Too Much Pain: Understanding Zimbabwe’s Muted Murambatsvina Commemorations

This week is the official first anniversary of Operation Murambatsvina/Cleanup and there have been a few announcements for events to mark this dark spot in Zimbabwe’s history. Interestingly, it seems the idea of commemorating the injustice of the cleanup has met with a lukewarm response countrywide at best. Zimbabwe’s streets aren’t buzzing with a contemplative reminiscence befitting an evil as great as Murambatsvina was. There just hasn’t been much resonance among most Zimbabweans for the commemoration of those days last year when hundreds of thousands of our fellow countrymen experienced the wrath of Mugabe’s man-made Tsunami. This not because we are a calloused people with no regard for the value of lives lost and affected by the brutality of Murambatsvina. Allow me reader to explain Zimbabwean cultures complex dealings with emotional trauma.

First of, welcome to Zimbabwe the country with a culture that places a high premium on the concept of “saving face.” In many contexts, the idea of saving face is most ofte associated with Asian cultures. Newsflash: saving face thrives in Africa too. With regards to emotional pain and mourning; you cry only when it is appropriate like at funerals. And if you’re a man you’re brought up to cry even less. The logic of this idea seems to me to stem from the perception of open mourning as a public symbol of giving up and succumbing to one’s circumstances. At funerals when we cry it’s because (and you’ll often hear verbal expressions of this in the crying) there’s nothing we can do to revive the deceased. The same is true for physical pain; from an early age, Zimbabwean children are urged to bottle their emotional response to pain and only to cry when it’s too much to bear.

When you cry you admit you have been overcome, with that you lose face. Zimbabwean families will do everything they can before they throw up their arms in surrendar, or mourn publicly. This is the reason why when a family has an internal problem, the first person to seek external help however appropriate the move might be, will be castigated. Zimbabweans love to take care of their busines amongst themselves. That’s why Mugabe has succeeded in labelling Tsvangirai an arrant knave for “running and airing the nation’s dirty laundry publicly.”

If you extrapolate this understanding of Zimbabwean families dealing with grief, you can begin to make sense of why we as a nation family aren’t quite ready to commemorate Murambatsvina yet. We’re still reeling from the problem of Murambatsvina, you still hear reports of police inadvertently raiding markets, and we still have the same brute leadership. We’re trying to work on this here problem, we haven’t given up yet. We’re not quite ready to even think of giving up yet.

In sense, there’s still too much pain everywhere for us to take time to mourn right now.

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[…] …The government isn’t pursuing any long-term development or assistance project here. But sadly, by not integrating an element of resistance and defiance into the “commemorations,” civil society also will not move towards the long term programme it needs to see genuine democratic change in Zimbabwe. It seems like Zimbabweans are more and more trapped in our own victimhood. We say that things will change when the old man dies. Or that God is watching, and won’t let our suffering continue forever. But there is not the spirit of defiance that is essential if things like collective non violent action are ever to succeed here. As a friend of mine said the other day, “we’re missing the belief that we deserve better. And that we have the right to demand it.” Over at This is Zimbabwe, the commemoration events were cast acts of defiance in themselves. This post, replete with pictures, honors those who did take a moment to remember the Murambatsvina’s hapless victims and explains that the few people that did turn out for the march did so in the face assured police action; Church leaders in Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, achieved a remarkable victory today in keeping to their original plan to stage a peaceful protest march and hold public prayers, despite the most severe intimidation from Mugabe’s security forces. Many similar events planned by churches and civic groups in other parts of the country to commemorate the anniversary of the regime’s infamous Operation Murambatsvina were either called off or postponed in the face of massive police intimidation. But the steely resolve of the pastors leading an informal group called Churches in Bulawayo, and the courage of several hundred church members who turned out in support enabled the Bulawayo protest to go ahead notwithstanding. Zimpundit, at Enough is Enough expresses reservations about commemorating Murambatsvina now, We’re still reeling from the problem of Murambatsvina, you still hear reports of police inadvertently raiding markets, and we still have the same brute leadership. We’re trying to work on this here problem, we haven’t given up yet. We’re not quite ready to even think of giving up yet. […]

Kramer auto Pingback[…] …The government isn’t pursuing any long-term development or assistance project here. But sadly, by not integrating an element of resistance and defiance into the “commemorations,” civil society also will not move towards the long term programme it needs to see genuine democratic change in Zimbabwe. It seems like Zimbabweans are more and more trapped in our own victimhood. We say that things will change when the old man dies. Or that God is watching, and won’t let our suffering continue forever. But there is not the spirit of defiance that is essential if things like collective non violent action are ever to succeed here. As a friend of mine said the other day, “we’re missing the belief that we deserve better. And that we have the right to demand it.” Over at This is Zimbabwe, the commemoration events were cast acts of defiance in themselves. This post, replete with pictures, honors those who did take a moment to remember the Murambatsvina’s hapless victims and explains that the few people that did turn out for the march did so in the face assured police action; Church leaders in Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, achieved a remarkable victory today in keeping to their original plan to stage a peaceful protest march and hold public prayers, despite the most severe intimidation from Mugabe’s security forces. Many similar events planned by churches and civic groups in other parts of the country to commemorate the anniversary of the regime’s infamous Operation Murambatsvina were either called off or postponed in the face of massive police intimidation. But the steely resolve of the pastors leading an informal group called Churches in Bulawayo, and the courage of several hundred church members who turned out in support enabled the Bulawayo protest to go ahead notwithstanding. Zimpundit, at Enough is Enough expresses reservations about commemorating Murambatsvina now, We’re still reeling from the problem of Murambatsvina, you still hear reports of police inadvertently raiding markets, and we still have the same brute leadership. We’re trying to work on this here problem, we haven’t given up yet. We’re not quite ready to even think of giving up yet. […]

Kramer auto Pingback[…] Cross Posted at Global Voices Zimbabwe: The first anniversary of Zimbabwe’s notorious “cleanup” operation, Operation Murambatsvina passed recently. There was a marked reticence among Zimbabwean bloggers towards organized commerations. Accoustic Motorbike explains her reasons; Marking the “one year” anniversary of this destruction ignores the fact that Murambatsvina is on going. It’s become a verb, a noun, and a state of being for both the people and the government of Zimbabwe. In the past four weeks alone, Murambatsvina-style evictions have been carried out in cities like Masvingo and Ruwa. Operation Round Up has seen police in Harare “sweep up” over 10,000 homeless people and dump them on a farm outside Harare….The government isn’t pursuing any long-term development or assistance project here. But sadly, by not integrating an element of resistance and defiance into the “commemorations,” civil society also will not move towards the long term programme it needs to see genuine democratic change in Zimbabwe. It seems like Zimbabweans are more and more trapped in our own victimhood. We say that things will change when the old man dies. Or that God is watching, and won’t let our suffering continue forever. But there is not the spirit of defiance that is essential if things like collective non violent action are ever to succeed here. As a friend of mine said the other day, “we’re missing the belief that we deserve better. And that we have the right to demand it.”Over at This is Zimbabwe, the commemoration events were cast acts of defiance in themselves. This post, replete with pictures, honors those who did take a moment to remember the Murambatsvina’s hapless victims and explains that the few people that did turn out for the march did so in the face assured police action;Church leaders in Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, achieved a remarkable victory today in keeping to their original plan to stage a peaceful protest march and hold public prayers, despite the most severe intimidation from Mugabe’s security forces. Many similar events planned by churches and civic groups in other parts of the country to commemorate the anniversary of the regime’s infamous Operation Murambatsvina were either called off or postponed in the face of massive police intimidation. But the steely resolve of the pastors leading an informal group called Churches in Bulawayo, and the courage of several hundred church members who turned out in support enabled the Bulawayo protest to go ahead notwithstanding.Zimpundit, at Enough is Enough expresses reservations about commemorating Murambatsvina now, We’re still reeling from the problem of Murambatsvina, you still hear reports of police inadvertently raiding markets, and we still have the same brute leadership. We’re trying to work on this here problem, we haven’t given up yet. We’re not quite ready to even think of giving up yet.In sense, there’s still too much pain everywhere for us to take time to mourn right now.The Bearded Man has several news roundups and a couple of podcasts to update you on the latest headlines out of Zimbabwe. Burundi: Agathon Rwasa cites a report which details how Tutsi activist were arrested for arranging commeration of their brethren massacred by the Buranda government. He also blogs about the arrest of Térence Nahimana, a former parliamentarian turned activist who was incarcerated after questioning why the government had not started peace negotions with the FNL. (more…) […]

Kramer auto Pingback[…] Thu, 18 May 2006 15:30:05 +0000 http://www.sokwanele.com/thisiszimbabwe/archives/412#comment-1658 I have a somewhat alternative take on this whole commeration deal. <a href=”http://enoughzimbabwe.org/too-much-pain-understanding-zimbabwes-muted-murambatsvina-commemorations/” rel=”nofollow”>Read this post</a> for more.What do you think? I have a somewhat alternative take on this whole commeration deal. Read this post for more.What do you think? ]]> By: Black Looks […]



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