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Zim Civil Society needs to redefine itself

By Shingi Chimwaza

The sudden silence by the people of Zimbabwe in the face of prevailing man-made hardships, courtesy of bad governance, is a sure sign of a wrong turn of events in the struggle for democracy.

From left, the Coordinator of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition McDonald Lewanika, the Vice-Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Gideon Shoko and The Director of Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Abel Chikomo, seen during a press conference at the Residence Palace in Brussels, Friday June 12, 2009.
From left, the then Coordinator of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition McDonald Lewanika, the Vice-Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Gideon Shoko and The Director of Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Abel Chikomo, seen during a press conference at the Residence Palace in Brussels, Friday June 12, 2009. (Pic by AP)

The silence by the people is stupidly perceived as “victory” by those who are guilty of committing their energies on relentless crusades to trample on the most basic human rights in a supposedly new Zimbabwe.

The madness continues as they deliberately misinterpret the silence and attempt to sell a notion about “the ruled, in a damascene experience falling back in love with the rulers!”.

How does it happen without any positive changes to what led to the fallout between the ruled and the rulers in the first place? The answer is, It is cheap propaganda, feeding on the gains of years of an intense investment in the “necessary” tools of repression.

It is not hear-say that Zimbabweans now seem uninterested in what they should jealously guard by all their mighty; freedom and democracy. The rulers continue to undermine the very fundamental items that led to the picking of arms with an entire nation then, in unison committing its energy towards a protracted liberation struggle.

The people have lost their voices to such extents that if for example, one does not have electricity in his household, he is mocked by kith and kin for failing to “juice up” and nothing said about the government which has presided on an economy with 10% employment.

Civil Society has not helped matters at all, as they seem “defeated” together with the MDC at the last election. Civil society ,in the first place, is supposed to stand by its founding principles and be seen not to sway, due to any political carrot but cleverly work to avoid the stick!

The point here is that, civil society should have their radar set back to the future and rebuild whatever is lost in the people. It has to start with the seemingly unimportant things, like people just regrouping in their burial societies, residents associations, women’s clubs, men’s meetings (padare) and all the previously priceless forums providing the environment for information and ideas exchange!

When people meet in our Zimbabwean culture, the first thing is they ask after each other’s health and by doing that again it would mark the rekindling of the fundamental discussion of our welfare as a nation!

This should not be a difficult task because civil society will not be grouping people of a specific political persuasion, but merely facilitating the grouping of all people, for example women’s clubs and other such gatherings which we grew up knowing about but which suddenly vanished from our daily lives.

It is essential that for example as ZINASU meet in the near future for their congress, they stick to the issues that affect them as students and for now avoid the MDC, ZANU PF rhetoric.

If students’ concerns such as affordable tuition and healthcare take centre stage, they are guaranteed of an entire students’ body talking in one voice about issues concerning them without picking partisan labels.

Of-course their demands will be justified given the vast diamond discovery in the country and the ZMDC’s removal from the “infamous” sanction list.

Imagine women meeting at their knitting clubs and inevitably discussing about the power outages and how daddy has not known a hot meal in such a long time.

It may not be a knitting club in the literal sense for the sake of the changes in times but such other clubs with women doing what they want to do nowadays.

Such groups can lead to discussions of those “sensitive” issues that a group of ten MDC supporters can not dare talk about without a police clearance!

What Zimbabweans need is a creative leadership in Civil Society, to help them get back their voices in those small ways which can be put together to represent a whole picture of a nation and its aspirations.

The nation does not need civil society leaders like Paul Juru of NANGO who selfishly abandon the people’s struggle and sing from the same hymn as the people’s oppressor in anticipation of bread crumbs from the emperor’s feast table!

Shingi Chimwaza is from the Fletcher Summer Institute Alumni Network- A group under the International Centre for Non- Violent Conflict. He writes in his own capacity

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