by Zenzo Ncube
We have nothing to celebrate and everything to fight for
What better way to open the reflection on our country's 30 years of independence than to quote the preamble of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, of which Zimbabwe is a signatory.
The preamble reads: "Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore the General Assembly proclaims this universal declaration of human rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
This quote is given in its entirety to help reflect on the quality of freedom, justice and peace ushered in by "independence" in 1980. Freedom of speech? Freedom from fear and want? All these are enshrined in the Universal Declaration.
Let us zoom in on the Zimbabwean situation post independence. Even before the Lancaster House ink had dried the Zanu (PF) government had embarked on a reign of terror, perhaps worse than any that the people had ever witnessed. Perceived opponents of the government were incarcerated on trumped up charges, division lines were created as a ploy to divide and rule. Those placed on the "wrong” side of the divide were quickly labelled "dissidents" or enemies of the state; it became the duty of those on the "right" side of the divide to support the government in its "cull of dissidents." For people of Matabeleland and Midlands independence came to symbolise one word: "genocide".
Very quickly the independence that those persecuted sought was the ability to flee.
A Biblical quote: "I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter."
In the atmosphere of frenzied fear, the leader of ZAPU was forced to flee the country of his birth as the only way to save his life. Other ZAPU’s leaders fresh from the liberation struggle that had brought “independence” to Zimbabwe were incarcerated and/or murdered. The Party that had fought so steadfastly for the true freedom of all was thus decapitated. Game over. Evil had triumphed.
Joshua Nkomo was to return from exile, a defeated man. The independence he had sacrificed so much for had brought him the worst humiliation imaginable. A script crafted for him entitled "Unity Accord" a.k.a "Grand Plan" was prepared for him to sign.
Anyone harbouring any doubts that the surrender document termed "Unity Accord" was the work of Zanu (PF) needs only read it to understand the humiliation intended for ZAPU in its provisions.
The seeds of fear that still grips everyone in Zimbabwe were sown. That is the paradox of fear; it grips perpetrators and victims alike. The saddest part of it all is that these divisions, the fear, the mistrust that are prevalent in Zimbabwe are part of our legacy now and will take a long time to erase.
For those who bore the brunt of Mugabe's "madness" (sic) the utter horror and puzzlement of the whole world appearing to condone or perhaps turn a blind eye to our plight brought unimaginable pain. The statements in the Universal Declaration as stated above sounded very hollow indeed.
To our compatriots who chose to look away we would offer you this advice from Pastor Martin Niemoller:
"They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."
People of evil intent have no protected zones. In time they will catch up with even those that considered themselves most secure, unless of course, if we all join in efforts to excise the scourge from our society.
Let us return to the purpose of this communication. Celebration of independence? What independence? You will pardon us if we are absent from the merry making, choosing instead to use the day to reflect on ways in which independence can be re-defined in Zimbabwe.
Today more than three million Zimbabweans are scattered all over the world due to a failure by leadership, an economic, infrastructure collapse and political persecution. Zimbabweans have been reduced to beggars and destitute. Our dignity and human hood as a people has been mopped up. Those “voted” into power to protect the people swiftly became their butchers the moment they held the reigns of power. In 1982 to 1987 the Gukurahundi massacres, since the year 2000 till today, the abduction and slaughter of opposition parties’ supporters, human rights activist and various artists are clear patterns of the heinous behaviour by what should be our guardians. It is on this background that Zimbabweans are expected to celebrate 30 years of independence.
Irresponsible politicians have turned our country into a circus, where if one is seen driving straight on a road, their state of mind is put into question. Zimbabwe no-longer manages its own fiscal affairs, we do not have a currency of our own. Politicians and government chefs continue to disregard the rule of law and interfere as they wish with the justice system and its instruments. The police and the army are nothing but oppression instruments of the state. Politicians loot resources unquestioned. Leaders are above the law, they cannot be questioned, neither are they answerable to their electors. While the majority of workers are paid peanuts and unable to feed children, chefs dine on glass tables in Harare’s tall buildings prioritising parties and not paying attention to Zimbabweans’ plight. Even those who yesterday condemned the policies of Zanu (PF), hoodwinking voters to put them into positions power are now seen being chauffer driven in expensive automobiles and have joined the gravy train of squandering money while people starve.
Collapse is an understatement of what has befallen Zimbabwe’s health, education and the banking systems. Teachers have quit the country and the profession. Schools have no books and the examination system is in a mess. As it was during the Ian Smith regime, freedom of choice and association are a fairy tale in Zimbabwe. The POSA crafted on a 1970’s law is used to suppress gatherings and expressions by citizens of modern day Zimbabwe. Oppression by a white and oppression by a fellow black man is similarly oppression. This, surely is not what our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers fought for.
John Lock once said: “But there is only one thing which gathers people into rebellious commotion, and that is oppression.” This chaotic and disorderly country created by Mugabe’s corrupt government is totally the reverse of what Zimbabweans hoped for after years of bloodshed in the liberation struggle.
The tiny hope created by the flimsy and bankrupt “GNU” of Mugabe and the two MDC factions has now faded away. The hot air of inconceivable promises made to workers and civil servants by the MDC and their leaders have not been fulfilled either. The GNU continues to push agendas for personal gains. Plurality and differing political views have not been spared, people continue to disappear, killed and activists are arrested on a daily basis by the police administered jointly by Zanu (PF) and the two MDC factions.
It is now clear that both Zanu (PF) and the two MDC factions have become obstacles to progress. The MDC have joined hands with Mugabe and are now jointly frustrating people’s wishes. Their government of “national unity” is not serving the interests of Zimbabweans. Anyone sensible knows that the solution to the Zimbabwean crisis cannot be solved by these parties alone, all political parties, civic organisations and leaders must be part of the solution if anything meaningful is to be achieved here.
There must be commitment to a genuine national healing process by the regime. The basis of a long lasting solution to this crisis also draws from a shift from the state of denial of past injustices and massacres in Zanu (PF) and Mugabe’s millions of moments of madness.