By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
It is now 39 years since we got our political independence. Long enough to have a whole generation of people that look at to the pictures of a pristine looking Harare with its jacaranda festivals and buses that ran on time and wonder: why did we have to fight a war to exchange that for this?
Long enough to have whole generations that don’t know real money, whole generations that think “nhasi kune magetsi?” is somehow a legitimate enquiry. People who think that it is very normal to have to pay to get a service, even one that you are already paying for.
People that believe that a petrol attendant is someone to be revered, that a security guard at the entrance of a bank is more powerful than those in the queue who clearly have money in the bank.
Hell, even people that think that queues at a bank entrance are normal, that it’s perfectly okay to be told that you cannot get your own money out of a bank and still have that bank regarded as operational.
So, we have become a nation that got freedom, but has never truly experienced it and consequently does not understand what that means. Many times my relatives say “makagarisa ku diaspora” when l demand respect and service.
I get stopped at a roadblock and the policeman says “ndinokumbira kuti tizivane” and l go “why, l am not interested in knowing you, unless something is wrong with my car or my papers get the hell out of my way and let me go”. Undeterred, he says “ndiri kuda kuziva kuti muri sei mumugwagwa kwamabva”. Like, seriously?
The guard at a Western Union comes and counts the people he wants to see go inside, and everyone plays nice, in case you offend this gatekeeper and lose your place in line. The person who sells wares on the road arbitrarily pulls an extra charge to add to your bill because you are paying via Ecocash. “The maize is $1.00 but $1.50 on Ecocash”. For the why?
We are not free until we can stand up and say: this is my country, l will not be treated this way. A college qualified teacher got offered a place to teach at a primary school in March. Now, because he used to be a soldier, there are certain ‘clearances’ that need to be signed.
Every week, he travels from Chinhoyi to Harare, to get them signed. He keeps on being told that they will be signed soon. Clearly someone wants to be bribed. The children remain without a teacher. Somehow, l don’t think even Smith allowed that to happen, and we got rid of Smith.
Garages that sell fuel in US$, Rand or Pula somehow never seem to run out of the product, and we scramble to get this foreign money to buy this product from local people, local people that hopefully pay in foreign currency to access this product at Msasa. Or, do they?
The freedom of 1980 will soon have no meaning to many that did not witness the ills of colonialism. In fact, more than half our population wonder if that was that bad: things seemed to work, the place was clean and if you worked hard enough, you thrived.
But we have the problem that we think of freedom in terms of these grandiose concepts: independence, political power, liberation. However, freedom means more than that. Or it should.
Until we are willing to refuse to be packed 8-10 in a four seat Honda Fit, we don’t know freedom. Until we are willing to tell mushikashika driver to slow down or else we get out and demand our money back, we are not free.
Until we can tell a Gweru Lodge that charging $850 a night is just plain idiocy, and walk away with our money, we are not free. Very renowned hotels in Dubai, Milan, London, New York, don’t charge these ridiculous prices, and the blankets actually don’t smell and the hot water works.
I recently witnessed freedom. I visited a man at his house, found other visitors there. As some do these days, when they were leaving they asked for a photo with the man. He graciously agreed, asking them to come back again anytime. Then one of them spotted his wife, asked her to join the photo. She said no. They insisted, she said no.
One of them walked to her, tried to pull her by the hand, and I thought she really will go now. Unfazed, she looked up to the woman who was attempting to pull her and said: “Inga wani ndati No, is that not clear enough?” Woman said but why. She said, “Why is my no not good enough, and if my no is not good enough, then my reason won’t matter”.
Until we say “No” to be people at VID who will not give you a driver’s license without paying US$100.00 no matter how good your driving is, we are not free. Unless we can critique our pastors and some such fly by night characters variously called apostles, prophets or men-of-god, without having some lunatic say “touch not the anointed of god” then we have no freedom.
Unless you can meet and talk about opposing a sitting government and work out constitutional means of getting them out of office without some overzealous prosecutor charging you with treason, then we are not free. Unless we can say that a certain opposition party is peopled with mapuruvheya and vatengesi without being accused of licking shoes then we are not really free.
Freedom must not be an illusion. It must be real. And it needs not be political. To be completely free, the citizen must be able, through diligent work and enterprise, to improve their station in life, so that their children inherit a legacy better than their parent found.
Freedom entails living in a country free of corruption, a world that functions on rules that give equality of access and opportunity in exchange for honest effort.
Freedom means being able to leave a better Zimbabwe for our children than the one we found. At the moment, we aren’t on course to do that.
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a Harare based lawyer
Source: Nehanda Radio