Not so, declared Lindiwe Zulu, the spokesperson for the facilitators. They are not returning to Harare in the immediate future; President Zuma is too occupied with affairs of state at home.
“Does that mean,” she was asked, “that South Africa is disengaging from their efforts to settle Zimbabwe’s crisis”? No, Zulu answered, South Africa would “remain engaged until Zimbabwe is back to normal”.
That phrase “back to normal” must have raised a few cynical smiles from Zimbabweans at home and in the diaspora. Just what exactly constitutes “normality” in Zimbabwe and how do we measure it –– except by comparing life now with what we experienced in the past?
The answer, I suppose, depends on who you are and what sort of life you lived before the country descended into its present state of “abnormality”.
The trouble is that the “abnormality” has been going on for so long that it seems like “normal”. Rather like the old song, “I’ve been down so long it seems like up to me”, Zimbabweans at home have forgotten what it was like to live in a “normal” country where things work. A country where traffic lights function and roads are repaired; where you are not subject to police harassment and brutality merely for having a different point of view –– or a different skin colour; where the phones work and where there are not daily 16 hour power cuts that make modern life impossible; where you can be sure your money is safe in the bank and the courts will be impartial should you be unfortunate enough to be picked up by the police and charged with some fictitious crime.
“Normal” is living in a country where there is rule of law and all are equal before the law, a country where political allegiance is not the sole determinant of your value as a citizen.
Zulu’s definition of “normal” may differ but she would not, I think, disagree that her own country can be considered “normal” for a democratic state in the 21st century.
In the same week that she made her remark about Zimbabwe’s return to normality came the news that Farai Maguwu had been “snatched” from Harare Central Prison and taken to the infamous Matapi Police Station where the conditions have been deemed “unfit for human habitation” by a High Court judge. Maguwu is through the Centre for Research Development, has attempted to blow the whistle on the alleged theft and corruption in the diamond mines. He was arrested on June 3 and has been incarcerated ever since and refused bail. But that is “normal” in Zimbabwe today and the MDC are powerless to intervene or even to speak out, it seems.
Their silence about this and so many other issues of justice and human rights in Zimbabwe, from the continuing onslaught on the white farmers to the violence and intimidation going on in the villages in the run-up to the constitutional outreach programme, does not suggest that Mugabe’s partners in the inclusive government are overly concerned with a return to “normality”. Commenting on Tsvangirai’s powerlessness in the face of Mugabe’s tenacious grip on power, a foreign diplomat remarked that the prime minister appeared content to “live with it”.
For those of us who were uneasy about this so-called power sharing government from the beginning, our worst fears are being realised. The MDC is being swallowed up by Zanu PF and, in the process is besmirched by the culture of greed and self-interest that permeates among the Zanu PF chefs. Mugabe’s professed claim at the launch of the constitutional consultation that “We don’t want violence” during the process is totally misleading. We all know –– as Tsvangirai himself knows –– that it is Mugabe’s youth militia and war vets who are already committing acts of violence and intimidation in the rural areas before the consultation even starts.
Schools are reportedly being used as bases for the militia all over the rural areas. Children at schools and many others are being forced to attend “training” sessions where they are taught violence. Operation Chimumumu it’s called –– deaf and dumb; that is what these thugs want the general populace to be, unless of course they speak the Zanu PF language.
But still the MDC remain virtually silent. Either they are naïve to the point of blind credulity or they are simply unwilling to jeopardise their own positions in the inclusive government. Whichever way you look at it, this cannot be described as a “normal” situation. Perhaps the South Africans have been deafened too by the blast of their World Cup vuvuzelas and can no longer hear the cries of their brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe.
Pauline Henson is the author of Case Closed published in Zimbabwe by Mambo Press.
By Pauline Henson