An Insane Landscape

An Insane Landscape
January 25 14:30 2019
Godess Bvukutwa Diplomat Correspondent

A few weeks ago, I was discussing with someone about our situation in Zimbabwe. I was feeling angry and dejected after spending that whole week waiting in fuel queues for hours and still not managing to get any fuel. There were queues everywhere you turned and for most of those queues, people were simply waiting in the hope that the petrol or diesel they were hoping would eventually come.

These were people who had businesses to run, where they needed their vehicles to be fueled all the time. These were people who were supposed to be in their places of employment, being productive, yet they needed fuel to take their children to school and run their daily errands.

Before this crisis we already had an unreliable public transport, system made up of privately-owned commuter omnibuses (kombis) which play an all day, every day, cat and mouse game with traffic police as most of them do not have their papers in order and most of the drivers drove like they actually wanted to kill people but didn’t always manage to. However, due to the fuel crisis, kombis had more than 6 quadrupled their prices and so had the prices of basic commodities in retail shops.

Industry was in desperate need of foreign currency; industries that manufactured basic commodities like cooking oil and plastic, yet a few weeks prior, the government had decided to give a lifeline of foreign currency to the largest manufacturer of alcohol and soft drinks, Delta. Pharmaceuticals and doctors were already charging in United States dollars which a lot of ordinary Zimbabweans couldn’t afford. Junior doctors had been striking for weeks at that time and teachers were threatening to go on strike once schools opened. Yet we carried on as if life was normal.

On social media, yes, there were many voices of dissent but it seemed to be ending right there on the keypads of smart phones; there wasn’t any plan of action from ordinary suffering Zimbabweans.  It was just the major opposition party stating the obvious, that the President and his government had failed but with seemingly no action plan on what to do next as well.

I was disheartened.  I started thinking very seriously about the infamous Joseph De Mai street quote, that, “Every nation gets the government it deserves” and the French philosopher, Alexis de Tocqeville, echoed the same when he said ” In democracy we get the government we deserve.”

Did we deserve these leaders that we have had since independence? If yes, what is it we have been doing wrong for us to deserve a 35-year dictatorship which apparently hatched and begot us a corrupt, indecisive, incompetent government backed by a military junta. Was it our complacency? We do think we are some of the most educated and smartest Africans, don’t we? Yet to the best of my knowledge this is yet to be proved by research.

And if this is true, how much progress and fulfillment has this education brought us? Are we any better than our purportedly less educated Africans? Or is it not true that the more educated and obsessed with titles we got, the more complacent and armchair criticism we practiced and the more our country sank into the quick sands of mediocrity and retrogression. Or is it because of our “warm, loving and peaceful nation” label that we have been getting such leaders.

It is supposed to be a good thing to be “warm, loving and peaceful”, no doubt. But does this mean we allow our selves to be the door mat for our leaders? To be their spitting bowl? To be the sacrificial pawns in their endless power struggles? Should we continuously be the grass that suffers whenever the elephants fight and when they decide to make love too?

Our South African neighbours do not have the “warm, loving and peaceful” tag. But look at them; did they not remove two Presidents from power right before our very eyes? And constitutionally so too, they did not need a military junta to remove under performing and corrupt presidents. And the citizens too, they quickly take to the streets to demonstrate their dissatisfaction.

So, do we deserve our terrible leaders? If yes, was it because of our culture? Our culture that made us call former President Mugabe, “Baba vaMugabe”, or Gushungo by his totem and his wife “Amai”. In the twilight years of Robert Magabe’s rule, the popular motto in ZANU PF political party was, “Munhu wese kunaMai” which was widely believed to be a campaign to get Grace Mugabe into power.

Now we call the President’s wife Auxilia Mnangagwa, “Mhamha”. This is what the First Lady, Auxilia Mnangagwa said after meeting with striking doctors earlier this year, The Herald (Zimbabwe) 5 Jan 2019 reported by Zvamaida Murwira “I thanked these children because they came to me as their mother and this happens in every home whenever there is a problem.” Dr Muzoremba one of the doctor’s representatives said this in a separate statement, “I want to thank our mother for the meeting. She listened to our concerns. ”

This infantilisation of the people of Zimbabwe who are of voting age and beyond has played a part in our leaders getting away with gross abuse of power, mismanagement of public funds and taking the electorate for granted. When we treat our leaders like our parents and we their children as in a patriarchal African household where the Father is the head who can do no wrong, and even if he does wrong culturally you can’t confront him and your mother too. Then well, we maybe deserving of our leaders.

But I was proved wrong. A few weeks later after talking to my friend about whether or not we deserved this government I was proved wrong. The President announced that his government had decided to increase the tax on fuel leading to the increase in fuel prices by more than 150%!

The following day the Congress of Trade Unions declared a stay away in protest and the people decided they will demonstrate against the Mnangagwa government’s insensitivity and failure to solve the debilitating economic situation. Zimbabweans are more inclined to be peaceful and patient but when pushed into a corner countlessly, they will push and fight back like any other people; like the French Yellow vests. And we cannot set aside the brutality of the ZANU PF government which is paralleled by very few other African governments that are not in war.

In response to the protests, the military and police were unleashed in full force unto the people. They killed and are still killing even as I write; they arrested and are still arresting and denying justice to the thousands arrested; women and children were not spared, with reports of rampant rape surfacing more and more. More details of the trauma and abuse that women and children were subjected to in the second part of this article.

In conclusion, many years ago as a high school student I wrote a speech, that I titled, “An insane landscape” highlighting the terrible social injustices going on in the world.  I realized as I wrote this article that a government attacking and punishing its own citizens so brutally in modern day is perhaps the most insanity I have had to live through, thus stealing my own title from twenty years ago, “An Insane Landscape”.

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