Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Zimbabwe…. an extremely unhappy nation
Like every other people, Zimbabweans aspire for happiness. Common names in every other family in this country include Farai, Thabani, Thabiso, Njabulo, Jabulani, Rufaro, Lovejoy, Everjoy, Mufaro, Tafadzwa, Tafara, Happiness and Smiling.
All these names denote a yearning for joy and happiness that is ingrained in the citizens of this country. In fact, in other countries, the pursuit of happiness is a rallying call that unites all citizens.
Zimbabweans are almost united on the sentiment that the era of the inclusive government managed to engender some semblance of happiness in this our troubled land.
The song ” Dollar for two Yakauya naTsvangirai” when Zimbabweans chorused that it was Morgan Tsvangirai who made basic services affordable is testimony to how Zimbabweans remember with nostalgia how the competent hand of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and team brought some respite in their lives.
In the final analysis, when happiness engulfs a country and its people, it goes beyond the kitchen where affordable food is cooked and prepared. It permeates to all rooms and sectors to spawn an unprecedented era of both production and reproduction.
Among my own immediate family, we last saw sets of twins during that happy era of the inclusive government. That is when Tinotenda and Tinovonga as well as Angela and Angel were added into the family.
But that’s a long gone era. All we can do now is to reminisce. Happiness is more than sensual pleasure. It is a state of mind. Today, the country is saddled with huge challenges and the lot of Zimbabweans are an unhappy people.
It therefore came as no surprise last week when Zimbabwe was ranked number 145 out of 146 on the happiness index, only above Afghanistan. The World Happiness Index Survey was done by Gallup poll ahead of the UN-designated International Day of World Happiness.
As a concept, happiness is multi-dimensional but the pollsters looked at several categories including gross domestic per capita, social safety nets, life expectancy, freedom to make choices, generosity of the population and perception of internal and external corruption levels, among other factors.
Students of political science will recall that putting a premium on happiness has been with us for ages. It is an integral part of the political theory called utilitarianism, a political school of thought that emerged around 1786.
Utilitarianism is a theory of morality and politics that prescribes actions that maximise happiness and the well-being of the people. Utilitarianism is consequentialist, which means it emphasizes ends over means, the end being happiness.
One of the well-known utilitarian theorists was Jeremy Bentham, who coined the phrase the greatest happiness to the greatest number.
The utilitarians introduced the notion of a felicific calculus because they believed happiness could be measured, which is why happiness continues to be measured to this very day.
Utilitarianism had its own fair share of critics who argued that happiness was a qualitative concept that could neither be measured nor quantified.
As a political theory, utilitarianism has its origins in the philosophy propounded by a Greek philosopher called Epicurus who believed that happiness was the ultimate human pursuit.
For Epicurus, the elements of happiness included tranquility, freedom from fear ( ataraxia ) and freedom from pain ( aponia ). Given the State-sanctioned violence that continues to reign in our country and has caused massive pain and fear among the populace, Zimbabwe remains an unhappy nation even by the antiquated standards set out by Epicurus several centuries ago.
Recalling happiness — Mnangagwa’s legacy
Mnangagwa will go down in history among those characters who squandered the goodwill initially accorded them by others. After the atrocious years under former President Robert Mugabe, under whom Zimbabweans knew nothing except unhappiness especially in his latter years, everyone thought nobody could be worse than the old dictator from Zvimba.
But it turns out the coup in November 2017 was also a putsch of whatever remnants of happiness were left after the tenuous years of Robert Mugabe.
The recent report of Zimbabweans being among the most unhappy people in the world come as no surprise. Indeed, unhappiness has engulfed every sector. The teachers are not happy. The doctors and nurses are not happy.
The rest of the civil service, including our uniformed forces, are not happy. The war veterans are not happy. The ordinary citizens are not happy. The pensioners are not happy. The villagers in the countryside are not happy. Informal traders are not happy. And we are all unhappy that we are unhappy.
The only happy people are the few at the very apex of the Zanu PF echelons and their oligarchs who include one Kuda Tagwireyi. The rank-and-file in Zanu PF is not happy in their lived like the rest of us, moreso after the results of the recent by-elections were announced.
Even the renowned sellouts and turncoats are not happy. Only last week, Morgan Komichi was lamenting his salary as a Senator, telling anyone who cared to listen that they would cry if they saw his pay-slip. It was ironic that after leading a crusade to recall duly elected MPs and councillors, Komichi and his colleagues have had their own happiness recalled by their political masters.
Perhaps we expected too much from Mnangagwa. Dambudzo is a Shona word which refers to that which makes people suffer. It would be trite to expect someone whose name literally means the cause of suffering to engender any form of happiness in the country. Literally and figuratively, Dambudzo and happiness will always be mutually exclusive.
Under ED’s so-called New Dispensation, we have plunged far below the happiness datum line. This is evidenced by the fact that high blood pressure and stress-related ailments have overwhelmed our equally ailing health institutions.
It is not uncommon to find or meet up with someone engaging in a loud monologue as they ponder about this or that problem. On Sunday, we will join the rest of the world in commemorating Workers Day, with the few remaining workers still at work heavily stressed by their grossly inadequate salaries.
Indeed, our happiness level has sunk to plumbing depths under Mr Mnangagwa.
No wonder we have officially become one of the saddest people on the planet!
Conclusion– Halting the Sadness
However, notwithstanding our now globally-acclaimed sadness, we are geared to halt our fast- increasing unhappiness. We in the CCC have done this before during our stint in government. For four years between 2009 and 2013, we gave Zimbabweans some happiness and a reason to hope again. 2023 is a crucial year and the citizens of this country are determined to be Happy Again , to borrow a lyrical verse from Winky D.
Chamisa is a Shona word which literally means that which stops something. Next year, he must—and he will–be able to halt this growing unhappiness on our land. The citizens of this country, including the rural people, are determined to support him in alleviating the national plight on the happiness front.
Our names are befitting on the happiness front. After all, the CCC rural champion is a determined cadre whose first name is Happymore (Chidziva). Fadzai is our communications champion.
As we stand on the cusp of a watershed plebiscite, we are definitely on the brink of happiness if we continue to make the huge statement we made on 26 March 2022. We have to register big and vote big. After all, these three little words; Citizens , Coalition and Change are running up in my nerves.
We can only be Happy Again next year.
Luke Tamborinyoka is a citizen from Domboshava and is the interim deputy champion for Presidential Affairs in the Citizens Coalition for Change ( CCC ). You can interact with him on his facebook page or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo.