THE BLOG
16/11/2017 13:23 SAST | Updated 16/11/2017 14:15 SAST

Open Letter To Zimbabweans -- Our Future Is At Stake

"We must stand tall and mobilise each liberal-minded citizen we can find in the land, and campaign for open political spaces."

Jubilant protesters celebrate outside Zimbabwe House on 15 November, 2017, in London, England, after news of unrest and a reported military coup against President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Amer Ghazzal/ Barcroft Images/ Getty Images
Jubilant protesters celebrate outside Zimbabwe House on 15 November, 2017, in London, England, after news of unrest and a reported military coup against President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Dear Zimbabwe,

After Idi Amin had looted millions of dollars from state coffers and killed over 100,000 innocent souls through a cold-blooded collection of shooting squads and sledgehammers, he decided that he deserved an official title that celebrated his nationalist credentials.

So he called himself: "His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular".

Official militaristic thuggery is not an example of African nationalism by any stretch of the imagination. So after elected sellouts sold us out to selfish economic and political interests a long time ago in exchange for exquisite clothes, expensive cars, palatial homes in South Africa and Dubai and millions of U.S. dollars, General Constantino Chiwenga is not qualified to lecture us on sovereignty and selling out.

Zimbabwe should have followed Sam Nujoma and Namibia, and Nelson Mandela and South Africa, and avoided electing one man for life. Zimbabwe could have walked a different path and become an economic success story. How we wish we had known that uhuru is never as straightforward as it seems.

We can see how Kenya is entrenched in a cycle of ceaseless electoral deceit and ethnic-driven tension, and can appreciate those shameless political sellouts will cheat, steal and kill for the love of power and ill-gotten capital to purchase Gucci accessories and million-dollar gold rings.

I recall the coups d'état that destabilised Nigeria between 1966 and 1995, and recollect how that political drama became as unexceptional as a pride of hungry lions chasing Cape buffalo in Hwange National Park.

Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi became President of Nigeria after a military coup in 1966 that overthrew Prime Minister Al-Hadji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. But Aguiyi-Ironsi was murdered the same year. General Yakubu Gowon succeeded Aguiyi-Ironsi, but he was murdered in a violent coup and succeeded by General Olusegun Obasanjo.

Racial divisions are exploited to advance undue economic entitlements and powerful sadism: if you do not support Zanu-PF, you are considered a sellout.

The Game Of Thrones-like drama continued unabated throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when General Muhammadu Buhari, Ernest Shonekan, General Sani Abacha, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and General Olusegun Obasanjo all led Nigeria.

So I was lucky to live in Zimbabwe. Correction: I thought I was. I was so in love with an erroneous and evergreen narrative, and so oblivious to the criminal bloodshed that had followed our independence from Britain.

In this blissful Zion, where eternal hope eclipsed deathly realities, I imagined that you and I would never allow an eloquent populist and soldier of questionable fortune to destroy our dreams, especially after Abacha had Nigerian environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa tried on false charges and hanged in Port Harcourt on 10 November, 1995.

I felt for Saro-Wiwa, man. I felt for his wife and children. I wished he had been granted clemency. I wished he had run away. I wished and wished again. But while the whole world, including Mandela, attempted to stop his execution, Abacha defied global opinion and hanged Saro-Wiwa.

Abacha also reportedly stole $4.3-billion and stashed the loot in U.S., British and Swiss accounts. So did one Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. A report from the LA Times, published on 21 October, 2011, suggests that the late Libyan dictator had amassed more than $200-billion in overseas bank accounts, real estate and corporate investments before his assassination in 2011.

And the London-based Guardian newspaper reported that Hosni Mubarak, a former air force commander, allegedly stole an estimated $70-billion when he ruled Egypt. While Mobutu Sese Seko, who was known as Colonel Joseph Mobutu before he changed his name to sound more African, was equally repressive and corrupt: he stole about $5-billion.

We drown with each mother with a child on her back who suffers pain and humiliation crossing the Limpopo River on her way to look for menial work in South Africa.

Zimbabwe looks set to match these militaristic misadventures. We seemingly have a non-return ticket to Central African Republic status, and the captain of our flight is none other than our local Abacha: Chiwenga.

In this antiquated anti-hero and anti-people scenario, which has a repulsive whiff of Mobutuism to it, racial divisions are exploited to advance undue economic entitlements and powerful sadism: if you do not support Zanu-PF, you are considered a sellout.

If you happen to be a black person who is deemed "not black enough" by Zanu-PF, you are labelled "a fan of Rhodesia, Britain, America and white interests". If you are a white person, you do not belong in Zimbabwe. It is an endless and ever-changing political hit list.

You have to be Shona -- or you will be labelled Ndebele, Tonga, Indian, Coloured, Malawian, or Zambian.

I do wonder sometimes: did our multicultural dream die when Zapu split in 1963, or did it perish with Josiah Tongogara in Mozambique on 26 December, 1979? Perhaps a multiethnic society is not an option for race-obsessed ex-combatants like Chiwenga?

Our future is at stake -- so we must stand tall and mobilise each liberal-minded citizen we can find in the land, and campaign for open political spaces and an equitable electoral landscape.

We died painful deaths when the Gukurahundi massacres stabbed open the soft underbelly of Matabeleland. We died crushing deaths in the 2008 elections, when violence claimed the lives of hundreds of opposition activists.

We die with each child who drops out of school for a lack of fees and food. We die with each person who succumbs to a curable disease because they cannot afford private hospital care and medication. We die with each immigrant repatriated in a coffin.

We drown with each mother with a child on her back who suffers pain and humiliation crossing the Limpopo River on her way to look for menial work in South Africa. We die with each political activist like Itai Dzamara who goes missing.

Let us fight for our land with a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign. Let us stand up to the real sellouts. Let them know that without a shadow of a doubt: we are Zimbabwe.

Best Regards,

Tafi Mhaka