“Here in prison, rage contained in my breast. I solemnly wait for the clouds to gather. Blown by the wind of history. No one can stop the rain.” (Agostinho Neto in his book “Sacred Hope”).
The unsettling political situation in Zimbabwe has defied wisdom for the longest time and predictions on its resolution have remained unreliable. In time the country had to degenerate into near economic crisis characterized by mass exodus of top-most professionals boasting exceptional skills across the academic spectrum, driven by the country’s strong education system.
George Houser recalls a conversation he held with Garfield Todd, the latter then a Senator in Zimbabwe’s transitional regime. Houser asked Todd where Zimbabwe was going and Todd responded: “You have to take the long view.” Subsequently, Houser asserts in his book titled “No one can stop the rain”, that the long view was critical. Africa’s liberation struggle was a result of the continent’s marginalisation by Europeans over centuries, bent on exploiting her resources. Efforts to reverse the tide of exploitation were of Africans themselves, albeit with international solidarity and support.
Zimbabwe has over the years edged on Crossing the Rubicon, but the nation state resisted the pressure to graduate from the political environment that Oginga Odinga of Kenya’s yesteryear termed “Not yet Uhuru”.
Once I came across a periodical with pictures of Zimbabwe’s war veterans carrying placards with a number of messages, two of these posters caught my attention. The one said: “Born poor, grew up struggling; will die disappointed.” The other said: “Light at the end of the tunnel??? We do not see the tunnel.” If the veterans in question lived long enough to witness contemporary developments in Zimbabwe, they can perhaps advise whether they see the tunnel of Zimbabwe’s challenges.
In one of my roles prior to Namibia’s independence I was Associate General Secretary for the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN). In that time the progressive churches shared trenches with the struggling people of the African sub-region and formed cross-border symbiotic relations. In this capacity I once attended a church conference in Harare.
The meeting broke up in small working committees and while I waited for my committee to settle, my eyes fell on a poster reading: “God so much loved the world that He did not send a committee, He sent His own son.” I trust that my sisters and brothers who still work in Zimbabwe’s church movement can share their thoughts on whether this time around God has sent His own son.
In 2000 when I was Dean of Students at the University of Namibia and Professor Peter Katjavivi the Vice-Chancellor, we participated in a meeting of political parties of nine SADC countries that were to hold national and presidential elections. I remember Magreth Dongo then a Member of Parliament of Zimbabwe’s opposition in parliament. When the Zimbabwe delegation arrived, Dongo reported that she had to take a taxi from the airport because the Ambassador of Zimbabwe would not transport her, as she was deemed an enemy of the state. Delegates to the conference were shocked when the delegation of the Zimbabwe ruling party confirmed that Dongo was an enemy of the state and an agent of imperialism.
Discussions on Zimbabwe dominated the floor of the conference for the ensuing two days as delegates attempted to unravel the puzzle, against the backdrop of the fact that Zimbabwe was scheduled to hold national and presidential elections soon.
Subsequent to the conference we invited Zimbabwe’s political parties to observe Namibia’s national and presidential elections and seven political parties from that country attended. I was assigned to coordinate their visitation program and at the end of our elections we hosted a post-mortem. All the political parties from Zimbabwe were impressed with Namibia’s elections code of conduct and they requested Namibia’s assistance.
A month later I arrived in Harare as envoy of the University of Namibia to facilitate a consultation for Zimbabwe’s political parties. This proved a three-day dynamic exercise but initially very tense, as the first day stagnated into mutual recriminations with the ruling party collecting most of the scorn for the ills characterizing Zimbabwe’s democracy. But the reassuring moment came when delegate Job Sikala of the newly formed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) walked over to the ZANU-PF delegation, extended a hand to Dumiso Dabengwa, latter who was then Zimbabwe’s Minister of Home Affairs and said in Shona: “Comrade Dabengwa, Makadini!” (how are you)? Dabengwa hesitantly stood up and tightly hugged Sikala. They sternly looked each other in the eye for six seconds before they broke into conversation. This left all delegates breathing uncomfortably. But this moment heralded the turning point in the deliberations. Delegates crossed the floor and somewhat freely engaged in conversation. I then started to give longer tea breaks and observed the dynamics that evolved.
We developed the code of conduct and had time to interrogate some of the contentious issues that were destined to have bearing on the holding of elections, and could serve as impediments to effective elections in Zimbabwe. The elections that followed saw MDC elected as official opposition with a large cadre of parliamentarians. This development served as prelude to challenges in democratic institution building. Zimbabwe has ever since made considerable strides and notwithstanding divergent global views, we continued to witness a trend pregnant with political progress, much as it would ebb and flow.
My thesis position is that events that deposed President Mugabe were neither isolated nor abrupt. They were part of a political continuum that had unfolded gradually over time, albeit in a clandestine fashion for obvious reasons.
Nations of the world must support Zimbabwe and do so proactively. We must curb the mentality that we have everything to teach others and nothing to learn from others. The latest developments in Zimbabwe were a learning curve and no doubt a pleasant surprise to Zimbabwe’s friend and foe.
The future of Zimbabwe will emanate from efforts by Zimbabweans, fellow Africans, and nations of the world must augment such efforts.
Zimbabwe continues to hold the promise for Africa’s breadbasket and this is a good foundation for Africa and the world. But for all this to work, the people of Zimbabwe must agree on the minimum program for their political discourse. For, the absence of this necessary undertaking will continue to confound their otherwise good intentions.