Echoes of Marseilles : Zimbabwe’s mourning glory

"People love to say talk is cheap. Growing up in Zimbabwe nothing could have been further than the truth. Among ordinary people, speech was an expensive commodity whose price was often life. The country’s rulers did not just suppress speech and history; they recreated it to serve the present. They knew that, in an oppressive state, change often starts with a complaint."

By Prince Chidzvondo

When a nation finds a voice that’s always been trapped within. And it’s within the echoes of history, cry my beloved country. But weep not,  better days are here.

On the eve of the 1789 revolution, France was one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe. Nonetheless, a popular rebellion would first bring the regime of King Louis XVI of France under control of a constitution, then  depose, imprison, try, and execute the king and, later, his wife Marie Antoinette. Today we witness how those who cannot learn from history are
doomed to repeat it. Zimbabwe opens new chapters of its own history in an Anti ancien regime revolution. The mourning glory of Marseilles screams, “Ashes to Ashes, dust to tyrannical rule,” in the streets of our own Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe like the 1789 french majority, is full of emaciated bones, shivering in shrunken clothes. It’s full of wrinkled faces and tired eyes that watch the sun for a rewardless prize as the government drains more and more of their energy and earnings. It’s populated with workers dressed in injuries and mourn the jobs they have lost. In a local market place, one stone throw is most likely to hit a baccalaureate vendor. Some farmers cannot speak for they weep for their farmlands that have become instant government property. Zimbabwe like France has finally reached the zenith of tolerance.

When it comes to the possibilities of ‘learning from history’ there are doubtlessly many things we could aspire to learn. Some of those would be more practically useful, in terms of contributing to the normal and decent functioning of well-meaning societies than others. Zimbabwe is a country whose foundation was built on the blood of the Chimurenga. The older generation, like a history textbook, can only talk of how Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of Africa and the new generation can only mention how that was then, this breadbasket was left in the care of hungry dogs. Now history repeats itself as Zimbabweans finally stand up in arms with its government declaring that Mugabe must resign in order to retrieve the nation’s former glory.

It is a tragedy, or rather, a terrible irony that our own president has turned into Louis XVI. At the time that Zimbabwe needs a better leader the most they lack it in all spheres. It was the lack of money that set the stage for the French Revolution, in a similar way that the lack of money has set the stage for a revolution in Zimbabwe.

The Zim government can never take blame for the country’s instability and can never offer solutions to its problems. In a meme that’s hitting the waves, explaining Zim problems to the government has been likened to teaching a donkey how to read. What Zanu Pf has failed to realise all this while is that the power always goes back to the people. And when people take back their power,  they never do it “nicely”. The French Revolution that broke out in 1789 has become a model for future revolutions including that of Zimbabwe.

With philosophers being a catalyst for revolt in the 1789 revolution,  Zim has found itself Enlightened in a similar fashion. Pastor Evans, among others, have filled the role of philosophers in declaring that people take back their power for this flag belongs to them. The inefficiency of the government has been exposed and consequently aroused the need to do away with despotic leadership. Social media witnesses voices one could never have imagined existed in the days were freedom of speech was guaranteed but freedom of speech was never guaranteed.  Everyone probably knows someone somewhere who was either abducted or brutalised for anti Zanu Pf speech. Pastor Evans may have laid the egg, but
the bird hatching from it is not of a different breed, it is the voice of a nation that is sick and tired.

Revolutions are born out of hope for a better future. People who participate in revolutions do so believing in the possibility that they can transform their circumstances. They may be ready to make immense personal sacrifices, even
sometimes their own lives, in the struggle to create a genuine democracy, where government
would be an instrument of the people’s will, rather than a source of power and enrichment for a privileged and corrupt elite. But because the government fails to learn from history’s perfect examples, they are caught in between a hard place and a hard rock.

In the heat of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette pointed, “When everyone else is losing their heads, it is
important to keep yours.” And doesn’t our first lady learn fast! One would assume she had tea with the queen and took lessons from the unpopular queen. Would it not be a pretty picture if both sat for tea and biscuits, discussed the weather and talked about fashion? Marie Antoinette would definitely love to know the best boutiques in Dubai and where to buy the next addition. Striking I say, striking! How perfect. One can bet this will happen in the next life, definitely. Birds of the same feather, don’t they flock together?

After putting herself in the forefront of Zim politics, Queen Marie Antoinette – Grace Mugabe I mean, declared herself mother of the nation and promised to take Zimbabwe to the next level in the countries best interests. But after Zimbabwe staged a rebellious stay away dubbed #shutdownzimbabwe,  with a second stay away being initiated for two more days, the first lady was nowhere to be found. It’s quite easy to spot whenever she’s away, it’s simply characterised by her silence. Then reports had it she had once again visited Singapore. Zim’s own Flight to Verennes. The first family is to planes what my people are to mushikashika.

Over history, revolutions that gave an individual absolute power inevitably ended up with brutal dictatorships. France’s Reign of Terror under Robespierre, and the dictatorship of Bonaparte are all pointers of where the future points. Zimbabwe broke free from Rhodesian rule and paved it’s own way to the tyrannical rule of a despotic leader that has ruled for “more than enough”. The events of 1789 have displayed the existence and latent power of many societal pressures that have subsequently contributed to the emergence of revolution.

So the future of Zimbabwe is no longer hard to predict. One may as well be the next Makandiwa in predicting the inevitability of a revolution in Zimbabwe. Human nature is animated by the same passions, and thus they have the same results. We should always be aware that what now lies in the past once lay in the future.

In the meantime, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Despotism…

  • Prince Chidzvondo is a political commentator.