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Maybe if there had been no social media, Zimbabwe would be free today!

05 Nov 2023 at 13:23hrs | Views
When I started writing these social justice articles way back in 1989, as a form three pupil, the world was a very different place.

Those of us who had chosen this path - of speaking for the oppressed and voiceless - never regarded merely writing an article in a newspaper as the core of the 'revolution'.

It was simply a process of sending a message to the powers-that-be on our disgruntlement - as well as a way of spreading the message of 'revolution' to a wider population.

In order words, putting pen to paper was never the 'revolution' in itself - but just the means to a greater end.

This 'end', though, was real tangible action on the ground.

In fact, during that era - although I was only a sixteen-year-old child, still in high school - I witnessed massive demonstrations all across Zimbabwe, of people who were fed up with being oppressed.

We had employees striking against poor remuneration and deplorable working conditions.

By the time I finally had my own regular weekly column in a local publication in 1991 (as I did my Lower Sixth form), I was taking on the ZANU PF administration head-on!

This was when the retrenchment of workers had reached its peak due to ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Program) introduced by the Zimbabwe government in 1990.

This period marked an increase in protests - as not only workers loudly and relentlessly protested against their laying off and imminent unemployment - but university students were joining the fray over their own grievances.

These included paltry study loans and grants - which they considered woefully inadequate and insufficient - on top of what they perceived as an attack on their academic freedom, after repeated brutal crackdowns on their demonstrations.

At this juncture, the meeting of minds between labor and students was consummated - as their union leaders faced a relentless onslaught by the state.

Names such as Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, Arthur G.O. Mutambara, Munyaradzi Gwisai (Enoch Chikweche), and others became synonymous with the people's struggle.

Actually, they did not confine the struggle to issues solely affecting them - but also protested against the scourge of high-profile corruption rearing its ugly head - particularly after the so-called 'Willowgate Scandal' in 1988.

In the Upper Sixth form, I remember we even attempted to establish an organization representing secondary school students - with my classmate Trust Chikohora (today leading a small opposition outfit) pushing this project with a passion.

We were eager to take this struggle for a better Zimbabwe down to high schools so that we all became involved in the affairs of our nation and in determining its fate.

Of course, possibly on account of the poor timing - already being in Upper Six and about to leave high school - this initiative did not see the light of day.

Nonetheless, as a result of my own social justice advocacy, I was nearly expelled from Kwekwe High School after I wrote an article exposing the misappropriation of funds intended for the purchase of a bus by school authorities.

Maybe because of the fear of making the matter worse, the authorities did not go any further with the issue - although the then headmaster called me out during assembly, labelling me 'Judas Iscariot'!

Where am I going with this?

Well, it is quite simple!

In that day and age, that generation believed in action on the ground, as opposed to merely complaining.

This did not mean that the Zimbabwe regime was peace-loving, tolerant, and democratic at that time.

No, not at all.

The aforementioned labor and student union leaders were constantly arrested and even beaten up and tortured for their efforts.

Let us not forget that this was also in the aftermath of the horrendous 1982 to 1987 Gukurahundi atrocities - in which state security forces massacred over 20,000 innocent unarmed civilians in the Midlands and Matebeleland provinces.

Consequently, a sense of dread and terror had been instilled in the people of Zimbabwe, as we were now all too aware just how brutal and ruthless our leaders could be.

Nevertheless, this clearly did not deter those who stood for people's rights and social justice in bravely standing up and speaking out against injustices.

We feared 'fokol', as some would say today!

Whether in the face of arrest (with possible lengthy jail terms) or a savage violent crackdown - there was absolutely no fear in facing off the oppressor.

As a matter of fact, the 1990s are recorded as witnessing the highest number of demonstrations in the country - with those against the increasing cost of living taking center-stage.

Not to be left out was the ruling ZANU PF grassroots support base!

In 1997, veterans of the liberation struggle protested against then president Robert Gabriel Mugabe at the National Heroes Acre, as they demanded lump sum payouts and monthly pensions.

That was an era of phenomenal action in Zimbabwe!

What was also so encouraging was that, in spite of the frequent barbaric response by the regime - results were always positive, and our demands were eventually heeded.

What then changed?
 
What happened to Zimbabweans that has reduced us into such shameful shells of our former courageous selves?

As mentioned earlier, the ZANU PF regime was just as brutal and cold-hearted as it is today - if not worse, since they had absolutely no qualms butchering over 20,000 civilians in cold blood.

However, we still spoke out without faltering or fear.

What has turned Zimbabweans into such pathetic cowards?

If truth be told, I have no definite answer to that pressing question.

If I did, that would have been a good place to start finding a solution or even cure.

We try to discuss this issue on various platforms but never seem to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

As already established, the 'government brutality' explanation does not make any sense and can, thus, be justifiably thrown out of the window.

I have even posited that we have naturally been a cowardly people at worst, or simply averse to confrontation - as witnessed with how we were so easily colonialized without a single bullet being fired or spear thrown.

Nonetheless, we did end up intrepidly fighting our colonizers between 1896 and 1897 - and then 67 years later from 1964 to 1979, after which we eventually attained our independence.

So, can we really say we are nothing more than a bunch of spineless chickens?

Maybe I am wrong in that assertion.

Could it be that today we lack a brave enough leadership that is required to galvanize the masses into action?

That is indeed quite a sensible hypothesis.

The only reason our people finally confronted our oppressors during the colonial period was after the emergence of leaders who feared nothing and were prepared to sacrifice everything.

Without these leaders - such as Nehanda, Kaguvi, Mlugulu, Siginyamatshe, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, Josiah Magama Tongogara - there would have most likely been no liberation struggle.

Even in the 1980s and 1990s, people like Tsvangirai made all the difference.

Yet today, Zimbabwe is experiencing a glaring gap in that arena.

We just do not have those leaders anymore.

Save maybe for Job Sikhala, who has been locked up by the ZANU PF administration for the past year, whilst repeatedly denied his constitutional right to bail.

I am pretty sure that is the main reason he is being kept incarcerated, as he is the only viable challenge to the regime.

As highlighted on numerous occasions, there is really no need for Zimbabweans to even go onto the streets - where they risk being gunned down by the blood-thirsty regime, as happened in August 2018 and January 2019.

All that is required is for us to stay in our homes for a concerned length of time - thereby virtually shutting down the nation and bringing the economy a standstill - until our demands are heeded.

No one will get beaten up or shot for merely staying in their home - and we do not even require permission under MOPA (Maintenance of Order and Peace Act) from the police.

Yet, we do not have the leaders prepared to go down this route.

Why?

That is an answer I sadly do not have!

Could all this be down to a seemingly simple innocent thing that has become an integral component of our daily lives?

Social media!

Just taking a walk down the streets of the so-called 'metaverse' is enough to send one to the 'loony bin'!

That is why I do not have much of a presence on social media - as I find that world too artificial, superficial, and fake.

On this platform, people (especially Zimbabwe) now pretend to be all brave and actually believe that constantly shouting and attacking the government is somehow a powerful form of protest.

Well, this may be so in legitimately democratic states - where governments actually listen to their people, even on social media.

Nevertheless, Zimbabwe is far from being a democracy.

In fact, using such a word in the same sentence with ZANU PF is a huge, unpardonable insult to all democratic nations.

Why, then, would anyone truly aggrieved with the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa administration feel it sufficient limiting their 'action' behind a keyboard?

This regime only understands real action - action that puts a squeeze on them or the country.

Without that, no amount of tweeting or even writing articles will stop this ruling elite from looting our national resources, impoverishing the population, oppressing the masses, or rigging elections.

If freedom came from simply writing, then Zimbabweans would be free and prosperous today - since I have personally penned thousands of articles in my lifetime!

The problem I see with the 'metaverse' is that it appears so existent that many have become detached from the real world.

For them, venting on social media is as good as marching on the streets of Harare, Bulawayo, or Kwekwe.

Well, it is not the same!

As a result, many Zimbabwean legitimately believe they are doing what is needed in changing the dire situation in the country by typing away on X or Facebook or WhatsApp.

It is nowhere near enough!

Just as when I began writing over three decades ago, there was never a time I believed this was enough to push the change we wanted.

Writing is only one of the tools in spreading the message and mobilizing the masses into action.

It can never be the end in itself.

No wonder we are never taken seriously by the international community - with SADC being the latest.  

Maybe if there had been no social media, Zimbabwe would be free today!

Zimbabweans need to take their heads out of the clouds of social media and come back to reality.

- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com, or visit website: http://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana
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