Saturday, June 24, 2017

Zim’s silver lining is its skilled workforce

The Bornwell Chakaodza column  The Standard June 18 to 24 2017

By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
Most African countries thought that attaining independence meant total freedom and enjoyment the bounty of our unlimited resources across the continent. But the reality on the ground is that since we started ruling ourselves, we have faced challenges that range from those created from outside and those that we generated ourselves.  Zimbabwe has not been an exception.

As we are aware, each African country has been unique in how they forged ahead under very difficult circumstances.  Amidst the teething and perennial problems of Africa, there are people who will without hesitation, claim that they have enjoyed it from day one of independence up to now. 

On the other hand, there are those who have never enjoyed the benefits of the freedom except in name only.  Some of our leaders have been so cruel to their kith and kin simply because they differed with the political systems that they put in place. It became a crime to have a different opinion, let alone to belong to an opposing party.  The brutality that was employed left so many losing limb and life.

Those who have dared to think differently from the ruling elite, had it tough from inception.  Most ruling parties have seen it as their sole right to govern and have no room for outsiders, as it were, to have a chance to share in the governing of their countries. Consolidation of power became the desired route for our leaders who have left no stone unturned to maintain their grip on power. 

We see this even in Zimbabwe that soon after independence when Zipra forces were not satisfied with some issues and Zanla seeing this as unwarranted disobedience there were clashes in Entumbane which ended with killings and protracted fighting which culminated in the  Gukurahundi debacle in the greater part of the 1980s that saw the demise of more than 20 000 souls in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces, that our president admitted that “it was a moment of madness.”

 Many locals started leaving the country in droves to the safety of South Africa. Even though this part of the country has always exported labour down south but because of the harsh conditions that were created by the fighting, the numbers went up as even those who had jobs left for safety reasons.

For survival, people on Matabeleland devised a way of crossing the crocodile invested Limpopo river and heavily guarded South African boarder. The locals came up with a plan called dabulaphu (tear up). This is a process of crossing the border without formal documents.  This was done as a last resort because looking for documents would take time yet someone would be desperate to leave the distressing situation. Our leaders made us criminals right from the word go.

The writer was a minister/pastor at a place called Ndolwane (1982 -84} and was a witness of the brutalities that left homes and villages decimated in unprecedented proportions. Such was the situation that prompted the author to assess the prevailing situation that was deteriorating by the day.  For the first time we were all forced to buy party political membership cards. Without the card you were not safe, it was your passport to travel. Such was the intolerance that was shown to the citizenry.

The second election of 1985 saw many Zimbabweans not thinking twice about leaving the country for safety abroad. And now it was not only South Africa, but also to other parts of the world. To date Zimbabweans of all professions which number over three to five million have found refuge in almost around the world. It became acute each time elections were held, sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who could make it found themselves leaving this country in droves.

Now it was a questions of professionals and none professionals leaving, it was like everyone who could make it dared to venture the diaspora way.  The coming of a formidable opposition in 1999 opened a Pandora’s box as it were.  Those Zimbabweans who were affiliating to opposition politics were targets. The only alternative was to leave their homeland for the unknown.  Among the above group were both the so-called economic and political refugees. Most of these people did not choose to leave voluntarily.  They were forced by the conditions they found themselves in to move out.  Such removals, most of them involuntarily, have not been rose all the time.  Homes and families have been destroyed by distances that were created when one or some members of the families were separated.  These disruptions and the consequences thereof will be subject of the following instalments.

The good thing that we want to pick on today is the exposure that Zimbabweans who left this country could not have had in their lives had it not been of the disruptive conditions that were created by the intolerable attitude of the powers that be that obtained at their time of leaving. The lucky ones went as families while the majority seem to have not been so fortunate.

In South Africa there has been a record inflow of engineers and other technocrats in most of their city councils with some becoming chief city and town engineers dotted across the country. 
Across the border most of those that have left this country have not forgotten their families.  They have looked back in big ways. They have sent remittances from time to time and this nation has benefitted from such.

God willing, one of these days when sense knocks on our doors all these who have had such an exposure will be some of the assets who have had another experience which will be put to use in a big way when they eventually come back.  It is not the intention of the author to project an idea that the best is for them to come back.  At the same time I am not saying they should not come home. 

When the biblical Joseph who was sold by his brothers finally became prime minister in Egypt he did not revenge them, instead he was very magnanimous when he said to them, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50 vs 20).  It is our prayer that all Zimbabweans who have found themselves displaced may be positive towards their nation. 

Those with ears let them hear!

By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

*As The Standard celebrates 20 years, it pays tribute to the late Bornwell Chakaodza who was editor of the paper from 2002 to 2005.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Zimbabweans must not despair but keep hope alive

What has the last 37 years bequeathed Zimbabweans as we fast-approach the biblical 40 years in the wilderness that the Israelites endured to reach the Promised Land?  The attainment of independence in 1980 was only one stage of leaving oppression by the colonial government, yet the journey to our destiny has been likened to the journey to Canaan.

Moses was raised by God to liberate his people who would not dare be political in case they were declared enemies of the state. Bondage was a reality for all the Israelites until God decided to liberate them on his own. Should we wait for God to liberate us?

Like the Israelites, we find ourselves in dire straits but we do not know who to turn to for our liberation. We are quickly reminded that we are liberated and should be eternally grateful.

We are all political animals, but in African politics, it’s either you belong and you are safe or you don’t and you are vulnerable. You hear many an African leader bragging “losing elections is by choice when you are a ruling party.”  
The politics of consensus has been thrown into the dustbin of history. This is why on our way to final freedom, most African countries tried a one-party state soon after independence. When shall we come up with a home-grown system of African politics?
For lack of a proper home-grown system of governance which is user-friendly, we ended up copying foreign and unfriendly systems into our continent. The result is that Africa is not really stable. While in the west, multi-party democracy is something they pride themselves in, for Africa, it is a luxury we can do without.

Some ask why we should go for elections when you can predict the results? The ordinary men and women are held to ransom by African leaders for they either acquiesce or behave otherwise and face the consequences. When one is in the system, they stand to enjoy the benefits of joining the gravy train, or face the poverty song when outside the system.

It seems the acceptance of a multi-party system was done begrudgingly. While at face value there seems to be tolerance of other parties other than ruling parties, there is a deep-seated dislike of the former. This is more pronounced at election time. These are times when Africa is at war with itself. If there were enough resources, people would rather go for long breaks outside the country to avoid the hatred and threats that is the order of our elections. Tolerance is a word not used by most African leaders.

Political rallies become the arena of displaying such hatred in the form of “pasi na….” (down with so and so or rather death to so and so). Those who want to be safe by not aligning themselves to political parties would pray that this event never comes. But fate has it that the most oppressive regimes religiously follow elections without fail and as legally scheduled. Few rogue ones postpone elections from time to time.

When Pharaoh intensified his stubbornness, God did not ignore him. It seems that God specialises in those leaders who treat subjects badly. They are given the long rope to hang themselves and as they raise the banner of oppression, God actually gives them more resolve to retain power at all cost.
In the case of Pharaoh, after all the efforts to force him to release the oppressed by sending the calamities/scourges which were crowned by the deaths of the newly born sons of Egypt, God finally hardened his heart not to release the children of Israel (Exodus 14 vs 4). When the children of Israel were released, God again hardened the hearts of both Pharaoh and the Egyptians who followed the liberated Israelites (Exodus 14 vs 8) who were now on their journey to uhuru (independence). The Egyptians were led by God to their demise.

The safest route Africans are forced to take is to declare that they are apolitical. Once one has been labelled opposition, they carry that mark to the grave.

For this reason, we witness groups, communities and individuals being paraded to renounce their former parties while surrendering their party cards and regalia. This is done so that one declares their comeback or total declaration that they no longer belong with the enemy. After this ritual, one can now sleep well and safety is guaranteed.
We have to remove hatred from our politics so as to enjoy democratic principles, as practised in the west. People should be able to belong to different parties and still be friends, or at least not kill each other because of opposing views.
Artists, clergy and any popular figures are in a quandary. While in the west these can publicly show their party affiliation, here they cannot do so. The best they can do is to play safe by standing aloof. But what they do not realise is that being aloof is also being political.

Publicly, they seem to support both sides; when invited they will accept to perform or to come up with a piece of art created as per request. As a result of this fear, we have lost talent from these capable individuals. It is only when they go in to exile that they develop their talents politically. They can say their minds against the system from the safety of the diaspora.

Perhaps we will enjoy politics when this present generation of rulers has gone.

Israelites were for too long in bondage plus or minus 400 years with God’s acquiescence, one would say.  No wonder we read towards the end of their captivity God actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart, in spite of having chosen Moses to liberate them. As if that was not enough, God hardened again the hearts of the Egyptian army that followed the Israelites to where they were camped as they waited to cross over.

We should not despair. Oliver Mtukudzi says in one of his songs, “we should not lose hope.” Such like him have soldiered on and not left their country because of their love for their country. This article is not saying that those who have left the country do not like it. Africa needs to be liberated both from foreign types of democracies and from its oppressive leaders. When are we going to have our own home-grown type of democracy/governance?

We should never lose hope. We do not need any modern-day prophet to tell us that we are destined for greater heights, for the Lord has already said, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you hope and an expected end” (Jeremiah 29: 11).
*As The Standard celebrates 20 years, it pays tribute to the late Bornwell Chakaodza who was editor of the paper from 2002 to 2005.