via OPINION: No to mediocre independence – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 21, 2015
LAST Friday, I attended a funeral for the late Melissa Sibanda who died while giving birth.
Not only did we lose Melissa, but we also lost her baby. This got me thinking of women’s lived realities 35 years after independence.
So while the country has obviously progressed in terms of the number of years it gained independence, there seems to be more that needs to be done to ensure that women celebrate more than years.
Let us pick on the freedom fighters that went to war to liberate this country. They did a wonderful job. Actually no, those sons and daughters of the soil did an outstanding task – sterling work right there. By braving the backlash of the then Ian Smith regime, these gallant sons and daughters of the soil were able to fight and ensure that today you and me enjoy the freedoms of a non-white colonial rule.
But is that all they wanted? The last time I checked it was also about liberation from pain, suffering, abuse, oppression, discriminatory laws and that human beings black and white live in a Zimbabwe that recognised, without fear or favour, that despite one’s colour of skin, gender, social class, political party, they are treated as humanly as possible. Well, that’s not all but a great part of it.
So, 35 years later as we “consolidate unity, peace and economic sovereignty” , do we just clap blindly of what we see or we also need a qualitative evaluation of our realities?
I will just zero in on the young women like Melissa’s memory (may her dear departed soul rest in eternal peace) and not even dare dwell on a much broader perspective lest I spoil the independence spirit. Oops!
So I met Melissa as she lay beautifully in her white casket, but even that beauty could not defy the fact that she had died giving birth to her first and only child, 35 years after independence where one would assume health facilities would be state-of-the-art.
Even at the hands of very experienced health personnel, she failed to live. The honest truth is that Melissa represents a reality that women are dying giving life.
Zimbabwe 35 years after independence has done its best to facilitate for decreasing the mortality rates and preventing women giving birth.
All I am saying is that instead of a ballooned national expenditure that goes to vehicles and other luxuries, more can be done to improve women’s lived realities.
I mean seriously we cannot say we are celebrating independence when our women die in childbirth and even more so as our children are being massacred in South Africa as they flee the economic realities of being a Zimbabwean at home and yet even in their sanctuary, they face death and still defy this xenophobic reality.
They think that either way they are facing death right in the eye. We cannot say that truly we are solidifying much of the war of liberation’s gains when the very people the gallant daughters and sons of the soil went to “liberate” seem to be once again faced with a system so harsh and brutal they die trying to give birth and let alone spend productive time fleeing from the powers-that-be who arrest them for selling produce along street corners.
Again, what they are even doing those women on the street selling tomatoes, onions and other small products only facilitate for a hand-to-mouth survival and we say truly we are independent as a people and celebrate economic and social liberties. This is a wrong comrades. I am sure the war of liberation was more than unseating white colonial rule.
There is no way we say we are free as a people. As women when we are faced with a country that has the kind of realities we seem to be toying with.
We need to be honest with ourselves especially during this time as we celebrate the reality of three decades of our own rule and leadership. Was this the vision?
Did the liberators dream of women living with the odds of domestic violence, rape, poverty, corruption, hunger, demolitions, declining public services, child marriage and even death?
Well, I may not have fought in that particular war, but even I would not want to go to war to see such a reality – they fought for much, much more!
Let us not make their huge contribution a total joke by taking it for granted in the way we choose to lead from our different corners.
So as we celebrate this time and also remember the death of Melissa, it is critical we see things as they are, not as we dream. Dreaming is a good thing if it is also coupled with realising whatever it is we dream of achieving. President Robert Mugabe is both African Union (AU) and Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) chairperson.
There is so much to celebrate as a nation – AU and Sadc chairpersonship being some of those huge gains, but even closer to home 35 years of independence there is more.
However as a nation, as a people, we all need to just get real and begin to make a difference by saying no to some of these unhealthy leadership patterns that see a beautiful nation like Zimbabwe with so much to offer yet operating below what we truly are.
Our leadership as a people can be robust and caring deeply about the lives of the citizens especially the women who are currently the centre of production at various levels.
We can say no to mediocre independence and yes to excellence. It was not about removing the white rulers and replacing them with black rulers.
We need leaders whose colour of skin is not important compared to the quality of their leadership.
We are already working with a borrowed system of governance that we took over and seem worse than the previous reality. It is like we simply changed the people and continue with the system and hardness towards humanity. Can we do better? Yes of course, there is always a moment of madness and then comes a moment of sanity that makes us realise the better and we act on that.
There is sanity in each of us and at this stage we can all agree we are not happy with the status quo and know we can hold hands to do better so that our independence is more than years but our quality of life is evident of the decades of liberation. We can give those who went to war a reason to celebrate and celebrate to the full by being the difference we want to see.
There is more to patriotism than just being in this Zimbabwe, if I am here then let it count especially as a mother, sister and woman. Happy independence, Zimbabwe! Let’s do this!
l Grace Chirenje is a citizen of the world and writes in her personal capacity as one who lives life to the full. She would be excited to hear from you. You can contact Grace on firstname.lastname@example.org, Follow her on Twitter @graceruvimbo or like her Facebook page Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje.