Despite many breaking news stories in Zimbabwe I want to continue to address the proverbial big picture in a bid to retain some perspective about where we are as a nation. This is the third installation of my “Dreaming of Nepal” series where I’m taking principles that undergirded Nepal’s succesfull non-violent protest and evaluating them Zimbabwe through them. Read the first two here and here.
The third step in building towards succesful non violent protest is,
Let there be a build up of protest rallies in many villages and towns to culminate in one decisive protest rally in the capital city. (Take Over Tundikhel) Depending on the local conditions, you might face a military crackdown, or the regime might fall, or you might have to declare the formation of a parallel government that the international community must come forth and recognize.
Our grade: “C-.”
Owing mainly to Zimbabwe’s political heritage which has confined politics and political power mainly in Harare and some of the other bigger towns and cities, the protest movement has been essentially been centralized in Harare and Bulawayo. Even in 1998, when Tsvangirai ground the country to a complete halt, peripheral cities recorded only marginal involvement in the protest. Another way of seeing this is as manifestation of the exclusive nature of Zimbabwean politics; only the rich, powerful and educated feel empowered enough to exert themselves politically.
So if you’re not rich, powerful, highly educated, or resident in one of Zimbabwe’s urban centers you have very little political recourse. Tragically, as a third world country most of Zimbabwe’s citizens are in one these four disadvantaged groups. Not that poor rural people deserve isolation from political involvement; it’s not like they don’t know what’s best for them or that they cannot think for themselves. In Zimbabwe what is wrong with the country is as plain as daylight and people everywhere know this. The fact is none of Zimbabwe’s political movements can do what it takes to restore the country without the involving rural people. Nepal’s success derived not only from efficient planning in high places, but most importantly from the simple involvement of villagers from some of the most remote parts of the world.
What is the impetus behind some people feeling so alienated from their own country’s political process? Admittedly, some of this reticence to act and be involved on the part of rural peasants is the result of percieved disadvantage and insignificance. Still, such perceptions are so evasive and salient they have claimed the life of any meaningful democractic movement in Zimbabwe. Society’s high power distance has played a major part in influencing these perception. Isaiah Goteka, a rural farmer in Chisumbanje has a hard time feeling that his efforts at changing the political course of the country will much impact on his leaders in the cities. Ironically despite that he feels he has little or no access to his leaders, said leaders impact his life on multiple levels everyday “by remote control” from their lofty offices in Harare. This is even further complicated by ZANU-PF’s governing style which has centralized all power in sharply inclined pryamid.
There needs to be a concerted effort to energize people on literal and figurative outskirts of Zimbabwe’s centers of political process. It is shameful that even when all of Zimbabwe’s political parties, and civic action groups are in full vibrancy exerting they only comprise less than a third of the population yet they are able to determine the course of life for the other two thirds of the country for better or worse (mostly worse). As matter of necessity Zimbabwe’s so called democratic movement must wake up to the reality that they have to treat voters in Rushinga, Binga and Insiza like they treat voters in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare. The dictate “one man/woman, one vote” means any one who wants to be voted anywhere needs every single vote. I’m no advocating that we return to the failed path of attempting to bring change by engaging in ZANU-PF’s flawed electoral system. Rather, I advocating for the principle of reaching out to all Zimbabweans regardless of creed, religion and or education. The nation’s future depends on it. Sokwanele, Zvakwana, MDC, NCA, ZIMTA, ZINASU, PTUZ, ZCTU etc. can pontificate in Harare all they want. Until every last Zimbabwean from all corners of the country is with them, they are only fighting the tide.
All that said, I have to admit that civic bodies in Zimbabwe are doing an excellent job of remaining resilient despite extremely hostile conditions. Fronting this brave cavalcade is WOZA (Women Of Zimbabwe Arize). Distraught at the mess that the men have made of the country, these brave souls long passed the point of personal concern and have known arrest and brutal torture more than any other civic group currently constituted. Yet they still go out and protest. Over a hundred of them spent the weekend behind bars in Bulawayo after protesting high costs of sending their children to school. Right after they were released another concerned group of Zimbabwe’s women took to the streets in Harare fully knowing what fate awaited them. From their pot banging protest a couple years ago to protest marches from Harare to Zimbabwe, their message is simple; these mother can’t stand to watch their families endure any more suffering all because of a selfish group of leaders. It is a message that resonates with every single woman in the country. Unfortunately not, every woman has had an opportunity to air their voice.
It imperative to listen to the voices of all Zimbabwean if we are going to get to the next stage; they are talking are we ready to hear them?