APOLOGIES to perfectionists of the English language. The colour green – for whatever reason – is associated with envy, hence the idiom “green with envy”.
But I can be forgiven for coining a new expression to aptly describe my fellow countrymen in the period preceding the run-off election sham.
The city suddenly turned green with fear last week as grown men and women ran around looking for Zanu PF regalia to adorn their cars, homes and to clothe themselves.
At an up-market golf course I visited in the city, company executives sported green Zanu PF scarves round their necks in a dissonant fashion craze that looked completely out of order with their usually fashionable Slazenger and Pony shirts and slacks. Their caddies wore green Zanu PF bandanas and T-shirts as they traversed manicured fairways and greens feeling secure because they were pretending to be Zanu PF supporters.
A number of vehicles parked at the club car park had the little pieces of green cloths tied around rear view mirrors and other strategic positions where they could be easily viewed. In the city centre and at Mbare Msika, every bus and kombi was emblazoned with Zanu PF posters.
Drivers nemahwindi wore Zanu PF bandanas and T-shirts. Huge posters of Mugabe were stuck on windscreens (thank goodness on the passenger side) but still fundamentally blocking the view of the driver. Policemen manning roadblocks let such vehicles pass without censure.
I recall being cautioned by a traffic policeman once because a passenger in the front seat of a vehicle I was driving was reading a broadsheet newspaper. The copper said the paper was obstructing my view of the left-hand mirror and so on.
The scarf, sticker and poster craze was a boon for ramshackle vehicles which were waved through roadblocks. One such wreck, an old Land Rover notorious for overloading in the morning went through Chiremba Road unchallenged because of its newfound green decorations and a driver who looked menacing in party regalia from head to toe.
Vendors at council markets all displayed Zanu PF campaign material at their stalls in addition to wearing Mugabe’s face on their chests and back. This they did not really mind.
It’s the closure of their businesses as they were force-marched to Mai Musodzi Hall to attend intermittent rallies which irked them. “Let’s just attend to save our businesses,” they would say to encourage each other.
In the townships it was rare to see a house without Mugabe’s poster on the wall, gate or on the door.
Churches were not spared either. Others were raided on the pretext that parishioners were opposition supporters.
They closed their doors to congregations as clergymen were ordered to produce parishioners to rallies on Sunday mornings when they should be celebrating mass and praising God. Politicians and activists with hands dripping with blood asked for prayers and scared priests obliged – bidding God to bless the brutes and their gods.
These are Christians who know the Biblical story of God exhorting the children of Israel to mark their doors for divine protection.
The symbolic Blood of Jesus was substituted by a small green poster on the door or gate! Idol-worship or respect for their leaders? This is sick!
This was a brutish demonstration of power on a people terrorised into submission by a system bent on retaining power at all costs.
Dissent was met with varying degrees of force by ruffians accused of extra-judicial killings, rape, torture, beatings, disappearances and destruction of property. To many, pretending to be a Zanu PF supporter became the best form of self-protection.
Last Friday, bands of terrorised people went out to vote in the name of protecting themselves from an impending “operation red finger”.
They cowardly registered their displeasure on ballot papers, scribbling insults and choice swear words against Mugabe and Zanu PF. There were tens of thousands of spoilt papers as a result but what change did it make?
From the COO on the golf course, the manager at a supermarket, the clerk at a bank, the informal trader at Siyaso to the street people along Samora Machel Avenue, what they have always considered to be symbols of repression and deprivation became instruments of survival and sustenance.
The king in our lives is fear. We have been emboldened to endure all sorts of blows and weather many storms of poverty, destitution and the erosion of our rights.
We have tended to encourage the few who have stood up from the safety of our houses or stood behind the shield of foul disguises.
We believe the battle belongs to heroes; those whose skins have been hardened by beatings and torture, arrests and detentions.
We are safer in the confines of compliance than defiance. It is therefore not surprising that today, there are those with patents to freedom and valour. Why share with cowards?
I have this sense that one day a successor government will subject this nation to this form of abuse because of new rulers’ claim to heroism and courage.