The Struggle for a Free Zimbabwe: Whose Freedom Is It, Anyway?

Source: Rejoice Ngwenya, Harare, Zimbabwe.
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It is the morning after Robert Mugabe's wasteful pomp and ceremony

disguised as 'independence celebration' when the music has died down,

euphoria subsided and the stately wine glasses are dry. ZANU-PF fat

cats have retired to their expropriated farms while their famished

supporters ponder over the source of the next free meal.

The Zimbabwean media, as usual saw things differently. The ZANU-PF

Herald, as expected, is singing the praises of Mugabe, claiming he

received a resounding welcome at the citadel of celebrations, Harare's

Chinese-built second grade National Sports Stadium. In the rest of its

editorials, there is no reference to the fact that Zimbabweans have

wasted thirty years of their lives in search of true freedom. As with

tradition, The Herald sees no evil in Mugabe except portraying him as

a victim of 'illegal Western sanctions'; choosing to ignore that his

party is globally known as a purveyor of violence and merchant of

Thanks to advances in technology, there is more objective news than

The Herald can offer in a lifetime. Mugabe's self-praises of freedom

ring hollow when one considers that thirty years on, his government

presides over some of the harshest media laws in the world. What this

actually means is the man has no morsel of a clue in the difference

between 'freedom' and 'independence'. For a man who spent eleven years

in detention, he should know better. While in custody, he was

independent enough to do his own things – bath, eat, exercise and even

study, but he was not a free man. That is my point. I may be

independent from British colonial rule, but definitely not free from

Mugabe's fascist dictatorship, usually legitimized by, in addition to

the dysfunctional SADC, five-year fake elections.
Both ZANU-PF and fellow liberators ZAPU did most in bringing

independence to Zimbabwe, but Zimbabweans are still not free to

assembly, associate and express themselves. Journalists who work in

the only three 'free' newspapers – Standard, Independent and

Zimbabwean – are routinely arrested and intimidated. MDC and civil

society still need police permission to hold public meetings. Thirty

years after 'independence', there is only one state-controlled

broadcaster in Zimbabwe. The media graveyard is teeming with

publications and broadcasters that were bullied into closure by

Mugabe's secret service. Those who are brave enough to broadcast from

abroad are branded pirates, as if ZANU-PF owns the atmosphere. Show me

the freedom, Mr. Mugabe!
In pursuit of more news, I also come across pro-freedom activities by

the restive Zimbabwean Diaspora in England. Political activist Gabriel

Shumba is then quoted as having 'advised the Diaspora that there must

be rule of law in Zimbabwe before they could safely go home – so they

would be free from harassment, torture and intimidation. …. [He] said

that people could not go home to Zimbabwe to find the perpetrators of

the violence against them were still in place.” My question: if Mugabe

has for the past thirty years subjected Zimbabwe citizens to both

independence and misery, whose responsibility is it to create an

environment “free from harassment, torture and intimidation”?

Unsubstantiated reports are that there are no less than a million

'productive' Zimbabwean citizens in the Diaspora. The bulk of this

number is in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Ironically, only

thirty thousand guerrillas combined efforts with villagers to wage a

war of political independence between 1965 and 1979. The reality that

should confront Mr. Shumba and his fellow activists is that there is

no freedom that will come to Zimbabwe through lofty statements and

wishful thinking.
Harassment, torture, violence and intimidation are being perpetrated

by Mugabe and ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, so this institution will remain

intact until someone in Zimbabwe participates in reversing the trend.

And who does Mr. Shumba assign that responsibility – to the elderly

parents that he and his fellow Diasporas left in Zimbabwe?

In many ways, this shows the vast difference between pre-independence

'hands-on activism' and Mr Shumba's post independence 'megaphone'

liberation tactics. Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe put together a

system where fighters actually crossed into Zimbabwe and motivated

villagers to struggle for their rights. I am not so sure how vigils

and candles in London, thirteen thousand kilometres away can possibly

evict Mugabe from state house on Seventh Street, Harare!

My humble submission is that Zimbabweans should forfeit their luxury

at Tottenham Court road London, Bree street Johannesburg and come home

to wage a sustainable struggle for freedom on Seventh Street in

Harare. Just like the red shirts of Bangkok, we want to see clouds of

tear gas and body bags as Zimbabweans fight to reclaim their freedom

from misguided ZANU-PF zealots. There should be no illusion that

freedom comes cheap. We will have to be prepared to starve, get

arrested and possibly die.
It is too late to start blaming Morgan Tsvangirayi and Arthur

Mutambara for 'defeating the course of freedom in participating in the

government of national unity'. They only did what seemed to be right

then. The forces of emancipation have one foot in the chariot. Imagine

how much critical advantage the movement would have if Mr. Shumba and

the other one million citizens in the Diaspora directly confronted

ZANU-PF this year! Not even talking about mass demonstrations, just

the ballot box itself would give our thirty-year oppressors a fatal

blow. It is a fact that our country's weak commercial and industrial

base cannot absorb one million citizens all at once, but the longer Mr

Shumba and his colleagues play 'safe' vigil, the more difficult it

will be to unseat ZANU-PF. It is better to run the trenches on empty

stomachs for now in preparation for the good times in future. Freedom

is, after all not for so free.
Rejoice Ngwenya is President of Harare-based Coalition for Liberal

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