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struggle for a free Zimbabwe: Whose freedom is it, anyway?
April 22, 2010
It is the morning after
Robert Mugabe's wasteful pomp and ceremony disguised as 'independence
celebration' when the music has died down, euphoria subsided and
the stately wine glasses are dry. ZANU-PF fat cats have retired
to their expropriated farms while their famished supporters ponder
over the source of the next free meal.
The Zimbabwean media,
as usual saw things differently. The ZANU-PF Herald, as expected,
is singing the praises of Mugabe, claiming he received a resounding
welcome at the citadel of celebrations, Harare's Chinese-built second
grade National Sports Stadium. In the rest of its editorials, there
is no reference to the fact that Zimbabweans have wasted thirty
years of their lives in search of true freedom. As with tradition,
The Herald sees no evil in Mugabe except portraying him as a victim
of 'illegal Western sanctions'; choosing to ignore that his party
is globally known as a purveyor of violence and merchant of death.
Thanks to advances in
technology, there is more objective news than The Herald can offer
in a lifetime. Mugabe's self-praises of freedom ring hollow when
one considers that thirty years on, his government presides over
some of the harshest media laws in the world. What this actually
means is the man has no morsel of a clue in the difference between
'freedom' and 'independence'. For a man who spent eleven years in
detention, he should know better. While in custody, he was independent
enough to do his own things - bath, eat, exercise and even study,
but he was not a free man. That is my point. I may be independent
from British colonial rule, but definitely not free from Mugabe's
fascist dictatorship, usually legitimized by, in addition to the
dysfunctional SADC, five-year fake elections.
Both ZANU-PF and fellow liberators ZAPU did most in bringing independence
to Zimbabwe, but Zimbabweans are still not free to assembly, associate
and express themselves. Journalists who work in the only three 'free'
newspapers - Standard, Independent and Zimbabwean - are routinely
arrested and intimidated. MDC and civil society still need police
permission to hold public meetings. Thirty years after 'independence',
there is only one state-controlled broadcaster in Zimbabwe. The
media graveyard is teeming with publications and broadcasters that
were bullied into closure by Mugabe's secret service. Those who
are brave enough to broadcast from abroad are branded pirates, as
if ZANU-PF owns the atmosphere. Show me the freedom, Mr. Mugabe!
In pursuit of more news,
I also come across pro-freedom activities by the restive Zimbabwean
Diaspora in England. Political activist Gabriel Shumba is then quoted
as having 'advised the Diaspora that there must be rule of law in
Zimbabwe before they could safely go home - so they would be free
from harassment, torture and intimidation. . . . . [He] said that
people could not go home to Zimbabwe to find the perpetrators of
the violence against them were still in place." My question:
if Mugabe has for the past thirty years subjected Zimbabwe citizens
to both independence and misery, whose responsibility is it to create
an environment "free from harassment, torture and intimidation"?
are that there are no less than a million 'productive' Zimbabwean
citizens in the Diaspora. The bulk of this number is in South Africa
and the United Kingdom. Ironically, only thirty thousand guerrillas
combined efforts with villagers to wage a war of political independence
between 1965 and 1979. The reality that should confront Mr. Shumba
and his fellow activists is that there is no freedom that will come
to Zimbabwe through lofty statements and wishful thinking. Harassment,
torture, violence and intimidation are being perpetrated by Mugabe
and ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, so this institution will remain intact
until someone in Zimbabwe participates in reversing the trend. And
who does Mr. Shumba assign that responsibility - to the elderly
parents that he and his fellow Diasporas left in Zimbabwe?
In many ways, this shows
the vast difference between pre-independence 'hands-on activism'
and Mr Shumba's post independence 'megaphone' liberation tactics.
Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe put together a system where fighters
actually crossed into Zimbabwe and motivated villagers to struggle
for their rights. I am not so sure how vigils and candles in London,
thirteen thousand kilometres away can possibly evict Mugabe from
state house on Seventh Street, Harare!
My humble submission
is that Zimbabweans should forfeit their luxury at Tottenham Court
road London, Bree street Johannesburg and come home to wage a sustainable
struggle for freedom on Seventh Street in Harare. Just like the
red shirts of Bangkok, we want to see clouds of tear gas and body
bags as Zimbabweans fight to reclaim their freedom from misguided
ZANU-PF zealots. There should be no illusion that freedom comes
cheap. We will have to be prepared to starve, get arrested and possibly
It is too late to start
blaming Morgan Tsvangirayi and Arthur Mutambara for 'defeating the
course of freedom in participating in the government of national
unity'. They only did what seemed to be right then. The forces of
emancipation have one foot in the chariot. Imagine how much critical
advantage the movement would have if Mr. Shumba and the other one
million citizens in the Diaspora directly confronted ZANU-PF this
year! Not even talking about mass demonstrations, just the ballot
box itself would give our thirty-year oppressors a fatal blow. It
is a fact that our country's weak commercial and industrial base
cannot absorb one million citizens all at once, but the longer Mr
Shumba and his colleagues play 'safe' vigil, the more difficult
it will be to unseat ZANU-PF. It is better to run the trenches on
empty stomachs for now in preparation for the good times in future.
Freedom is, after all not for so free.
Ngwenya is President of Harare-based Coalition for Liberal Market
Solutions and an affiliate of AfricanLiberty.org.
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