By Mutsa Murenje
I don’t know what your story is like, but mine goes like this: In December 1997, I finished Form 1 which in other contexts is generally known as Grade 8. Then, I was a mere 14-year old child being raised by my brother and his dear wife. As a child, I couldn’t have distant thoughts. I was preoccupied with the present reality of that time. While at it, there was a renowned political pundit who was documenting his thoughts for the present of that time and of course for posterity. His name was Masipula Sithole, a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe. When I became a major and not a minor that I had been, I dreamt of meeting Sithole at the university.
There were others like him, Lovemore Madhuku and the late John Mudiwawashe Makumbe. It’s a pity that I am writing at a time when Sithole has been dead for more than 14 years. It’s also unfortunate that my dream of meeting him never materialised. Just when I thought of meeting him in 2003, he died tragically in April of that year aged 56. It was only later that year that I enrolled at the university where he had taught since our independence from Britain in 1980. However, I have been through the late Makumbe’s class. He taught me Democracy and Human Rights. That sort of consoled me considering the personal loss that I had suffered when Sithole died. Makumbe’s passing was yet another personal loss that I suffered. I benefitted immensely from both men.
I have also had contact with the humble and inspiring Madhuku. But, this piece isn’t about me, neither is it about Madhuku or Makumbe. It is about my (our) unsung hero, Masipula, Sipu as he was affectionately known. We would do well to revisit his literary works and hearken the advice that he gave then, which advice I find significant for us even today. As writers, we process several thoughts and refine them into something meaningful for public consumption. In December 1997, Sithole noted “the need to restore public trust in the political leadership” and he posed two key questions that he believed “we, as a people, have to be asking ourselves” because of our “obligation to ask and answer them for ourselves and for posterity”. He wrote, concerning our leadership:
- Does it still have the capacity and energy for self-renewal and rejuvenation, or has it run its course?
- Is the country due for a new leadership, inside the party or outside it?
The reason why Sithole asked the above questions was because he genuinely believed that we had gold in our leadership but that this gold “has turned to iron and rusted”, a phenomenon that he attributed to overstaying in power. I don’t know how best to answer the aforesaid questions, but each one of us has the chance to reflect and think about the kind of country we want for ourselves and our children and their own children. For some of us, we have established ourselves outside our own country for we believe that we were operating in a political and economic environment that undermined (and still does) our potential while suffocating our personal and professional development. In the absence of opportunities for self-advancement, we had to look elsewhere, somewhere where we would be useful creatures to God’s creation. Some responded to genuine opportunities while others had to be creative and innovative to survive. Unfortunately, the vast sum of our population remains with limited or no opportunities at all. And, I believe we are here because our leadership has lost steam. The rust that Sithole saw in 1997 has taken effect and we are all paying a hefty price for it.
Grace Mugabe behaves as she pleases. Although her behaviour is best explained in terms of political ignorance and naivety, it might also be a result of our collective failure to bring the political leadership to account. We have civil servants who could have been discharging their duties honestly to ensure that we have in our country elections that are free, fair and credible. However, some of these have been used and no doubt continue to be used to undermine our democratic aspirations and freedoms. We want a new type of civil servant who will show commitment to serve our people justly and honestly. Grace can be stopped, we all can! She belongs not where she is at present and we can’t allow a situation where adults are belittled and fail to respond because they are powerless against the seemingly omnipotent Grace. Make no mistake. Like the late Martin Luther King, Jr., “We are determined … to fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Never in history has political power been sexually transmitted and it won’t happen now, not in Zimbabwe! The Mugabes have just gone too far and this is the prime time for us to reclaim our country from those whose sense of power is yielding it for selfish purposes and satisfying their egos. The political drama we are seeing unfolding before our eyes evinces that we have a tired ruling class that has run out of ideas to lead our country. And this is what we are expected to do: “But we should, as a people, take exception to a situation where those who have been lucky and are in positions of public responsibility neglect the welfare of the majority in pursuit of selfish purposes. There should be a qualitative difference for the better between minority white settler rule and black majority rule. Otherwise there is no justification for the suffering and sacrifice during the struggle” (Masipula Sithole).
Although I sympathise with Emmerson Mnangagwa for his defenceless public bashing by Grace and Robert Mugabe, I, however, reiterate that he isn’t the right man to move our country forward. Having been in the system for decades, Mnangagwa can’t escape that he’s partly to blame for the political Frankenstein that is hanging over our heads today. When it suited him, he engineered Joice Mujuru’s expulsion, including that of Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo, among others. Thus, his crocodilian characteristics have stayed with him till now. He isn’t the kind of leader to have, not in this 21st century! I am sorry to dampen the spirits of those who believe in him as if he were their messiah. Mnangagwa is no messiah and the earlier people realise this the better!
Once again, I feel it incumbent upon me to address the nocent behaviour that has been displayed by the war veterans for as long as we can remember. What we see today isn’t new. We have had Chenjerai Hunzvi before and the likes of Joseph Chinotimba and Jabulani Sibanda. Like the malodorous ZANU PF, Zimbabwe’s war veterans have been instrumental in curtailing our freedoms. What is even worse is their alignment not only with ZANU PF but also with a faction of that fractured party. Now, this behaviour is harmful or nocent to our democratic aspirations and ideals. The fact that the war veterans have been a ZANU PF concern has rendered them nationally insignificant, especially when considering their notorious history in our nation. Genuine war veterans show allegiance to the whole country and not a fraction of it. To further buttress this point, I want you to take note of the following:
“Therefore, as an interest group, the Liberation War Veterans Association is making a mistake by identifying itself as a ZANU PF outfit. By being partisan, they are sacrificing long-term interests for short-term gains. As a national association, they should position and conduct themselves in such a way that can protect the interests of the membership regardless of which party is in power. Essentially, the Liberation War Veterans Association should be a national rather than party outfit. War veterans in most countries have a national, not party, outlook and character. The prevailing thinking that assumes that ZANU PF is in power permanently is very narrow and short-sighted indeed” (Masipula Sithole).
In conclusion, we aren’t going anywhere with the current ruling class. We keep looking up to the opposition to show leadership and give direction. Otherwise, we are doomed as a nation. May God help Zimbabwe! The struggle continues unabated!