38 years after Independence, I choose to hope

18 April 1980 looked like one big party. In fact, from the video footage that’s played on repeat as Independence Day draws closer, 1980 in general looked like one big party. It’s understandable: after almost a century of colonial rule and war, majority rule was reality. Even Bob Marley came to celebrate with us! Which other country can say that the reggae legend penned and performed a whole song for them?

I often wonder about the people captured in those videos. Their carefree smiles, the way they walked down the street in confidence – streets that they weren’t able to walk down before. What happened to them? When did that exuberance become despair, anger, then resignation? After all, they’re the generation that witnessed everything: Ian Smith’s government, the Second Chimurenga, Independence Day, then the slow descent into the Zimbabwe of 2018.

It’s painful to watch those videos from 1980, seeing such hope for a brighter future, only to arrive at that future and find their dreams turn to dust.

As a country, we’ve been through the highs and the lows. Colonisation. Oppressive racial rule. Struggle. Liberation. Freedom. Black empowerment. Censorship. Fear. No money. No jobs. It’s painful to watch those videos from 1980, seeing such hope for a brighter future, only to arrive at that future and find their dreams turn to dust.

Daring to hope

But here’s the funny thing about hope: it’s incredibly difficult to shake off. Even when there seem to be no prospects on the horizon, hope sneaks up on you and takes hold. And so even now, after over 20 years of countrywide decline, I have hope. I have hope because I think of the people in those videos. They were young, in their 20s – just like I am. They’d hoped and prayed for a day where freedom would come. At times it must have felt like it would never come. They were fighting against near impossible odds, against a system that resisted change. They were fighting to reclaim their future and the opportunity to build a life for themselves in their country.

Sound familiar?

Hope assures me that this is not the only Zimbabwe I will ever know

They had hope, and on 18 April 1980, their hopes were realised. It was not an easy or short journey to Independence, but it happened. So I have hope and faith that one day, Zimbabwe will get back on its feet. Hope is powerful because it’s a rejection of present circumstances. It lets you look beyond the despair of the present and envision a better reality. Hope assures me that this is not the only Zimbabwe I will ever know. That’s what Independence Day should symbolise: not grandstanding or political rhetoric, but a validation and realisation of hope. Because if no one back then had hope that independence from colonial rule would become reality, where would Zimbabwe be now?

Header image sourced from John Mauluka

Photos in collage sourced from NewZimbabawe and Stan Winer.

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Why the diaspora vote matters

I have relatives living and working outside Zimbabwe. Some have moved fairly recently after securing work permits. Others have been away from home for over a decade. They visit when they can, sending gifts and money when they can’t.

My family is by no means the exception. Exact figures are hard to come by, but estimates suggest that there are approximately four million Zimbabweans living and working outside the country. They live, work and study mainly in South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Botswana and Australia. The departure of so many Zimbabweans – an exodus accelerated by economic deterioration – affected all aspects of society. Grandparents have watched their grandchildren grow up through Whatsapp massages and phone calls. Spouses have lived countries apart, grieving children and parents unable to repatriate the bodies of their loved ones. People in the diaspora have supported families, built homes, helped start businesses and provided much needed financial relief for the people they left at home.

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 Zimbabwean celebrities and social media 

It was a live Facebook video that sparked a frenzy of tweets, speculation and subsequently, a live interview between Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa and musician Stunner. The issue in question was certainly not something new to society: infidelity is a problem as old as time itself. What made it different this time was a combination of accessibility to social media and a heightened interest in the private lives of celebrities and public figures.

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This is NOT normal

In a few short hours, bond notes are going to be on the streets. After months of citizens campaigning against their introduction. After pleas for the Reserve Bank and the government to try anything, ANYTHING, other than both notes. After the people of Zimbabwe have gone blue in the face saying that under no circumstances do we want bond notes. Yes, despite all this, our calls went unheeded. Bond notes shall reign supreme at our expense.

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#ThisFlag and student activism

Student activism in Zimbabwe is not a new phenomenon. Starting during the Second Chimurenga, student activism continued after the Independence, with student protests of note in the 1990s and early 2000s.

By nature, universities encourage young bright minds to see the realities of their society. As a student, you are being prepared to enter the wide world, and you’re told to go out there and make a change, to serve the greater good, to be the difference. That impetus to make your mark, coupled with the tenacity of youth, means that students have created their own form of activism, a mix of protest action and intellectual debate, which pushes for immediate change while laying foundation for long-lasting reform.

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What is a hero?

Heroes Day is upon us once again. A day meant to honour the men and women who died fighting for an independent Zimbabwe, it serves as one of the reminders of a long and painful liberation struggle.

I hear stories of young men and women, still in school uniforms, leaving their institutions of learning to run into the bushes and pick up arms. Of ordinary citizens, teachers and nurses and farmers, who sheltered guerrilla fighters on the run from Rhodesian forces. Of those who crossed the border into foreign countries to train and learn. The image of Heroes Acre comes to mind, the statue of three soldiers standing in proud defiance, weapons and flag in hand, ready to give it all to free their people.

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To Acie Lumumba:

Dear Mr. Lumumba,

I debated on whether or not to write this letter. Most people have written you off as a non-entity, and in fact your celebrity has diminished over the past few weeks. Still, I think it’s important to let you know how I feel. As someone claiming to stand for and represent young Zimbabweans, it’s only fair that I, as a young Zimbabwean, give my opinion.

Unlike many, many, many people, I think you have potential. In a political sphere dominated by people aged 50 and over, it’s refreshing to have someone closer to my age and experiences. However, I understand why you rub people the wrong way. You’ve rubbed me the wrong way. You proclaim yourself as the “political maverick of this generation” – a  bold statement that makes you come across as vain. You’re pompous. You’re condescending. You’re arrogant. Cockiness and confidence in politics is not a bad thing, but the truth is that you haven’t done anything to back up your claims. Learn to humble yourself. The title ‘political maverick’ is not given or taken, it is earned. 

Talk less, listen more. I was one of many people that tuned into that disaster of an interview with Ruvheneko on ZiFM. You were unwilling to engage on even the smallest things – I remember Ruvheneko asking you a series of true/false questions, with you insisting on replying yes or no. It seems small and inconsequential, but how can you even begin to start talking about the big things when you can’t even engage with other people on the little things? How do you expect to win us over when you talk down to people, instead of conversing with them?

It’s understandable to have such a reaction when you feel as if you’re being attacked – I too respond defensively when asked personal questions. However, I’m not the politician here, you are. You can’t keep losing your cool when someone asks you pointed questions. Bear in mind, these are the questions we’ve also asked ourselves about you and your intentions. Don’t be afraid to answer tough questions, and learn to maintain your professionalism when answering.

You started a political party, even though you previously insisted that you wouldn’t. Good for you. I don’t know anything about this new party, and to be honest I don’t really care that much. Living in Zimbabwe has taught me not to raise my hopes too high, to resign myself to a cycle of dashed dreams and despondency. However, I will congratulate you for what you’re trying to do. Just do it right.

Zimbabwean youth are some of the most disadvantaged people in our country. We make up over a third of the population, yet we have nothing to aspire to. No jobs. No future, at least not in Zimbabwe. A life of hollow promises and frustration, watching the best days of our lives wasting away because of a system that’s failing us. If you’re that concerned about us and our future, then put aside your ego and focus on the people you claim to fight for. So stop talking. Start doing. I’m one of the few people that actually believes that you could make a change, but you will not achieve anything if you don’t change yourself.

I don’t expect a response to this letter. I don’t want one. I wanted to tell you how I feel, and that’s what I’ve done. I’ll leave you with this: do better Mr. Lumumba. Be better.

Regards,

A tired, frustrated, Zimbabwean youth.