By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
That great South African griot and people’s poet, Mzwakhe Mbuli asks, in one of his poignant songs Lusaka, a simple question: Who, is in Lusaka? Lusaka was the headquarters of the ANC in exile.
It was represented by those residing there to the masses at home as exile, but in fact, the people in Lusaka lived lives of luxury compared to their suffering brothers and sisters back home. Yet, they pretended to know it all, they had all the ideas, they had all the answers.
Mzwakhe asks if Rambo is in Lusaka. Or Django. Or Tarzan. Because everyone had been to Lusaka. African leaders had been to Lusaka. Church leaders had been to Lusaka. Student leaders had been to Lusaka. World leaders had been to Lusaka. Mzwakhe had been to Zambia. He had seen Kenneth Kaunda. He had seen some Zambians. But he had not seen Lusaka. That Lusaka.
The Lusaka of knowing it all. The Lusaka of those with the answers. Is Robben Island in Lusaka, he asks.
I have been to the diaspora. I have lived in different parts of the world, and I have experienced thinking that I knew everything in Zimbabwe. I had all the answers, all the solutions.
A story would hit the waves about this problem or that, this shortage or that, and I would have the answers “immediately”, like Mzwakhe says. I would know it all, and Chinamasa and them had nothing on me. Just like you see now how they treat Mthuli Ncube.
Except, I did not.
It took coming back to Zimbabwe, it took being told by Kuda Musasiwa “my brother, you need to be on the ground”, for me to realise that really really, the Zimbabwe paradox is not capable of diagnosing by remote control. You must be here to see it, to sift it in your hands, to get stuck in the muck, to know that yes, chinhu ichi chinevene, vanochiziva.
For all the pictures of Mazoe you can circulate while talking about how things have gone wrong at home, you are oblivious of the fact that the product is more available on the street and in tuckshops than in the shops that pay taxes and holiday pay.
That this is the country where you will come across a petrol attendant that tells you that they are only taking cash, then goes to “burn” the cash at the end of his shift and balances his books with payments by debit cards, pocketing the difference from selling cash.
Talking of selling cash, I will never forget the pain and anguish I saw in one of my relatives’ faces when I informed them that I had paid for everything that I wanted in US dollars on first coming back here, including even newspapers. Or that after someone paid me a few thousand dollars in cash, I had merely asked a ‘helpful’ boy to take it off me and replace it with Ecocash credit to my phone, which was easier to carry, but at parity.
When you are in the diaspora, you don’t know that for all the thousands of people you see in a “Crossover” photo, there are hundreds of combis that would have ferried them from all over the country. That everyone who could have come, came. That 5000 people in a photo shot from different angles can really look like “Nero ayenda nenyika”.
Or that when villagers are invited to come and fill up gullies (under the food for work program), it is usually ZanuPF members that go because those of the opposition say “ZanuPF yenyu yativurayira nyika now moda kutishandisa.”
That ZanuPF structures encourage their members to participate in these programs. That in order to make sure that their members are not forgotten when payment in the form of food comes, these structures write down names of those of their members who took part. That when names of those who actually showed up to fill up gullies are then called out to be given food, they are simply being paid for work done.
When you are in the diaspora, you call this “the politicisation of food aid”. You mobilise Amnesty International to issue urgent alerts, because how can people be given aid based on party affiliation, you ask. It seems unconscionable. Until you are on the ground.
Until you travel to drought stricken areas and see whole villages going to “maGullies” and you realise that no, this is just people being paid for what they did. And, because someone times that is only the shirt they have, ZanuPF regalia is everywhere. And you in the diaspora run to Twitter to say “See, the politicisation of aid programs!”
The prophets of doom and strife on social media, who never seem to run out of data, and are busy extolling vagaries of life in Zimbabwe, are largely not in Zimbabwe. They have not been on the ground. They do not know that the government has made a decision that it will not control prices. That the market yavaichemera is responsible for zvavavakuchemera.
If the market thinks that Mazoe is now worth RTGS 25.00 in Zimbabwe and R48.00 in South Africa, what is the government to do about that? Someone, somewhere, is controlling a cartel that has cornered supply and decided to create an opportunity. It is much like selling cash, where rates change each time you ask.
Many of our people are out of this prodigious land. Yes, many left because life was tough here. Or it was not safe to stay. Of because there was nothing for them here. Many want to come home.
But, the truth is that they do not know what is on the ground. They cannot tell us who should run the country, because they do not know our problems. It is like town people saying those in the rural areas should not have voted for ZanuPF. Why not? Have rural people ever said town people should not vote for MDC?
You need to be in a place to know what problems there are, what problems need solving. You need to be humble enough to accept that when you get snippets of what is happening at home, you get just that, snippets.
You need to be in a place to know who is there. You need to walk their road to know what they want, what is important to them. You need to know the safety net of filling “maGullies” to know that as long as the one who sends help keeps true, then you cannot turn around and say “don’t vote for ZanuPP because look at the price of fuel.” They don’t take combis to go kuma gullies.
They walk. That is who is kumusha. They know themselves. They know what they want. They are content with what they grow and eat, and the safety net of a government that never lets them starve. That, is who is kumusha. They know.
Who, is in the diaspora?
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a Harare based lawyer