The Zimbabwean Condition
It is as much an African condition as it is Zimbabwean: a whole population of people entangled in politics, economics and religion that give them an identity they love and hate. None of it is good, and very few have a clear picture of what it really is. Zimbabwe is a war tone country, yet it looks very peaceful. It is a country with beautiful people with smiles that will bless your soul, you just don’t have to give your opinion. A whole century of oppression from the colonial power Great Britain has left a system of oppression even amongst Zimbabweans themselves. If anything, independence from colonial rule was a ticking time bomb made to blow up in the faces of a hopeful generation that looked forward to freedom and prosperity only to find the gates of hell open before their eyes. The Zimbabwean condition is a disease that eats on the identity of almost every Zimbabwean. It takes different forms and never adds up. Walking down the streets of Harare you are sure to see the chaos and hopelessness of a generation that has been cursed with the country’s nationality. You are sure to find newspapers lad with political affairs that have to do with those in power more than the masses. On every corner is a stand with a vendor who is looking for his or her second dollar hoping for two more days to break even. A traffic policeman is going to be looking for faults at cars in the parking lot, road blocks will even be worse. Mini buses with no regard for road rules will follow you up even to the most remote corner, so that they pack you up like day old chicks and make half a dollar out of every one of you. You are probably going to find a Christian street preacher telling you how to live your life while he does not know the simplest thing about his. Next to this street preacher is a poster with a self-proclaimed Christian prophet who promises miracle money… ironically in a country with a liquidity crisis.
The Zimbabwean condition is far-fetched from the human condition. It is a circus as much as it is a freak show. There is so much wrong with the Zimbabwean society but everyone always looks in the wrong places when trying to figure that out. This piece exposes the reality of being Zimbabwean and facilitates for a clear understanding of problems that Zimbabwean people face. It explores the errors and misconceptions that has led the country to the rocks and accounts for most of the shuttered pieces.
Rule by the people
Zimbabwe is a democratic country in the literal sense; and this is one of the biggest problems. Democracy literary means majority rule, and from a simplistic perspective, this makes sense. It makes sense to most Zimbabweans and the president makes this a point every time he is challenged to account for failure. The philosopher Aristotle criticizes this idea of majority rule in his book The Republic, arguing that a nation is like a boat and its electorate is like rowers. If every citizen is entitled to a vote this will cause unskilled rowers to keep the boat in one place with zero progress; everyone rowing in their own direction. Most developed countries have reformed their democracies to avoid this sort of poor governance. In its most recent context, democracy means maximum participation rather than majority rule. Most developed countries today are parliamentary democracies rather than presidential democracies. Think of the majority as a mob that gives in not to reason but sensationalism. This is basically the picture you get to see at political rallies. The politician could spew hate and if this hate relates to the mob’s prejudice, he would get massive approval. That is what Zimbabwean democracy is; mob rule… a majority dictatorship. If the president says homosexual people are like dogs, and the rest of the mob is homophobic because they were indoctrinated with conservative Christian prejudices from childhood, it won’t matter that these homosexual people are Zimbabwean too, they will be persecuted. Minority rights are obviously neglected in a majority dictatorship and these include a lot of vulnerable groups like people in communal areas and women. Even intellects are a minority and when they come up with progressive ideas you get sweeping statements like, “Zimbabweans are Christians! Go back where you came from reading your western books!” As long as we have mob rule, it’s always going to be sensationalism over reason. Zimbabweans need to reform their political system, maybe get a parliamentary system where the electorate is not just any citizen but qualified people representing every demographic equally.
The us against them mentality
There are no intelligent economic or political debates in Zimbabwe. Political parties are very cynical of each other’s ideas and are not willing to learn from each other. Every newspaper talks about factionalism and attacks politicians make on each other rather than progressive debates that inform people’s opinions. This attitude even follows the politicians to the parliament where progressive discussions should be held. Opposition members of parliament are always trying to sabotage progressive initiatives by the ruling party while those in power are not willing to take pointers from the opposition.
The Zimbabwean Curse
Very few people want to be Zimbabwean; most people are ashamed of this nationality. Some people go as far as to go to dubious prophets in order to denounce their totems and Zimbabwean ancestry claiming it is cursed. I have read a book by a famous Zimbabwean prophet claiming Mbuya Nehanda (a spirit medium who is a national icon for standing against the white settlers in the 1890’s) is an evil spirit. This lack of national pride results in very little effort by the general public in aiding the national cause. Very few people are concerned with building the economy; most of them are probably at a church intensifying their self-loathe and increasing the South African or Mozambican GDP after church with no regards for liquidity crisis in a country with a government that is importing American dollars. Success for an average Zimbabwean is going to work in South Africa or abroad.
Zimbabweans have one of the lowest civic awareness rates in the world. The average Zimbabwean has never read the constitution. As a result, the country has one of the highest human rights abuse records in the world. A lot of Zimbabweans believe it is okay for corruption levels to be the way they are and the police or the government to abuse them the way they do.
It is important to remind the average Zimbabwean what it is like to be human. The Zimbabwean condition is a tragedy that reminds us all how easily we can forget about the value of our lives. Zimbabwe along with many African countries need conversations like this, so they realize where it is they are and map their way forward.