as Tajamuka, #ThisFlag, Occupy Africa Unity Square, End Time, National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Alliance of Activists, #ThisGown, among     others.
Not to be outdone, as the range of voices continue to diversify, churches and church groups have also joined the chorus with clergy men singing from the same hymn book of protest. Leading pastors such as Shingi Munyeza of Faith Ministries, Tom Deutschle of Celebration Ministries, and Tudor Bismarck of Jabula — New Life, among others, have raised their voices on what is going wrong in the country and proposed what they think should be instead.
But what has drawn the most traction as yet, has been the #ThisFlag Movement which was started by Pastor Evan Mawarire. With an apolitical message, neutrally inspiring citizens from wherever they perched on the non-partisan pole, #ThisFlag struck a chord in a significant number of citizens, making it a force to reckon with when it staged a successful mass stay away on July 6. Such was the impact that President Robert Mugabe took notice and acknowledged its force at not one but two public occasions. The threat of this to the status quo is real!
Celebrities have also thrown in their weight, including self exiled chimurenga music maestro Thomas Mapfumo.
Alongside all this, mainstream opposition parties like the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) and Transform Zimbabwe, among others, are also upping the tempo with demonstrations and rallies.
Repressed into silence for a long time by a heavy-handed government Zimbabweans had always been a docile lot unable to publicly question their government.
While reasons for the docility ranged from fear, too much education, overly analytical and cautious behaviour as well as self-preservation, for years there just was no significant breaking into the veneer of intimidation that had locked the citizens in shell of silence.
That silence is now a thing of the past.
But voices without effective transformative effect can hardly bring forth a new Zimbabwe. For the multiple voices to gain impactful traction, three things must happen.
One, instead of the protest voices continuing to pop all over like popcorn, what is apparently critical is for the myriad of expressions to be harnessed and converged into one coherent force for critical mass effect.
Two, the hope is that this agitation can translate into voting and votes come election 2018. In recent past, one factor that has let Zimbabwean masses down has been their own voter apathy. Voting has been left to a few.
According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, only 54,38 percent of those who registered to vote actually voted in the Presidential election of 2013. While 6 400 000 had registered only 3 480 047 went and voted in the Presidential race.
Lastly but perhaps most importantly, overcoming their fear. Only when their hunger outgrows their fear would the real people power of Zimbabweans be transformative. Till then, the ruling party and it’s vice like grip over the security and election apparatus and the State media and airwaves are ruling the roost.

COMMENTS

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    Nyoni 6 years ago

    The view that We were inactive all this time shows the world the Zimbabwean pyschy. Their ability to check it out and make their own decisions. The regime realises that the people are the ones that won liberation and the guise that others were against this liberation worked well for the regime. This ruse has now being exposed and the great Zimbabwean people are now demanding their freedom. And rightly so. You can fool some people all the time but not all most of the time. We gave them time and now this regime must go.