You don’t know me but I’ve been following your commentary on the developments happening in our country with some interest. I am not and have never been a member of any political organisation (unless you count some societies at university); I am a concerned citizen who, like you, wishes to make Zimbabwe great again. As a member of the legal fraternity you are well respected and your opinions are often well received and perhaps even taken as fact. I believe you have earned this reputation and that esteem rests on solid personal achievements. I think you represent the best of what our country has to offer. I also particularly like your invitation to have robust discussions on important issues, and it is in response to that invitation that I am writing this note. May I also say at this point that, quote the words of Theodore Roosevelt,
“…It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat…”
With that said, let us begin.
In your post, which I read several times and carefully, you opened by observing that The President was well dressed and quickly sought to water down any connection between the appearance of his hand and postulations about the state of his health. This I thought was fair; although the health of an aging leader is always something of interest to those he is leading. There maybe nothing nefarious about the interest in the 92-year-old hand, it may just be well… interesting.
Moving along… You then go on to say that the president is an important figure which I think is axiomatic but your justification for this requires some inspection. Being important e.g. having high rank or status is not synonymous with deserving respect (I say this because I think it was your inference, but I could be wrong). It is possible for someone to hold an important office for a long time and manage, in that time, to lose the respect, trust and heart of the people. The weight of importance in such cases is placed on the office they hold and not the individual sitting in it. You then add, controversially, especially given what is going on with the veterans of war in our country, that he represents an era that is largely characterised by the struggle. I put it to you that the struggle cannot be represented by a single individual, that is why we have a resting place for our heroes – but known and unknown, who made the ultimate sacrifice. Of course, our current president did have a part to play in that struggle, an important part in fact; but the result of that struggle is not anyone’s personal property. I shall not dwell on this any longer as we have much more to discuss.
Having positioned integrity and objectivity as important virtues, you turn your attention to Pastor Evan Mawarire, who in your assessment, is a polarising character. You say you find it difficult to criticise someone who started something so beautiful – I do as well because indeed, as we have already established, it is not the critic who counts. I don’t think your post infringes on #ThisFlag at all – if that was your worry, but I do think you found your target in Evan and it’s this choice of target and line of inquiry about his motives that I wish to dig a little deeper into. This is what you wrote:
“…This brings me to the somewhat polarizing question of Pastor Evan Mawarire. Admittedly, sorting out one’s thoughts on this issue is an intricate task. It is extremely difficult to be critical of someone who started something so beautiful, so novel, so fiery and so pure. #ThisFlag, a citizen’s movement which was born out of a heartfelt video lamenting the state of the country by Pastor E, has awoken patriotism and love for Zimbabwe amongst many. It has destroyed apathy amongst the previously jaded younger generation. It has sown a seed of boldness in the population. For the first time in decades, the ordinary person on the street has found his or her voice…”
“…One almost feels as though any criticism of Pastor E’s conduct translates to a criticism of what he started. It’s uncomfortable. This phenomenon and the associated feeling of discomfort explains why some find it hard to criticise the conduct of President Mugabe – they feel as though doing so amounts to criticism of his fight against racial oppression. It also explains why some struggle to criticise Morgan Tsvangirai – they feel that doing so amounts to criticism of his contribution towards the fight for democracy at the turn of the millennium…”
I don’t think it is true or fair to suggest that fellow Zimbabweans are reluctant to criticise Evan because they consider criticism of the man to be synonymous with criticism of the mission. This is simply not representative of all Zimbabweans that also engage in sophisticated thinking. Likewise, may I suggest that the reason people do not openly criticise the president is not because of reverence for the liberation struggle, but it is because they fear intimidation and harassment. There is a world of difference between why people are reluctant to criticise these two people but you, in your note, have suggested that the reason is the same. I suggest to you that the discomfort actually arises from the realization that if I criticise someone who has actually taken a stand and done something about what they see, regardless of how small it is, it immediately casts a light on my own contribution to that struggle and therein lies the tension. It’s easy to make a point as an observer; it’s far more challenging to make a difference because that requires action on your part and mine.
Your next paragraph was the most difficult for me to digest. With full knowledge that you are someone who spends your time arguing the facts of a case and basing your arguments on solid evidence, I kept returning to your writings to look for that sober and objective judgement and I have to say I could not find it. This is what you wrote:
“…Pastor E’s mantra from the get-go and for which he became famous was “hatichatya” – we are no longer afraid. In coining this mantra, he no doubt was aware of the dangers of being so vocal in opposing ‘the system’. He would have known that trumped up charges would be preferred against him as has happened to opposition leaders in the past. He would have known that law enforcement agents would turn on him and that he would be victimised, possibly beaten and tortured. Knowing these mechanisms were firmly in place, he boldly declared “hatichatya”. He told us all not to fear – on radio, in his videos, on social media and in the street. There is no denying that many were emboldened by his mantra and his leadership. Over the months that he ran his campaign, many regular citizens made themselves more vulnerable than they otherwise would have because the citizens had joined hands and discarded their fear in demanding a better Zimbabwe. Many sacrificed a day or more of business, some their wages, when they hearkened Pastor E’s call for a shutdown of the country and a stay away from work. There is no denying that Pastor E was the leader of a citizens’ movement…”
On the day that Evan was arrested, he voluntarily attended the police station having been called in for questioning. The events that unfolded thereafter beggar belief. As you will remember, he was initially charged with possession of some stolen articles, and then that charge was later escalated to subverting a constitutionally elected government – all of which was false. From how I see it; your biggest bone of contention with Evan is around his message of “hatichatya.” Your writings suggest that he has reneged on this message and that amounts to a betrayal of the trust that was accorded to him. You feel strongly that a “hatichatya-believing” man would have reacted very differently to what unfolded on that day. You even insist in strong terms that HE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that he would be treated the way he was and that he should have been prepared for that mentally, emotionally and otherwise. How? If you HAD KNOWN would you have volunteered yourself to the machinery that clearly wishes you harm? You also suggest that he should have known because that is what has happened to other “opposition leaders” in the past. It is important to remember that Evan is no more an opposition leader than you or I, he is a citizen who stated, boldly and loudly, that he is opposed to corruption in government. Should all who have stated their disgust at the pillaging of state resources by corrupt officials expect a promotion to opposition politics and by extension harassment and intimidation from the state? I don’t think so. It is akin to suggesting that when you began to use your Facebook account as a platform to voice your frustrations, you had fully prepared yourself to be called in on similar trumped up charges for simply voicing your thoughts. I would beg to differ. Your contention that he should have known better is a harsh judgement. Thankfully, the way you see it is not the only way that it can be seen.
I agree with you that Evan was thrust into a leadership role but this, as you well know, was not by design but emergent and as a result I think his situation deserves some empathy and a lot more understanding. You seem to believe he was expecting arrest and all that would ensue but would someone who was expecting all that break down in tears and anguish upon hearing his charges had been escalated? Perhaps, by your estimation it is reasonable to have expected that he would go through what he went through and be a talking point in the president’s address to the nation on more than one occasion, but I am not convinced.
Moving on, you highlight the confusion and shock at Evan’s departure after his illegal incarceration. I beg to differ. Perhaps some people were shocked, but as many were relieved for him and his young family. You go on to associate this decision to leave with a fracture in Evan’s moral fibre. Perhaps you would have acted differently but none of us can ever really know what it must have been like to walk in his shoes. Things were happening very quickly and he did have a lot to consider. In those situations, I have found, that sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. He, under advice and taking into consideration his life situation, did what he thought was right. Once again, to pronounce him guilty of cowardice in the court of public opinion is very harsh, especially for someone in your line of work.
“…Was he lying when he said he wasn’t afraid? Is he now afraid? Is he ever coming back? Is he not taking our intelligence for granted by suggesting that he underestimated the threat given what happened to the likes of Itai Dzamara, Lovemore Madhuku and Morgan Tsvangirai whose stories he would have known about full well before he embarked on his campaign? Has he had a change of heart? Surely, he has a moral obligation to let the public who followed him know about his change of heart – given that so many made themselves more vulnerable than they would have but for his “hatichatya” mantra…?”
The questions you raise about whether he is a liar, whether he is now afraid and whether he has taken people’s intelligence for granted are inflammatory. Of course he is afraid. Wouldn’t you be? These questions cast him as a villain and the Zimbabwean people as his victims and that is simply not true. Yes, the course of events played out differently but that is because the set and the stage on which this drama has unfolded have also changed. None of it has been by design but has been evolutionary. Fadzayi, you are writing this with the benefit of hindsight, therefore it is easy for you to criticise the process from a position of knowledge. However, you neglect to acknowledge that this man had no prior knowledge of the subsequent events to inform his choices. I do not feel as though my intelligence has been insulted, on the contrary, I am more aware than ever before that a very serious and challenging situation has arisen in our country and that it needs careful handling and sober judgement. To bring Itai Dzamara into that comparison is a very low blow. EVERYONE is concerned about the whereabouts of Itai but as you would expect, there are not many people lining up to be the next Itai because it is frightening. Itai’s abduction is a fresh wound on our conscience because it reminds us that we are not safe or free to stand up for what we believe in. Those who make that choice to make a stand must make peace with their own conscience before doing so and not be pushed into it.
I could go on and on and on in this letter concerning your post but I know you have much more important things to be getting on with so I will conclude this shortly. As you near the end of your post you discuss the matter of Evan’s finances:
“…Given that his #thisflag video, on his own account, came about because of his failure to raise school fees for his kids and make ends meet, who is now funding his stay abroad? Is there any reason why those funds can’t be used to beef up his security in Zimbabwe as opposed to fund a life outside the country? Is he going to continue to call citizens to act and protest from the comfort of his new abode so that ordinary people have to face off with riot police yet he is perfectly safe…?”
Once again, I find this to be questionable judgement on your part. Whether through well wishers or through his own endeavours, how is the question of who is funding his stay abroad helpful? I worry that your line of questioning plays into the rhetoric in the state media about Evan being western sponsored and “sent” as a destabilising entity into the political fray. Perhaps that is exactly what is happening but do you not think you have a moral responsibility to establish that it is so before “putting it out there”?
Finally, I will say this to you Fadzayi Mahere; Evan Mawarire, Linda Masarira, Stan Zvorwadza, Patson Dzamara amongst others, that are campaigning to make Zimbabwe great again ARE NOT elected officials. They did not run for any office and “win”. They did not take oaths of office to serve and protect. They did not promise to deliver jobs, healthcare, education and protection to the citizens of Zimbabwe. They were not given the mandate to uphold the constitution. They, like you and I, reasonably expected these things from their government. As opposed to using your incredible skills to cast shadows on the few voices we have, why not turn your gaze to the cabinet ministers, governors and senior civil servants who go about their business daily without a care in the world even though the country is on its knees.
I’d be delighted to discuss these and other issues with you when you are ready. My name is Munyaradzi and I am proud to be Zimbabwean. #ThisFlag
- Article appears on Tumblr