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The #Zimbabwe I desire: An ordinary citizen’s hope

By Komborero Choga

Freedom day in Zimbabwe

Yes 18 April 2018 will forever mark our political independence from the colonial order but 21st November 2017 is and shall be our Freedom day in many ways, it marks the turning point of a decade and a half of political, social and economic strife for our beloved Zimbabwe. It honours the efforts of the people past and present to bring change in our land.

On this day we celebrate the unsung heros who lost property, limb and indeed life in pursuit of freedom. The army was indeed a great partner in standing with the people and creating the space for an important step towards our freedom.

We must thank and salute our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who stood up at home and those who stood in solidarity across the globe.  In the euphoria of Freedom day lets not loose focus, lets seriously cast our minds and eyes towards the Zimbabwe we want and need.

The dream of this simple and ordinary citizen of Zimbabwe

In 2007 and 2008 as I had opportunity to travel across our Zimbabwe for both work and personal reasons, as I saw and heard of the ravages of the heights of socio-economic and political suffering on our country I challenged myself that I shall not join the complainers about my beloved Zimbabwe, not because there was and there is nothing to complain about, but because it was blatantly clear we needed more woman and man of action, more doers than we needed complainers.

I sought and seek to spend more of my time and effort doing what I can, where I can and how I can for my beloved Zimbabwe. Especially at this juncture our Zimbabwe needs the biblical Nehemiah like characters who PRAY and WORK. Pray and work not for the past glorious Zimbabwe we had but pray and work for the even better Zimbabwe we can and shall be.

Our suffering, pain and international humiliation visited upon us by some of our self-centered, murderous and thieving so called leaders cannot be in vein. From it we must learn, we must draw inspiration to stand up and say never again, we must pray and work towards a better today and even brighter tomorrow.

Another time, a different cause yet a similar reality                                              

Standing alongside Brian Tamuka Kagoro, Tinomudaishe Chinyoka and Obey Mudzingwa, I looked over the Africa Unity Square from the office of then Higher Education Minister Stanislaus Gorerazvo Mudenge.  I was frankly tired and fed up of days of negotiating in circles and of the arrogant responses of our so called leaders.

I was angered by the previous and weary of future harassment and intimidation by the police and Central Intelligence agents. I was fully cognisant of the implications of the threats of being expelled from university.  I had fallen silent for about 15mins when it hit me as I looked at the “UBA” and “USA” sing and dance in protest, they must be even more fed up and tired than I am.

I turned to my Student Representative Council comrades and asked why don’t we simply let the people all come in here and represent themselves in this negotiation, then these gentlemen will more clearly understand the message and the need to act now.

As Chinyoka and I proceed to walk out of the office, Kagoro turned to Minister Mudenge, Permeant Secretary James Chitauro; University of Zimbabwe Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe as well as 2 other Ministry of Education Officials present and said, “Our Secretary for Information and Publicity shall now go out there and invite each one of the students to come in here and represent themselves.” The long and short of it, is that was the end of any further dithering and the beginning of meaningful action by the Minister Mudenge and his team.

Saturday 18 September 2017 as I stood in front of Our Washington DC Embassy with a handful of fellow Zimbabweans setting up for solidarity demonstration in support of what other povo like ourselves we doing back home in pursuit of a new political order, I found myself silent again.

Silent not because I had nothing to say but because I had too much to say and too much I wanted to do. I longed to be one of the millions of Zimbabweans who would wanted to be nowhere else other than the “Blue roof” residence of Robert Gabriel Mugabe to directly represent myself! Since I along with millions other Zimbabwean could not be in the “Blue Roof” to directly represent ourselves please allow me to have my say here.

Two questions on my heart and mind for our Zimbabwe

Through some tough life experiences I have learnt that real and lasting change truly must begin with the individual: me, you, and then us. So as I stood in the wind and cold outside our Washington DC Embassy the first question I grappled with was and is, “What can and must I do for our Zimbabwe.” The second question was and is, “What do I expect from my political and other leaders?”

What can and must I do for my country?

Here are this simple citizen’s ideas of actionable things you and I can do to begin to bring back our Zimbabwe from the desperately messy social, economic and political nightmare we have endured for so long.

We are global citizens let’s play our role as trustable partners: Mugabe and company undoubtedly spent our international goodwill and trust. We need to regain that goodwill and once again be trusted trade and investment partners regionally and globally. The rule of law must prevail in our investment climate and practice.

Companies and individuals must be guaranteed that they have a fair and transparent shake of making a profit from their investment without undue fear and threats to their person and investments. Similarly the foreign investors must understand that we need mutual benefit and true partnership not a continued externalization of Zimbabwean natural and other resources.

The reality is this that Mugabe used and abused expressed and latent resentment of colonial plunder and neo-colonial manipulation. Mugabe despite presiding over the failing social, political and economic order in part survived by saying and doing to the West what other African leaders wished to say and do to the former colonial powers.

Leaders and businesses in the west especially and China too as a growing economic power must understand that the suspicion and resentment still simmers in Zimbabwe and other former colonies and must pursue true trade partnerships.

Zimbabweans have a strong desire and capability to manage and co-own the means of wealth creation. Yes these are national and institutional issues but undoubtedly the words and actions of individual Zimbabweans are foundational to regaining international goodwill and trust.

Let’s recognize and leverage our diaspora for national development: One of the unplanned yet positive outcomes from the externalisation of human capital during the era Mugabe is that we have a large diaspora running into +/-5 million, that is over a third of our population. This diaspora has a strong affinity to our Zimbabwe and generally nurse a passion and ideas for investing back home.

This year alone the Zimbabwean diaspora has pumped over US$750million in document cash remittances and millions more in undocumented cash and non-cash assets. This is no small contribution in a country who since the turn of the decade has had an ever shrinking economy and dwindling per capita income. The same diaspora stood with their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers this week in solidarity marches across the globe.

Many have sort unsuccessfully to start businesses back home due to an unpredictable business climate thanks to the corrupt and counterproductive climate created by Mugabe and company. Tapping into the potential of the diaspora is a critical source of investment, job and wealth creation. Part of this puzzle lies in clearly answering questions on the diaspora vote, dual citizenship and establishing trustworthy channels for partnering the diaspora with Zimbabwe based partners who better understand and know how to navigate current realities.

Our interim and post-election government to be, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and Zimbabwe Investment Center are among the chief players that must urgently work on this. A key part of this diaspora action must be the former commercial farmers who frankly disproportionately benefited from the colonial era at the expense of their black country man, yet are no less Zimbabwean and many have the same passion and desire to contribute to and indeed enjoy the rights of citizenship.

Trust in our government, financial and other institutions is critical for this to happen. Let’s look and learn from a country like the Philippines which despite its own past and present challenges does extremely well at leveraging and using the individual and institutional capacity of its diaspora financial and human capital. Yet at the core of these institutional level changes there must be a nurturing and expression of individual level desire and commitment to act upon ideas and passion to invest in and prosper our Zimbabwe through the diaspora partnering with home based Zimbabweans.

Let’s reestablish our credibility: We were once known as a nation of educated, competent and diligent workers. Yet we are increasingly seen as untrustworthy schemers. Having lived, worked and studied in 3 continents and 7 countries I can confidently say this schizophrenic view of the Zimbabwean is a fact of our glorious past and a sad current reality.

Zimbabweans we need to reestablish our credibility and we have a chance to. Small as our population maybe Zimbabweans currently work and lead in many different institutions and scenarios at home and across the globe. Reestablishing our credibility simply put is a personal, institutional and national responsibility to which all of us as individuals can and must contribute. As an individual Zimbabwean what I do, how I do it and what I deliver is testimony to who we are as a people and can further destroy or reestablish our credibility as a nation.

Let’s remember there is God and live like it: Each one of us has a God mandated purpose and are blessed with talents and abilities that we must put to work in service of our Zimbabwe. Most Zimbabweans agree that there is God  though we may seek him in different ways lets PRAY as we WORK for our Zimbabwe.

In a predominantly Christian nation such as ours the church has a key role to play in shaping individual beliefs and actions towards God given freedoms. If God gave us the freedom of choice to follow or not to follow even him, why should we be coerced to follow a human being we no longer want to lead us?

What I expect and demand from my political and other leaders?

I may be nothing but mere povo, a simple and ordinary citizen of Zimbabwe but that nothingness firstly places a responsibility on me to serve my country but also a right to demand service from my leaders in the political and other realms. So allow me space to share my bit on what I expect from my leaders. With Mugabe’s departure from the Presidency one thing is clear the old order cannot and should not be allowed to prevail. We have a choice to wallow in the past or to recognise what our past means for our today and tomorrow and act on it by demanding our dues from our leaders.

We need an interim governance arrangement and free and fair elections soonest: This Sunday 19th November as I listened to vaMugabe give what should have been a course correction and frankly resignation speech, I was disappointed but not surprised to hear and watch him try and wriggle himself out of self inflicted political stranglehold. I am not surprised that Mugabe and those closest to him would have sort to retain the old order in some form or other.  

Though I have never voted for Mugabe I have acknowledged and will acknowledge the great work done in the first 10 to12 years of the Mugabe era, for that alone I would have wished that Mugabe took a hint from our protests past and present and went peacefully and with some dignity much earlier than he did.  However he shall do what a close uncle of his,  James Chikerema said of him some decades back, “Ane nharo uyu/He is hard headed and argumentative”, he has always been like that and we needed this final push to help him snap out of it and resign. We could not afford to have the povo/masses take another front row seat in the social, economic and political horror show, no, no no more!

Thankfully the ZANU PF Provincial and national structures along side the opposition stood up to their decision to expel and recall Mugabe and impeach him when he arrogantly ignored the people’s wishes. We now need that same unity of purpose in establishing an inclusive interim transitional government, drive for restructure of the Zimbabwe Election Commission and electoral mechanism to ensure free and fair elections in 2018.

To our Church leaders we in the new Zimbabwe we need our own mechanism of national healing based on truth telling, apologies in action and redressing of wrongs where they can be redressed as well stopping a never ending cycle of retribution: blacks on whites for the injustices of colonialism; Shonas on Ndebeles and Ndebeles on Shonas; political opponents on each other for a variety of hurtful and hurting historical realities. Church leaders please help us heal as individuals and as a nation, unite us in prayer and action, stop watching your membership growth statistics, tithe earning potential and political connectedness, play your role in leading God’s church to PRAY and WORK like Nehemiah and company in rebuilding the destroyed walls our beloved Zimbabwe.

As for our leaders in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) we the masses of Zimbabwe hope in our and other cases you will  stop majoring in minors that entrench leaders the people no longer want.

Zimbabweans have repeatedly rejected Mugabe yet the AU and SADC leaders forgot that we have had at least 2 clearly stolen elections in which they were bystanders. We had a peaceful and democratic display of anti-Mugabe sentiment and action by Zimbabweans at home and abroad and our leaders in the AU and SADC did not use their power and leverage in support of the people’s wishes. All we saw and heard out of them in delayed action, and incomprehensible murmurings.

To our war Veterans the struggle you waged was not a party struggle and the political and other changes you brought where for all children of the Ziambabwean soil irrespective of colour or political affiliation. Let not yourseleves be a sub branch of even a refomed ZANU PF but continue to be an independent force you clearly can be. One that holds the transitional and any future government fornmations to account to be responsible to us the people and our country.

Our Chiefs and other traditional leaders you can no longer afford to be partisan. We are in desparate need of you to stand up and take on your role of respected custodians of our culture and revered advisors to leaders in politics and other spheres of our society.

The military has done what we always desired of them, that is to create space for peaceful political discourse and expression, for that we salute you! After a history of two wars “hondo dzeChimurenga” and much post war strife most Zimbabweans wanted and needed a peaceful transition. We now need you to help continue operation “Restore legacy” by always standing with the people who you are constitutionally mandated to protect and even when their wishes may not align with your world view.

You serve us not your interests: We shall continue to push for an inclusive transitional government arrangement hence inevitably we shall have elements from ZANU PF, the various MDC formations and other opposition parties in government and related services.

Once we have our free and fair elections in 2018 we shall have a new President and government. We already know no matter who it is that comes into power in the interim and post the free and fair 2018 elections we will not have perfect leaders, that clearly is an unattainable pipe dream. Both ZANU PF and the opposition have their limitations.

We also know some of the very leaders who plundered and illegitimately benefitted from the years of chaotic mismanagement and outright thievery will reinvent themselves as our saviors. Notwithstanding this complex reality let interim and future elected political leaders remember we are nation with a challenged and challenging social and economic past and reality. What they choose to do can either reverse or continue the downward trajectory.

We DO NOT WANT A BLOTTED GOVERNMENT with useless and laughable ministries created to reward political allies rather than to effectively and efficiently serve us the masses. We need a National Assembly and Senate that actively serves us.

There are other roles competent leaders can play, we do not all have to be government ministers and heads of government departments to serve our Zimbabwe. We need and want a lean and effective government at all levels.

No one leader and no one political party has the answers to what we need especially at this juncture of our history,  hence there must be a legitimate and accepted role for the opposition to hold government to account now and in future. No no you cannot do more of the same self-serving antiques of the past.

Leaders of industry, commerce and other institutions you must act differently: The tragedy of our reality is the “handiendi” – self-entrenchment and self-enrichment mentality has become endemic in various institutions outside government. We the ordinary Zimbabweans have witnessed the ravages of corruption and underhanded deals in a plethora of private and parastatal institutions. We need a rejuvenation of ethical leadership across all sectors. We have qualified and capable leaders who need to act very differently to lead and rebuild our private and parastatal institutions. 

So where to now for our Zimbabwe

Ndatenda zvikuru, ngiabonga kakhulu, thank you very much for “listening” to this member of the masses, povo yeZimbabwe. I hope to hear you too where ever we may meet in person as Zimbabweans or a friends of Zimbabwe, in writing and in social media. Please share you vision of the Zimbabwe you desire? Speak without fear what you need from our leaders? Share what you can or are you doing towards the Zimbabwe you desire?  

Change is indeed a constant it will happen with or without you or me, so the best we can and must do is to act towards the change we desire for our Zimbabwe. As an ordinary Zimbabwean I shall spend my time and effort doing what I can, where I can and how I can for my beloved Zimbabwe.

God bless our Zimbabwe!