Hopewell Chin’ono: My prison ordeal is small compared to the economic pain felt across Zimbabwe
By Hopewell Chin’ono
For spending 45 days in Chikurubi prison for merely tweeting about things that are protected and provided for in Zimbabwe’s constitution, most people whom I have talked to are angry and upset about it, and they rightly expect me to be angry and upset about it too!
However look at how much light my political persecution has brought to our struggle against LOOTING and bad governance!
This was a spectacular own goal by Mnangagwa’s regime, one that made the world see our political persecution like never before.
It made the world understand the LOOTING and corruption in Zimbabwe, and the insane levels of State political vindictiveness against critics of corruption and bad governance.
Circumstances conspired against our tormentors after the arrests, they tried to make it about their trumped-up-charges against us, but the world saw through the charade and it was having non-of-it, and even the High court decisions reinstating Beatrice Mtetwa prove this self-evident point.
In every struggle, there will be pain, something that many well-to-do Zimbabweans don’t want to carry or endure, yet we want freedom and emancipation from corruption and bad governance.
As I sat in my prison cell packed with real criminals at night, I thought of Nelson Mandela who stayed in an apartheid prison with hard labor for 27 years, what a sacrifice he made for the freedom of his country I always thought.
That is how I rationalized my own suffering whist at Chikurubi, I thought of Lookout Masuku and Dumiso Dabengwa who sat in the same prison for 6 years in illegal detention.
I told Job Sikhala and Jacob Ngarivhume to be ready to sit in there for as long as it took because that is the nature of brutal dictatorships the world over when they feel corners and have run out of ideas.
They resort to brute force and abuse of State institutions to punish legitimate critics, and that is what happened to myself.
I was ready to be in there for more than a year without trial, I told both men repeatedly.
Because I knew and understood that such suffering came with positive results to the broader struggle against corrupt rule, the looting of public funds and plunder of the nation’s resources as is happening in Zimbabwe.
There are petty and small minds within our midst which even to this very day mock us for being jailed and for fighting the good fight against corruption, those are insignificant historical nobodies should simply be ignored!
In any struggle, you will meet such unfortunate morally bankrupt human beings who sell their souls for pieces of silver, or simply hatred or a misplaced desire for relevance.
So whilst it was unfair for us to be jailed, look at what it brought to the struggle and how much the Zimbabwean fight against corruption gained global prominence for the 45 days we were in there and beyond.
Today I am not the person I was before I was wrongly jailed on the 20th of July.
The values I was and continue fighting for have had their global attention multiplied more than 100 times over, and the incompetence and corrupt nature of Mnangagwa’s regime and reign of political terror is today now known even in places like Vietnam because of these ill-thought-out arrests.
Acres of newspaper articles were generated in far places like India and Indonesia describing in detail the tragic rule of Mnangagwa’s regime thanks to his terrible advisors who are not only incompetent, but disconnected to the relatedness of global events.
In every kind broadcasts would start with “…a Zimbabwean journalist arrested,” and immediately after that, it was about the looting of the US$60 million Covid-19 fund, the names of the officials implicated, the firing of Obadiah Moyo and the unfairness of the legal processes, something that was vindicated in the High Court yesterday.
Who would advise their boss to go down such a ruinous path that destroys not only the country’s standing, but Mnangagwa’s personal reputation, and whatever is left of any legacy that those who are close to him want to preserve?
Our struggle could never have gotten so much “free” publicity that it continues to get to this very day due to these incompetent decisions by the regime, they God send.
So you should locate our suffering in prison in those logical and political lenses.
My 45 days of suffering, and another 17 days of baseless incarceration brought a huge amount of publicity to our cause, the fight against bad governance and corruption became globally pronounced.
Has the political opposition taken advantage of those State misadventures of arresting us to highlight the political issues of a desperate need for economic and political reform? That is for you to answer!!!
Calling Mnangagwa illegitimate is not enough, and it won’t do a meaningful political thing because he doesn’t care judging from his chosen pathway of pushing the middle finger to moral outrages!
Calling him illegitimate is also irrelevant because the whole world including the West recognize him as the president of Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa and his regime are failing not because they rigged elections as the opposition has argued, they are failing because they are a corrupt and an incompetent regime!
Our arrests prove that grand INCOMPETENCE because a regime with smart minds would not have done what they did!
That is why I am saying our arrests were cruel, but very strategic to our broader cause of fighting corruption and corrupt rule.
It was an own goal by the regime, one that a competent regime would not have done or made!
However the incompetence that is in the regime is also shared by the incompetence in the opposition.
It should worry any serious thinking citizen that a country like ours has an opposition that is only reactionary to the State, instead of also setting the pace and agenda for change!
ZANUPF will never suddenly change and become righteous, it requires the opposition to make the price of corruption high by constantly exposing it to the citizens with hard evidence as I have done!
In a normal country; the plain truth is that the State, the Mnangagwa regime should be charged with gross incompetence, corruption and fraudulent misrepresentation to the electorate of Zimbabwe.
Billions of dollars are looted yearly without trace, those are the issues that the opposition should be tackling daily and expressing in simple language to the electorate.
Does the grandmother in Gwanda know that it only costs US$50 million to run ALL of Zimbabwe’s hospitals?
Does she know that US$100 million worth of Gold is smuggled every month out of Zimbabwe by the ZANUPF elites and their sidekicks?
Does she know that US$1.2 billion dollars of that gold is smuggle every year?
Does she know that the gold alone that is being smuggled annually could run ALL of Zimbabwe’s central hospitals for 24 years without shortages? Whose job is it to educate her?
It is shameful how we have been treated by this regime, and all these attempts to quell the voices of reason and promoters of democracy and good governance will backfire politically on the Zimbabwean government, it is a matter of time.
But it requires a robust opposition for that change to come and for it to be meaningfully powerful enough to stop corruption!
The world wants a Zimbabwean government that respects human rights and the Rule of Law.
That is the only thing that will bring in a wave of international investors, not Mthuli Ncube’s lies and Mnangagwa’s corrupt rule and abuse of State institutions to punish his critics.
If the opposition misses this opportunity to press for that, then you can’t blame your oppressors, because they can only respond to the pressure that they are given in order to follow the right democratic and corrupt free path.
What happened to me and others was bad, but it should also be seen and taken as our personal sacrifice and contribution to a better Zimbabwe for all.
I have NO right to mourn about 45 + 17 days when nelson Mandela spent 27 years in jail, and still remained hopeful!
I was afraid of jail before I was arrested, I am not afraid of jail anymore because I have been there and more importantly, because my presence there always brings a global focal light to our struggles against corruption.
It is a sacrifice that even the opposition leaders should not be afraid to make and pay for if they are serious and genuine about their quest to free this country from the shackles of corrupt cartels, looters and plunderers.
A regime that is prepared to sit as if nothing is happening when public hospitals are shut down for 5 months and citizens are dying, will NEVER give up the privileges of corruption and bad governance without a strong opposition!
The regime was furious about me exposing it for its corrupt nature, it was so furious that it was prepared to create a world storm in an effort to stop me from exposing corruption and talking about it.
It became so confused that it called me gay, and then a womanizer in the same sentence.
It was so confused that it called me a Western puppet, and also a fugitive from Western justice in Britain in the same line.
That is how incompetent it is, yet it stands there looting with very little resistance from the political opposition.
Imagine what the efforts of a strong opposition would do if it existed, and how much the citizen would gain from such efforts against corruption and bad governance.
I have challenged the youths to fight for their future, but they can only do so when they are led.
Our society is so broken and disorganized that our youths now celebrate criminals who evade tax, the adore the proceeds of crime.
That is caused by lack of coherent leadership that can shape a better national mindset.
My prison ordeal is small compared to the economic pain felt across Zimbabwe.
May the leaders against corrupt rule, looting, plunder of the nation’s resources and more please stand up?
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning journalist who has been arrested twice in 2020 after exposing a huge Covid-19 looting scandal involving US$60 million which got Zimbabwe’s health minister fired.
He spent 45 and then 17 days as a political prisoner at Zimbabwe’s feared Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.