By Hopewell Chin’ono
When you hear a political elite jumping up and down with the word “Patriotism” whilst discussing Zimbabwean politics, wotoziva kuti hapana zviri kutaurwa (that is a sure sign that they have lost the argument).
I have NEVER met any sane human being who hates his or her own country or place of birth.
Citizens and patriots don’t hate their countries, they hate what is being done to them and unfortunately the people destroying these countries invoke Patriotism as a bulwark for legitimate political and economic criticism or discourse!
Patriotism is not a preserve of one political party or a specific group of people, it is a universal virtue found in people across the political party divide.
So let us stick to substance and not hiding behind things that we are not even fit to invoke because of our well-recorded history of putting self-interest before the country, and the weak and vulnerable citizens.
I have seen loads of conversations I am tagged in on social media where people are talking about Patriotism or lack of it and in most cases misplacing the definition of the word in pursuit of narrow and parochial desired outcomes meant to camouflage corruption by political elites.
Patriotism is one of the most misused words in the history of Zimbabwe’s postcolonial years, and especially by our ZANUPF friends and their surrogates who feed through them at the trough using the state.
Critically looking at issues is not unpatriotic, that is what any responsible and sane citizen should be doing, and we should also teach and inculcate that value system in our children in order to preserve the country for future generations.
What is unpatriotic is screwing up villagers by taking their cattle (US Dollar) in exchange for goats (Bond Notes), and then calling that patriotism whilst lapping up the politicians and their surrogates who are living off the fat of the broken back bones of grandmothers and the weak and vulnerable across Zimbabwe’s villages.
Do these folks who ridiculously invoke Patriotism in defence of what the central bank did to us have an idea of what the RBZ and government actually did to the ordinary Zimbabwean citizen?
Do they understand the human cost of the millions of dollars lost and stolen from people’s savings accounts resulting in kids losing their right to attending schools due to lack of school fees?
Do they understand that this has happened not once but twice inside ten years by the same government and the same central bank?
We deposited US Dollars in our bank accounts and we were told that our US Dollars were now called Bond Notes, and that they have parity to the greenback.
We were told not to worry because they were only an export incentive accessory, initially we had coins supposedly only meant for change, tasting the waters I guess.
We were then told that we should be content with the Bond Note because its parity to the US Dollar had been guaranteed by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
Today we now know that the bond is only worth a quarter of its original value, and that is what some political charlatans want to call patriotism?!
We have one of the most corrupt central banks in the history of our country, and some folks think pointing that reality out is unpatriotic, such foolishness which assumes that the citizen is deaf dumb and blind to what is happening to them and heir savings.
The same central bank governor who is in charge today, John Mangudya told us in 2016 that he would resign if his Bond Note trick didn’t work, so much about honesty and integrity, the very bedrock of banking.
George Charamba the President’s spokesman recently came out swinging and bellowed that Mangudya was not only staying, but also that he was having his contract extended. Patriotism?
Let us respect each other’s intellect compatriots because we are not at a village funeral fire where you can lie to your 75-year-old grandfather about what is happening in the city and expect him to believe hook liner and sinker.
We have become too conditioned to being lied to such that we now see the messenger as unpatriotic instead of interrogating what is being said in that message.
We accuse those who chose to think straight and interrogate issues of being pawns of the West, in order to silence them because their message is uncomfortable and an inconvenient truth to what we are doing to the country and its citizens.
I read a conversation on Facebook today where a young Zimbabwean Oxford graduate was being labeled unpatriotic and bullied for pointing out these realities that are self-evident!
Anyone who thinks that grand theft is patriotic needs to pay a visit to a good psychiatrist and have his or her mind checked.
Corruption, theft and embezzlement are not the hallmark of patriotism, they define what is rotten with our political system and they also speak about how UNPATRIOTIC anyone taking part in such charlatanry is.
These evils define a catastrophic failure of our humanity and reflect an inability to show empathy and compassion to our vulnerable compatriots who pay the ultimate price of going without the bare necessities like health care leading to millions of them dying unnecessarily.
The merchants of such suffering are not patriots by any stretch of any imagination, even a warped one.
They are incompetent and corrupt demagogues who misuse the word Patriotism to mask their graft and disastrous acts of stripping the state and the country for personal gain.
You see, Robert Mugabe and ZANUPF perfected the patronage system such that anyone looking for a job or favors will suck up to this dross, where anything suddenly becomes Patriotic in order to cover up governance failures, corruption, nepotism and straight forward theft.
What is patriotic about stealing our savings whilst buying million dollar rings and buying mansions in South Africa and Dubai!
That is theft and there is nothing Patriotic about that, so next time someone wants to misuse that word for partisan or any such foolish reason, stand your ground.
So PLEASE I beg, avoid misusing this word on my social media timelines in defense of a decadent political culture.
If you and I had done what the central bank of Zimbabwe has done in conjunction with the government to our savings, we would be in jail for a very long time.
We have many amongst us who want to partake in this grand theft, please do so if you chose to, but not deceitfully do it in our name using Patriotism as a cover, history will judge you correctly and accordingly as accessories to theft and national suffering!
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker.
He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.
He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.
Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.
The recently departed music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi wrote the sound track for State of Mind.
It was recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France. You can watch the documentary trailer below.