A NATION WITHOUT TEARS
THE 1948 literary acclaimed novel “Cry The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, gained a global reputation for its expose of the racial and social divide that afflicted South Africa under apartheid. It revealed the pain and suffering of blacks in the slums of Johannesburg, and the shocking spectre of fear that gripped the nation. One of its most memorable and quotable lines that reveal this fear was; “Cry the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear.”
Upon closer reflection of Paton's book which went on to become an award winning movie adaptation in 1952, one can draw similarities with the socio economic and political divide between the ruling elite and the masses in Zimbabwe, however, the people do not have any more tears to cry.
A visitor to Zimbabwe would be forgiven for concluding that all is well in the country but the truth is that people are so used to pain that they have become “comfortably numb”. We have become a nation without tears.
The Chimurenga War
The tears of Zimbabwe started flowing with the arrival of the colonizers during the First Chimurenga in 1896. That was the beginning of subjugation, and we became second class citizens in the land of our birth. Legislation such as the Land Tenure and the Land Apportionment Act, saw expropriation of rich arable land by the colonialists while the indigenous black owners were being resettled in less fertile lands known as Reserves.
The pre-independence period of the Second Chimurenga which followed the unilateral declaration of independence in 1965 was a difficult period for black nationalists who were often victims of 'rule by the law' exercised by the colonialists. That period up to independence in 1980, is full of memories of war, and the hardships and suffering associated with war and oppression. More than 30 000 people lost their lives, while villages were no go areas with people shepherded into so called Protected villages at night to deny freedom fighters access to people. The ideology of the Maoist influenced freedom fighters held the view that “ freedom fighters are like fish and the masses are like water.” In an effort to separate the “fish “from the “water”, the colonialists created what was akin to the Nazi Concentration Camps in an attempt to hijack the struggle. In his insightful memoirs Mutoko Madness, renowned journalist Angus Shaw captured the hardships of life during the war on both sides of the conflict, but mostly the people in rural areas. Chimurenga Music icon Thomas Mapfumo immortalised those experiences in hit songs such as Pfumvu Paruzevha, Gwindingwi Rine Shumba, Nhamo Yemakandiwa, Kuyaura and many others.
Tears were shed during this period, but everybody took them as birth pains, believing there would be a celebration when the child(Zimbabwe) is born. So it came to pass, that freedom was attained and independence was declared on 18 April 1980.At last, we were now masters of our own destiny. Or so we thought!
We celebrated the end of minority rule, and true to form, Mapfumo gave us the hit song Pidigori Waenda, Wanga Asinyanya Kuvhaira. The nation was in celebratory mode but not for long.
While the tears of joy were still flowing, arguably the biggest scar on the country’s political conscience, Gukurahundi, knocked on the door. In a senseless orgy of murder, more than 20 000 people were butchered in Matabeleland during the period 1980 to 1988. Pregnant women had their stomachs cut open and the babies wrenched from their bellies and killed. These atrocities were perpetrated by the notorious North Korean trained 5th Brigade.
If Gurukahundi had taken place today with the internet and social media, it would have been classified as genocide on the scale of the Rwanda massacres of 1994 or the current devastation of Aleppo in Syria. The government argues this was a war against dissidents, while stories from the victims indicate otherwise. The report of the official Commission of Inquiry was never made public. However, other reports, such as “ Breaking the Silence”, by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF)) published in 2007 give a chilling narrative of what happened in Matabeleland. Up to today, Government has not officially addressed the issue of Gukurahundi, nor admitted that it was wrong. President Mugabe has dismissed the merciless killings as, “ a moment of madness”.
From the 90s the economy between started to slide downwards. First, it was the Bretton Woods Institutions prescribed Economic And Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) which did more harm than good for the economy as a good number of people lost their jobs. Inflation started rising with year worse than the previous one. Prices of commodities could change by the hour and most shops failed to restock hence the stores were literally empty. Companies were closing and there was no employment. The entire nation was in turmoil. People started to question the value and meaning of independence if they are not able to survive. In his book Development As Freedom, renowned academic and 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner for Economics, Dr Amartya Sen, describes development as encompassing freedom in its broadest sense:
- political freedoms and transparency in relations between people
- freedom of opportunity, including the freedom to access credit; and
- Economic protection from abject poverty, including through income supplements and unemployment relief. Prof Sen goes on to state that a state of poverty will be present if and when at least one of these freedoms is absent. Sadly none of these is present in a free and independent Zimbabwe.
In 2008 the inflation rate reached a whopping 231,150,888,87% forcing the then coalition government led by MDC and Zanu PF to stop printing money in 2009 and adopted a dual currency system, making the nation one of the first in the world to have a fully fledged central bank yet it does not have a currency of its own.
Land Reform Program
The chaotic Land Reform Program of 2000, did a number on the already struggling economy when at least 4000 commercial white farmers had their land forcibly grabbed and redistributed among black farmers to ostensibly redress the imbalances caused by colonisation. However noble the idea was, only elite Zanu PF members who have no interest in farming benefited from the program. This resulted in the economy which was already struggling to go down on its knees because agriculture had been the backbone of the economy.
Operation Murambatsvina of 2005 also brought tears to many Zimbabwean eyes. According to the Tubaijuka report, an estimated 20 000 families were displaced when government razed their homes to the ground in a bid to “Clean up the Filth”
Political Violence of 2008
The politically motivated violence during the presidential election run off between MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai and Zanu PF'sMugabe during the period between March 31 and June 27, 2008, sends a chill down my spine. Zimbabweans who did not live through the era of Gukurahundi, got the chance to experience what it was like for the people of Matabeleland.
Those who had different views from that of Zanu PF and believed it was time for Mugabe to vacate office paid for this with their lives and limbs. The MDC states that at least 200 people lost their lives while several had their limbs cut off. The women were raped because their husbands or brothers supported MDC. For further reading see https://iwpr.ne/global-voices/
From the above list which is no way inclusive of everything that has gone wrong as we have not delved into some pertinent issues like the missing 15 billion among others, it is clear as day that Zimbabweans have cried enough and have no more tears. Who can blame us?
People have resigned to their fate and given it over to God hence the rise of new generation churches, prophets, apostles, palliative in the prosperity gospel.
People have turned to satire and humour and this has been their outlet. Who can judge when a whole nation goes ballistic about South African dancer Zodwa WaBantu when we have serious problems in the country. And for the record, I hope she eventually performs in Zimbabwe, after all, who is the government to deny citizens of small pleasures in the midst of all this doom