7th March 2017
By Moses Chamboko
Many people have lost their lives fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe. These include Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya, MDC activists who were callously murdered in the lead-up to the hotly-contested 2008 elections.
David Coltart’s personal aide, Patrick Nabanyama disappeared on June 19, 2000 and was later found dead, buried in a shallow grave. We know of Matthew Pfebve (2000), Tonderai Ndira (2008), Joshua Bakacheza (2008) and even little children like Christpower Maisiri (2013) and many others who have perished for Zimbabwe’s democracy.
Whoever really knows what happened to Itai Dzamara is not saying but, knowing the nature of Zanu PF and its security apparatus, there is every chance that we will never see Dzamara walking on the streets of Harare ever again — yet another act in the tragedy that is Zimbabwe today.
A long time friend of mine has often argued that Zimbabweans are not worth dying for. He argues passionately on the basis of his personal experiences since the democratic fight started in earnest with the birth of the MDC in 1999. He also reflects on what has happened to fearless fighters for democracy over the years, including some of those mentioned above.
Some weeks before Dzamara was abducted, my old friend said to me: “I really respect what Dzamara is doing. I wish all Zimbabweans had joined him in his protest, things would be so much different. But, knowing Zimbabweans, they are going to watch from the sidelines and, before we know it, Itai will be a dead hero.”
Nearly three years later, I find myself replaying this in my mind. This discussion actually seems to make more sense as each day passes. I have been asking myself, “How many Zimbabweans have bothered to take a packet of rice, salt, sugar or maize meal to Dzamara’s family just as a show of solidarity? Who has made an effort to find out if Tichaona Chiminya or Talent Mabika left behind any dependants, who are desperate for school fees? When Linda Masarira was incarcerated for months, how many Zimbabweans bothered to check on her children’s welfare?” I am sure you also have your own questions.
There are many Zimbabweans spread around the world especially in the UK, America and Canada who sought asylum on account of political persecution. Some were genuine, but the majority were just opportunists who took advantage of the prevailing situation then, including those with Zanu PF links. Yes, people have to do what they can do to put food on the table for their families, but how many of those have paused a moment to ask themselves: “How did I end up here? What have I done to help the democratic cause back home of which I am a product or beneficiary?”
Instead, what we see are derogatory posts on social media on a daily basis besmirching those who are trying hard under very difficult circumstances to make a practical contribution towards a better Zimbabwe. We like analysing, criticising and talking without proffering any tangible solution or assistance. If we are asked to contribute even a dollar towards the democratic fight, we are quick to withdraw into our shells and comfort zones; not me, somebody else should do it. We have become a selfish nation where individualism has taken centre stage. We have even invented street lingo to support our self-centredness — Zvangu Zvaita!
We are very quick to forget the plight of others once we have something that can see us through a few days or weeks. We are not worried about the next person or cause. We expect solutions for Zimbabwe and tangible contributions to come from some white person in Europe or America.
We think our role is to jump at opportunities whenever they present themselves. And somebody must create them for us! Education is not a problem for Zimbabweans. Our real problem is individualism and the propensity to use other people for selfish personal gain. Aren’t we dangerous and manipulative cowards?
There is no better time than this Lenten season for us to reflect seriously on what we can do as individuals to make Zimbabwe a better place not only for ourselves but for those who come after us.
At a traditional African funeral, people bring whatever they can — firewood, grain, chicken, cabbages and even jokes. Zimbabwe has been in a state of mourning for more than a decade, what have you contributed as an individual?
Are you worth dying for? These are some of the questions that we must reflect on as we journey towards the 2018 general elections.
Let us direct our social media energy towards something more constructive and productive. This is not to say criticism is wrong, but it is not the sole reason for the existence of social media.
Let us bombard our kith and kin with the message to register to vote. Let us educate our people that what happens in the polling booth is between them and God. Let us discourage them from being bought by a few pieces of silver, a calabash of beer, a small packet of Chinese rice or second hand clothes confiscated from street vendors. Let us each commit more than just words towards the democratic cause. Let us be practical!
Moses Chamboko is a pro-democracy activist and interim Secretary General of Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE) — www.zunde.org; firstname.lastname@example.org