“I cannot vote for my tormentors. Never!”
Of the thousands of statements made this election year, Robert Mugabe’s openly paraded acrimonious divorce with his childhood love and avowed life partner, Zanu PF, clearly takes the trophy of “divorce of the year”. Twice I had to reboot the TV settings and replay the statement “I will never vote for Zanu PF” uttered from the very mouth of their most revered founder and iconic ideologue, Robert Mugabe, for me to believe it. I have had to repeat it over and over again.
MATHABELAZITHA/THE ANVIL BY ZIFISO MASIYE
The mood was sombre and everyone dead quiet at a funeral wake a couple of days back when an old woman’s phone rang out loud in that unmistakable Bob-tone “I will not vote for Zanu PF …I will not vote for Zanu PF… I will not vote for Zanu PF..!” It must have gone on for 50 seconds, as she fumbled to fish out her ndori-ndori phone from her deep, cluttered handbag. My wife and the rest of the mourners doubled over with shocked laughter! And for nine minutes the sombre pain of our loss that engulfs every funeral was forgotten!
The veracity of Mugabe’s dramatic divorce only sank when, again I heard it being played as a ring tone gaining fast popularity at the vegetable market, in the kombis, by renkini and everywhere else. The political irony of that voice and those words, I realised, did not skip the witty brains of everyday Zimbabweans. So my wife reckons, nothing in life is guaranteed — “If Robert Mugabe can fall out of love with Zanu PF, who am I to claim that I can love you forever, dear hubby?”
But it is more of the subsequent, qualifying statement that really stole the whole pleblicite show for me though, less for the humour that caught on to Zimbabweans, but for its real, symbolic relevance to the Zimbabwean electorate and our sense of citizenship.
“I cannot vote for my tormentors, Never!”
This, by all accounts, is a simple, but deep and very revealing statement about Zimbabweans and our choice of leaders in every election in the history of our young democracy, including this very one.
In just seven months of being one of us; in just seven months of being a semi-ordinary citizen; in just seven months of watching a blue roof sagging above his greying head; in only seven months of having to wait in some pension queue and argue with state bureaucracy and tardy stiff-necked government officials over what the true quantum of his pension is; in only seven months of idleness that have seen him age faster than he did in all of seven years, Mugabe finally understands fully what the abuse of citizens by a government means and how it feels. Mugabe has his first real lessons at the taste of citizen pain. They say he must multiply his purported suffering 70 by 70 times to nearly come close to the pain he visited Zimbabweans in his 37 years of a protracted moment of madness! However, Robert Mugabe knows that the right for citizens to govern over his life, whether well or badly, resides in his vote.
Unlike so many of his fellow citizens, Mugabe immediately connects the experiential jeopardies of recent months of his life, his inability to access that which he is entitled to, directly to those in government, the duty bearers who have a constitutional obligation to protect, promote and fulfil his right and his entitlements to a dignified retirement.
At the very first opportunity to claim his citizenship, to deliver a clear message and blow to government, at the first opportunity to punish a government that torments him and his family, the ageing freedom fighter does not mince his words, even at the potential personal cost of so much more — “I cannot vote for my tormentor. Never!” His is the very same reason Mugabe or Zanu PF could never get my vote all my life — for I completely agree with Robert Mugabe that it must be the height of witchcraft and it cannot be understood by rational and logical thinking that, while standing on the unburied bones and bludgeoned skeletons of their very own innocent fathers, mothers, children and uncles who were mostly callously murdered like worthless ants, sane human beings are willing to cast a “happy” vote for their remorseless tormentors and the very perpetrators of their relentless misery and pain!
Besides the rotting by-gone bones and the human rights abuses, the livelihoods of citizens have been a miserable humanitarian crisis of war-like proportions for all of three decades. Our social services have become the official mandate of foreign charity and NGOs. The economy has been looted to its bare bones — it is a dithering national skeleton that cries out for a final resting place! The unapologetic looters of public resources in government, in parastatals, in local authorities are very well known and the thieves and thugs are on the ballot papers, to ask for fresh permission to rape what’s left: the skeletons. We have made corruption and self-enrichment fashionable and our politics is a glorified mafia dance party to which citizens, surprisingly, are willing invitees.
We all need a little Robert Mugabe in us to disabuse ourselves of the demon that conjoins us so steadfastly to our serial tormentors and renders all of us election zombies. It is an absolute travesty of our elective democracy.
I keep arguing that until citizens in Zimbabwe rise to the call for effective and responsible citizenship, until we assume, without apology our responsibility to view the people we place in leadership less as anointed kings and revered dieties, deserving of “chef”-worship and more as elected servants and messengers of service, serving at the pleasure and courtesy of the people, we are still a doomed nation of jokers. Until we take seriously our citizen responsibility to withhold our vote from our tormentors and to hold those we put into office to account for every governance pothole in our lives, until we march and burn and picket and toyi-toyi for every service denied and every right abused by government and council and every bearer of the duty to serve us, we are an accursed nation.
More than anything else, this election is a further pointer to our collective political lethargy and poor citizenship. Congratulations for the numbers. The high numbers of registered voters and the equally high numbers of people who actually cast their vote can only be applauded. So too was the peaceful environment and non-violent approach and actual conduct of the election. Hats off to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other politicians for that bit. Zimbabweans can be proud of themselves.
But that’s as far as our joy can go, for i doubt it can ever last. The election has done little to change the deep-seated simmering conflict and underlying malfunction of Zimbabwe. Those six bullets lodged deliberately in the innocent hearts of unsuspecting Zimbabweans by an army and party sniper, alongside all the machine-gun fire and open government terrorism are the most telling legacy of this election and the key guidepost of where we are, who is in charge and where we are headed as a country. Peace is a clumsy tenant of the Zimbabwean Storm for another five-year lease!
Zii Masiye (email@example.com) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.