‘Beware of assuming the sterile attitude of a spectator, for life is not a spectacle…’- Aime Cesaire
I have argued quite recently that Zimbabwe is probably the saddest post-liberation case in Africa, a peacetime country that has allowed tyranny to stand unchallenged for so long, with so many victims, is almost unbelievable. The arrest of Pastor Evan Mawarire has directly prompted me to reflect on my own contribution or lack thereof, to the broader struggles of my people. Instructed strongly by the words of Aime Cesaire, “beware of assuming the sterile attitude of a spectator, for life is not a spectacle…”and inspired by the consistency of many individuals in their efforts to challenge the regime, I choose to join the likes of Pastor Evan and many more.
On Saturday 23 September, Pastor Evan went around the streets of Harare in an attempt to expose the crisis in the capital marked by the return of petrol ques and food shortages in grocery stores. The video of which led to his eventual arrest. I do not wish to narrate the incident rather attempt to demonstrate from this very incident the extent to which the regime is oppressive and undemocratic.
The post-colonial milieu has been marked with an increasing and unwarranted excessive use of violence as a form of repression against citizens. It appears strongly that the liberator grossly misunderstood the notion of ‘liberation’. This is quite evident from the elementary years of our independence through acts such as the Gukurahundi and the suppression of early opposition formation, ZUM of the former liberation leader Cde Edgar Tekere.
I state these incidents briefly to prove that ZANU PF has never led a non-violent government but also to unsettle deliberately many who might underestimate the extent to which the regime is prepared to go, the vulnerability in which Pastor Evan was exposed to every second he was in the hands of this callous regime.
One of the key tenets of the liberation struggles was the universal accrual of such basic human rights for the native, freedom of speech and of opinion, freedom of association and movement. This was the struggle at its most basic form. It is unimaginable how Zimbabweans have lived for so long after the collapse of the colonial project 37 years ago without these rights. We have freedom of speech, to speak on anything except against the regime. Such a sharp contradiction is disappointing at the least but instructive at best, it calls urgently for a candid re-engagement with the self in the most uncomfortable of ways. To understand that we have to do exactly, that which our forebears did when they had uncomfortable conversations with themselves about the Ian Smith regime. This is despite the fact that one ought to understand that this is not the Ian Smith regime and with it, the ZANU PF brings forth completely new dynamics with the potentiality of proving to be far more complex scenario than it was 50 years ago.
This last statement brings me to the most problematic dynamic, which is the ‘oppressive black state in the post-colony and defining the rules of engagement’. It is easy to say that ‘confronting’ the regime is the only answer and quite rightly it must be the answer but it must never be easy. The experience of Africa after independence has taught us that native regimes have an even greater propensity for violence against their own people. Therefore, this question ought to be approached carefully and more so strategically.
I want then to advance only two submissions in as far as the above conundrum is concerned. Firstly, that tyranny must always be confronted- I prescribe confrontation with restrictions, it must not be presumed as a prescription for violence. The State has inherent capacity to respond to violence thus the call to violent insurrection and its efficacy is quite questionable. However, the nature of the confrontation must always be within a controlled and coordinated space that would allow for a sustained program. I propose the full exploitation of the Right to Protest peacefully, as espoused by the Constitution and provisions in various international treaties such as Articles 18 to 22 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Secondly and most importantly would be ‘civic organisation’, it is unimaginable how any action against the State can be sustained without a high-level grassroots organisation. Many political formations that dominate the opposition in Zimbabwe continue to lose touch with the masses and fail to derive direct mandate from them. The membership is always neglected and undermined thus the people feel distanced from their organisation. The effect of which becomes that the masses fail to take ownership of the political programs of the organisation. The ability to organise is the key element of any political or civic program, and having said this, it is fair to say Pastor Evan has succeeded albeit unconventionally to and agitate modern day Zimbabwe.
What Zimbabweans need to understand is that the forces of change can no longer afford to continue to pull in different directions. We must agree on a minimum program, which I assume would be to dislodge the oppressive regime and the pursuance of a National Democratic Revolution. To insinuate that there exists no contradictions in the fabric of our society would be a fallacy, however these contradictions are far from being antagonistic. The notion of Unity and Struggle as explained by Amilcar Cabral must begin to inspire more of us if we are to rebuild our Nation State.
Zimbabwe is a nation in pain and for so long, time has come for its rebirth. The burden remains upon all of its citizens to move it out of this cesspit and unleash the true potential of its people.The Struggle Continues!
By Wadzanai Mazhetese