By Luke Tamborinyoka
It had to happen while I was right in the place of my birth. The time was exactly 6pm and, as if of any significance, the day was Tuesday 21 November 2017, exactly 10 days after the 52nd anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence by Ian Douglas Smith. I was at Chirodzero business centre in Domboshava, popularly known as paShowground when the country’s second uhuru was announced.
The car radio suddenly blurted it out: President Mugabe had resigned!
The otherwise sleepy growth point in the area of my birth suddenly burst into life—-cars hooting, people shouting, touts whistling and vendors leaving their wares unattended.
I just went numb, silently savouring the eerie scene around me in journalistic wonderment.
A vendor selling cucumbers developed a sudden bout of generosity and started moving around, handing out the freshly fruits for free.
That is how the news was received at this rural growth point, a mere 32 km north east of the capital city.
Barely an hour earlier, I had accompanied President Morgan Tsvangirai to a rally at Africa Unity Square just outside parliament building in Harare. He had just been invited by the war veterans to address the burgeoning crowd itching for change, reflecting the national convergence that had inadvertently developed in the country on the eve of Mugabe’s departure.
The euphoria and wild scenes of celebration that rippled in all cities and rural growth points at the news of Mugabe’s resignation had a ring of irony attached.
Mugabe had finally achieved with his departure what he had failed to achieve in 37 years of incumbency; he had united a divided nation. If nation-building was the immediate task of a newly installed political leadership in Africa post-independence, then Mugabe ironically united the nation on the day he left office.
The kaleidoscopic sight of people of all political colours charging into streets and celebrating in unison was an unprecedented national marvel. It was an uplifting sight that gave life to the otherwise innocent print in the preamble to our Constitution: “We the people of Zimbabwe, united in our diversity…..”
For a nation torn by hatred, intolerance and exclusivity, the unity and togetherness that suddenly emerged in the country was a soothing sight.
However, this inclusive atmosphere had been building up in the last hours of Mugabe’s tenure, starting with the massive demonstration attended and addressed by both ruling party and opposition party leaders on Saturday, 18 November 2017.
For Mugabe, it ended where it all started—it ended at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield—-that ceremonial home of people power.
Never again, one hopes, should a leader and their family be allowed to capture the State, in the process fertilizing their profligate disposition. The former First Lady had carved out quite a reputation for herself—- buying plush homes around the world while the people were suffering.
The sons were known for their wild binges and it is no wonder that Bellarmine Chatunga, the President’s younger son, recently splurged US$60 000 in scarce foreign currency buying a trendy wrist watch at a time whole families in the country are surviving on less than US$1 a day.
Everyone is wishing for this country a fresh start, but the human inputs into the process are not encouraging. The character presumed to take over the running of the country, Emmerson Mnangagwa is not himself without any blemish. They are all tainted by history as they were all vital cogs of Mugabe’s violence, repression and incompetent leadership.
I do not wish to dampen the prevailing carnival atmosphere in the country but the reality check is somehow dispiriting. The incoming lot equally has a bloody past. Unless they take advantage of this political daybreak to break free from their dark past, there could really be no reason for celebration.
Mine could be a dim and unpopular view in a country blindly drunk with hope, yet this should be a moment for sober reflection on what awaits our beloved country at its watershed moment.
Suddenly—and surprisingly—everyone now appears to have been against Mugabe all these years as the man finds himself with very few sympathizers.
For a man who claimed to have won elections with millions of votes and whose rallies, including one held only twelve days ago, were always teeming with mammoth crowds, it is a puzzle how all those people have suddenly gone underground.
Where are all those people today?
It could be a chilling indictment that humanity is replete with hypocrites, who abandon friends in their dark hour of need.
If everyone appears to have been in the opposition all these years; where have Mugabe’s purported millions of followers disappeared to?
Why have all those chants of “Gushungo chete chete”suddenly turned into a high pitched national chorus of “Gushungo kwete kwete?” Where is this man’s much-vaunted following if the whole nation is now in celebration over his departure?
In one fell swoop, Mugabe’s mammoth following has suddenly ebbed into a shocking nothingness.
However, in the euphoria of the moment, let us not lose sight of what needs to be done.
We should poise this country for growth and prosperity and give every Zimbabwean a reason to hope again.
This is no time for experiments and our journey to normalcy legitimacy must start with a free, fair and credible election next year.
One hopes that Mnangagwa’s supporters—-with some prominent diplomatic missions among them—are not committing the cardinal error of mistaking brass for gold!
In the meantime, please help me find the supporters of the one centre of power, which early this week suddenly turned into the sole centre of implosion!
Luke Tamborinyoka is the presidential spokesperson and Director of Communications in the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai.