By Tafi Mhaka
I had a few high school colleagues who were orphans and never really knew what to say to them about family. And I wondered why no one wanted to look after them and imagined a childhood spent in a foster home must have been terrible.
I thought about the women who dumped small babies in thick bushes and foul-smelling bathrooms and shivered with anger, disgust and disbelief. I thought about the defenceless babies who survived after they had been dumped in appalling conditions and thanked God for saving them.
And I cursed the selfish and reckless men who conceived children and refused to feed, clothe, accommodate and love them. I cursed the ways of this punishing world.
This is why I like Pastor Evan Mawarire and appreciate his documented struggles, hard won fame and successes: he took a robust and humanitarian stand against Gushungo when resistance to the former strongman had waned to ceaseless and directionless inaction and seemingly avoided dabbling in shady prophecies and staged miracles for the love of evangelical wealth.
Pastor Mawarire channelled his inner Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and accumulated sufficient biblical conviction and resolve to found #ThisFlag and dream of a simple life where the provision of basic needs – access to work, cash, clean water, food, electricity, healthcare and love – would be smooth.
He visited Gwanda on a humanitarian mission once and helped disadvantaged children with diapers. (And he shot a short video about this.)
Watching Pastor Mawarire emphasising the plight of young and vulnerable children who were dumped at a hospital in Gwanda and wilfully relegated to an unenviable lifetime of arranged orphanhood, I questioned whether the establishment of POVO would ruin his sanctified destiny.
I have looked at the WhatsApp videos Pastor Mawarire shared again and again and noted the observations which he highlighted then – vast joblessness, government insensitivity and inefficiency, extensive power-hungry madness, shocking poverty – and wondered: how can the struggle be over?
I remember the hellish ordeal he experienced – including official harassment and detention and standing up to a suspicious populace which labelled him a CIO operative, a Zanu-PF electoral project, a one-man NGO seeking a US Visa and donor funds – and think: will Zimbabwe really change when leaders like Mawarire, social and political campaigners who should be at the forefront of policing our democracy, downgrade themselves to assuming periphery roles?
And how will Zimbabwe rate higher than 124/137 countries on the WEF Global Competitiveness Index in September when economic and political fundamentals have hardly changed since Ngwena replaced Gushungo on November 24, 2017?
While the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra makes for excellent PR and appetising social media bravado, the world has moved on since economic and social commotion developed into an obstinate way of life under Gushungo way back in 1999, and conservative, wary and tight-fisted investors will head to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia before investing one US dollar in Zimbabwe because our democratic institutions and standards remain seemingly weak and subject to whimsical and individual influences on (and from) both ends of the political spectrum.
(Which is why Pastor Mawarire must dream on and on.)
Yet that dream has been reduced to an electoral campaign for a Harare council seat. But how much influence can a Harare councillor have on abandoned orphans in Gwanda and unemployed women and youths in Murehwa and Kamativi?
This independent movement Pastor Mawarire founded is much greater than a local council seat. Like Dr King, a humble man who never declared himself a leader of African-American people, a man who found enormous strengthen, determination and evangelical fulfilment through waging humanitarian struggles during the civil rights era in the US, Pastor Mawarire should not shy away from confronting social and economic injustices on a wide and continuous scale and ensuing a truthful destiny which is worlds apart from the awful schisms dividing both MDC-T and Zanu-PF.
That’s because Pastor Mawarire didn’t pick a fight with Gushungo alone: he picked a tough and lengthy war with entrenched inequalities that infringe on basic social and economic guarantees; and that’s why orphans in Masvingo, Mutare and Mount Darwin need his assistance as well; and that is why Gushungo picked on Pastor Mawarire in September 24, 2016, and called him “a great shame”.
Gushungo preached a similar message while he fought colonialism in the 1970s; so back in 2016, Gushungo understood how much impact independent-minded civil action could have on our national discourse; and he recognised how Pastor Mawarire could (and still can) deliver a universal message of political truth, economic justice and shared opportunity.
So I believe that God led Pastor Mawarire to a hospital in Gwanda for a reason: the downtrodden and abandoned among us – the forgotten little ones: the hungry and deprived orphans, and the defeated masses – the underprivileged povo without a voice, need his assistance and guidance on a national scale.
For, how can Pastor Mawarire possibly narrow his sacred view of the world to Ward 17 in Harare?
That wouldn’t be the man who raised the flag high and inspired millions of struggling dreamers throughout the land.
(No, that would never be.)
Why would the man who started a powerful movement for us all and raised #ThisFlag very high, turn around and dump his beautiful ‘baby’ in the wild?