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Response to Chihuri – Zimbabweans Without Borders

Zimbabweans Without Borders (ZWB), a movement of Zimbabweans based in the diaspora focused on supporting citizens’ efforts to bring about a human rights respecting society and a legitimate, tolerant and just political dispensation in Zimbabwe, has noted the statements made by the Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Augustine Chihuri.

Police chief Augustine Chihuri
Police chief Augustine Chihuri

According to the Commissioner, Zimbabweans in the diaspora are poor, desperate and disparate people who are responsible for the unrest in Zimbabwe. Press reports cite him as saying:

“If the situation was greener in the Diaspora, people there wouldn’t be complaining, I am telling you. They are complaining because the situation there is tough. Why, if it is all that rosy where they are.. should they be talking about where they are not? You got a chance. You’re there (so) why do you complain about what’s happening here? It’s a clear indication that the situation is tough.”

ZWB would like to note the following truths:

  1. Being in the diaspora for the vast majority of Zimbabweans was not a choice, but was a circumstance directly or indirectly forced on patriotic Zimbabweans by the actions of the Robert Mugabe regime. Many people fled the country because state security agents routinely targeted known and perceived supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and subjected them to cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment. The social media has recently released a plethora of current, credible, unedited and clear video evidence of the police force routinely beating and harming defenceless individuals whose only crime appears to be ‘being in Zimbabwe without Zanu PF connections’.
  1. As a largely Christian nation, we are aware from the Bible that Balaam and his donkey were used by God to speak truths to the Israelites. It is heartening to note that God has remembered the people of Zimbabwe, and is using the mouth of repression to speak truths. For indeed, did the Psalmist not ask, while sitting by the green pastures of the Euphrates and Tigris delta, “How can I sing the songs of the LORD in a foreign land?” The diaspora will never be green pastures because it is not home. We can drive the latest cars, we can send our children to well-provisioned  schools, we can send money to help relatives back home, we can go to free hospitals where there is no shortage of medicines, and send our children to free universities, access mortgages and loans to build houses and start businesses, but when we say ‘home’, it will always be the Mugabe-ravaged country of Zimbabwe that we mean. That Commissioner Chihuri recognises our patriotism and lasting connection with Zimbabwe is evidence that he validates the old adage “mudzimu weshiri uri mudendere. He and his boss might have forced us out of our country, but we retain a lasting bond that will not be detached by their very best efforts.
  1. It is puzzling that Commissioner Chihuri should refer to going to the diaspora as ‘getting a chance’. Where was the chance? Having to flee your home, family and friends to save your life is not ‘getting a chance’. Being forced to either use your university degree to sell tomatoes in the street or take a job abroad to feed your family is not ‘getting a chance’. Being forced to endure a five year cyclical routine of assaults, intimidation and stolen elections or live in peace away from home is not ‘getting a chance’. Being forced to choose between poverty and hunger and family stagnation and a chance to send your children to a hospital that actually has medicines and school with teachers that actually get paid to teach is not ‘getting a chance’. The implication behind those words, that leaving Zimbabwe was somehow a choice, is symptomatic of the hubris that has so afflicted out political class that they do not see what harm they have done to the country that we all love.
  1. The idea that Zimbabweans who are not in Zimbabwe should not worry about what is happening in Zimbabwe would be perverse under any circumstances, but more-so when they come from someone that also once left the country to go to the diaspora and seek to change the situation at home. While Commissioner Chihuri suffered the ignominy of being incarcerated underground by the very person he now serves, he must not think that we are all going to make the choices he then made. He might have figured that if he could not defeat the forces of repression then he should join them, but that is not a philosophy we share. Those is the diaspora are concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe and verily believe that the current injustice and repression will be defeated. The coalescence of democratic forces together, as evidenced by the solidarity shown by the citizens movements such as #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka, or the solidarity march between the MDC and the Zimbabwe People First that painted Gweru in a sea of red and white over the last few days, shows that the end for our suffering is near. That the diaspora should be interested in what is going on and support it is evidence that these movements enjoy the support of all Zimbabweans at home and abroad.
  1. It is moronic to make such claims anyway. Itai Dzamara was not in the diaspora when he was abducted by members of Commissioner Chihuri’s police force, never to be seen again. Linda Masarira is not a diasporan complaining about poverty abroad. Countless Zimbabweans murdered since Gukurahundi until now, heroes all, were not in the diaspora when they were targeted by the security services. The thousands of Zimbabweans that congregated at Rotten Row for the bail hearing of Evan Mawarire were not from the diaspora, but Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe. The citizens’ movements getting people together in Harare, Bulawayo and other cities are not in the diaspora. The people that Commissioner Chihuri’s police rob at gunpoint at each and every roadblock on the roads are not in the diaspora. While the diaspora supports these efforts, the Commissioner should refrain from making patronising statements that seek to demean the efforts of the people of Zimbabwe.
  1. ZWB embraces all Zimbabweans, who want to see a just and tolerant society in our country. That means eschewing the ‘if you are not with us you must be with them’ culture that has tainted our politics. It also means that public officials like the Commissioner must not allow their offices to be besmirched with partisan politics. Instead, ZWB calls on all public officials to respect the people, as their position as employees in the ‘public service’ Serving everyone, irrespective of their political affiliation, requires a respect for the rule of law and the dignity of the person. Zimbabweans, both in Zimbabwe and outside of Zimbabwe, are constitutionally guaranteed rights, including the right to political participation. If those in the diaspora choose to do so, they are but exercising those rights, and should not be discouraged from doing so. Instead of trying to divide our people into those at home and those in the diaspora, those for this party and those for the other, we should as a society be affirming the ties that bind us together first and foremost. And there is no firmer tie than the umbilical cord that ties us to the country of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe inyika yedu, yilizwe lethi lathi.

While Commissioner Chihuri might have meant his words for ill, we are taking them as a positive affirmation that the efforts by organisations such as ZWB and others in the diaspora to support the citizens protest movements at home are getting the attention of the regime. An elephant does not balk at the squeaking noise made by a fleeing rabbit. That Commissioner Chihuri has noticed the efforts by the diaspora is evidence that far from being futile, the work by those in the diaspora is having an effect. The diaspora has power to push together  with those at home. We will not stop. One does not stop shaking the nyii tree until all the ripe one are on the ground, and this fruit tree is ripe for the shaking.

Zimbabwe belongs to all Zimbabweans

Zimbabweans Without Borders