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Opinion / Columnist

The newfound freedom to speak our mind

25 Apr 2018 at 09:23hrs | Views
The English writer George Orwell once famously wrote, "if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

We Zimbabweans understand the truth of this statement all too well. For years, we have not had true liberty. Not only could we not have told our former president what he did not want to hear, but we couldn't even mention his name. We were scared to say the word Mugabe – on the street, at work and even at home. To do so meant risking our lives.

Under Mugabe we were stifled. We were not free. And this absence of freedom had damaging consequences. Not only for our brains and our souls, but also for our economy. The right to speak one's mind is indelibly linked to creativity, entrepreneurship, dynamism and out of the box thinking. Telling people not to speak is like telling them not to think, and how can a nation develop if people don't think?

Today things are different. Whatever our views of ED and his 'new dispensation', we can all acknowledge that things have changed. All you need to do is open the newspaper, walk down the street, sit in the barber, travel in a kombi, or even look at ED's Facebook page. Wherever you look you hear and see freedom. People debating, questioning, arguing and criticising. If you don't believe me, scroll down the comments on ED's Facebook to see that people now feel free - could anyone imagine Robert Mugabe having a Facebook page, let alone openly writing what they thought of him on it?

But yet despite this new found freedom, people seem reluctant to acknowledge it. The media and social media is full of people using their liberty to criticise the government and ED, telling them 'what they do not want to hear' in the words of George Orwell, but yet they do not acknowledge the major change that enables them to do so. It's as if we have forgotten how things were just a few months ago, or we have taken these changes for granted.

I understand why this is. You can't eat freedom. You can't buy things with it. And therefore there is a tendency to ignore it. But let us be under no illusions as to its importance. Without this fundamental human right, we are enslaved and we cannot develop. With it, we are free. And I for one appreciate it.

Source - Mike, Harare
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