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Great Hope and Optimism for Zimbabwe

By Dewa Mavhinga

Recently I was at a function in London when, upon introducing myself as a Zimbabwean, someone ventured to ask me a question I have become very much accustomed to now, ‘so, what has changed with this new government?’

In response I explained that as far as I was concerned, there had been no fundamental change in political direction and that the levers of power remain firmly in the hands of those who wielded power in 1980 and as such, we are not really in a new political dispensation as yet.

The person who asked the question was clearly unimpressed, he pointed out that in fact he had information that ‘a lot of positive changes’ had taken place in Zimbabwe and cited the so-called miracle reduction of inflation from 231 million percent to just 1.1 percent as an example some of the positive changes that are not being highlighted.

He then noted that Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and international media have a tendency of reporting only negative news on Zimbabwe because, he quipped, ‘good news does not sell.’ It appears this is a generally held view among some international observers which I wish to address in greater detail here.

Well, I do not see how my grandmother in Bikita would take comfort in the miraculous reduction in inflation because she still does not have access to foreign currency. The switch-over to use of foreign currency which cured inflation in one stroke may be significant to political elites but certainly makes little difference to ordinary men and women in Zimbabwe who continue to suffer. It is like focusing on improving working conditions for those who are employed when 94 percent of Zimbabweans are unemployed!

Personally, and I am confident many other Zimbabweans share this view, I desperately desire to hold great hope and optimism that Zimbabwe’s future is bright and that political change has come. I want to be able to proudly tell the world that Zimbabwe is open and ready for business. I want to tell anyone who cares to listen that my country is a beacon of democracy and persuade investors to rush to Zimbabwe and do business with my countrymen.

It is my wish that l should tell the world that violence, human rights abuses, police brutality and repression belong to the past. Unfortunately, sadly, that would be untrue; I would be telling blatant lies if I were to lay claim to such things. Creating false hope and false images of change does not bring the desired change to Zimbabwe.

It appears to be that the desire to be ‘positive’ about Zimbabwe and project a positive image of Zimbabwe may have led some of our erstwhile colleagues who now occupy high political offices to massage the truth and polish the rough edges of reality in their presentation of the situation in Zimbabwe. All of a sudden, themselves victims a compromised and corrupt court system, because they are now part of government, they believe there is rule of law and that their colleagues who face various politically motivated charges must face trial by ‘impartial courts.’

One minister from the smaller MDC faction, when asked why farm violent farm invasions were continuing unabated responded, ‘government is broke, we do not have financial resources to deploy police to stop the invasions.’ Was this not precisely the same political excuse given by the police in 2000 when farm invasions began?

Clearly, but for reasons as yet unclear to me, many former advocates of rule of law and democracy who are now in government have become shameless liars quite ready and comfortable to sing from the same hymn book with those who once persecuted them.

Being frank and truthful about the minute changes that have taken place in Zimbabwe does not make one a pessimist. My great hope and optimism for Zimbabwe lies in the hope that there are many who will realize that the struggle for democracy and good governance does not end when one gets a seat at the high table; that is precisely when the struggle begins. Only the truth will set our leaders free, and, in the same vein, set us all free.

Dewa Mavhinga is a Zimbabwean human rights lawyer

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