Cowards die many times before their deaths

via Cowards die many times before their deaths – NewsDay Zimbabwe November 13, 2015

Here we go again! The same events — typically undesirable and unsavoury — are recurring, the last thing we need in Zimbabwe at this juncture.

By Conway Tutani

Zimbabwe is slipping and sliding into anarchy again as political violence — instigated by, who else, but Zanu PF, the party proudly with degrees in violence — rears its familiar ugly head.

Now they have started early in their bloody ways. You can feel it and hear it. Each time there is a demonstration or rally by the opposition, Harare becomes a garrison town, with State security all over the place. The aim is that by 2018, fear and political fatigue would have set in so deeply, leaving the field clear for Zanu PF to have a walkover back to power like what happened in the June 2008 presidential runoff election, when the main opposition MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who had won the first round in March, had to withdraw after the regime made it practically impossible for him to contest after about 200 of his supporters were killed in cold blood by, you know who. Could a more chilling signal have been sent?

Now they are back to their familiar ways, bludgeoning supporters of the MDC-T, closing all the political space for them from organising and campaigning with the police all but willing accomplices as they arrest the victims instead of the perpetrators. One would have thought the police had changed their ways after Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku — in a landmark decision in September over a constitutional challenge brought by four MDC-T activists in which he ruled against their continued detention by the State — pointedly said the prosecution was trying to “play the protector of violence”.

For how long will the people turn and run? At this rate of provocation, they are not leaving people much choice, but to retaliate. You can’t keep on driving people into a corner and not eventually suffer the consequences. If you force someone into a position or state where there are few choices and no escape, even the most chickenhearted coward will come straight at you.
The dread and fear will turn into anger and determination. And do you blame the people or yourself for that?

The regime has an upside-down set of values. It’s a deeply-rooted culture of violence and stealing both State assets and elections. This fits in with their sense of grandiosity. They are completely unconcerned with being fair and just. They lack normal human emotions such as guilt. Extreme egocentricity is written all over their faces. Many of the characters behind this are highly intelligent and skilled at manipulating others. Talk of mad geniuses! Are evil and intelligence linked? It makes you wonder, really wonder!

In the circumstances, Tsvangirai’s call to his followers to retaliate this time around, is not so much irresponsible and reckless as it is understandable and inevitable. Yes, it strays into illegal territory, but the regime itself is committing far worse and blatant lawlessness. When the regime points the finger at Tsvangirai, two fingers point straight back at it. The State has a duty to protect the well-being of every citizen, but when it fails — in the sense of a failed State that Zimbabwe is becoming — then it becomes a free-for-all and people will take the law into their own hands in spite of or despite what Tsvangirai says.

Soon — and very soon — it could go gears higher up than mere retaliation. Fed-up people can, on their own, make the country ungovernable. The regime is warned while there is still time because 2015 is not 2008. It took schoolchildren’s protests in Soweto to revive the liberation struggle in South Africa which had gone into mothballs with Nelson Mandela and Co almost forgotten. This was the turning point when Mandela and others had long been out of circulation as they languished in prison and were becoming a distant and fading memory, resigned to dying in jail.

This happened in 1976 when mere pupils rose up after being grossly provoked by the apartheid regime’s directive that they be taught in the hated Afrikaans language of their racist oppressors and bravely faced bullets — lethal ones, not rubber bullets. The regime slaughtered these mere children in their scores, but there was no talk that these kids were being used as cannon fodder and their fighting spirit did not flag, as they grew into hardened political hands. Of course, they were many setbacks and crippling self-doubt along the way, but they did not lose focus. Today, South Africa has a no-nonsense, strong, vibrant protest tradition, the recent being the mass demonstration by university students countrywide that forced the government to freeze university fee increases across the board.

People should not just sit still for the status quo when they know that this decaying behemoth or monolith that is called Zanu PF won’t do anymore. “Things don’t do thega”, as they say in Shonglish (or Shona-English). We mustn’t leave things completely to fate. Let’s not believe we cannot stop things from happening, especially bad things.

After being in power for so long, some characters no longer recognise the difference between right and wrong, because — like the apartheid regime — they are now so set in their ways. So change has to literally be forced on them. They need to be cured of their collective delusion that all is well.

People must have the stomach for the fight Their will must not be broken. Their hearts must be in it. This is the time to roll up sleeves and get down with it — with or without Tsvangirai’s prompting. It’s up to the people to make the regime bend and squeal. It would be asking too much and naive to expect the regime itself to lay out conducive conditions for actions that would result in its demise.

Let’s look no further than ourselves — like those schoolchildren did in apartheid South Africa when their protests grew into a game-changer, making the armed struggle pale into insignificance.
Cowards die many times before their deaths.

●Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email:


  • comment-avatar
    Mazano Rewayi 7 years ago

    We also need to look back into our history for inspiration. We have always been good with silent but decisive resistance (not passive resistance, Gandhi style). We rose against the Portuguese using the “zviri mumoyo ndizvo” slogan, we nearly defeated Rhodes and his thugs in 1893/6 under the “mwana wevhu” slogan only to be betrayed by the British, we made Smith and his Rhodies surrender using the “mapfupa aNehanda” call. Now the time has come for that cycle to repeat itself. it is good that ZPF has started digging their grave early, all that is required is to push them in come 2018. But there is need for a change in tactics. Just as Changamire Dombo realised it was futile to fight the Portuguese on the plains and Chingaira realised the Pioneer Column could not cope with guerilla tactics and Nkomo/Chitepo realised a war of attrition was more effective than full scale confrontation so too must we devise the right methods. Waiting for the state machinery to mobilise then throw stones at them is not going to work. We have a critical advantage we have consistently failed to use – the rank and file in the dreaded CIO, the army and the police are all people who live among us – maroja edu. Even the thugs who rely on chibuku and mbanje for courage are our children. Therein lies our real chance, it worked in Madagascar with Ratsiraka. Food for thought.