By Norbert Mao
The things that we have witnessed in Zimbabwe have elevated and enhanced our collective humanity. The scenes were largely peaceful. For long the people of Zimbabwe were helpless and mute being subjects of a totalitarian regime. We need compassion in order to understand the position of those who live under the yoke of despotism. That’s the only way we can understand who for years had arrangements with the deposed leaders and even connived with him against democratic forces. Under totalitarianism, the relationship between citizens and the those with political authority is complex. There is no neat division between martyrs and collaborators.
No one survives dictatorship without a scar. Everybody is scathed. Whoever crosses the shark infested waters of tyranny alive does not need lectures, scoldings and sermons. They need understanding, help and guidance. But Zimbabweans have not been passive in the face of this disease to which all nations are to a certain extent vulnerable. They have exercised with various degrees of vigor, their power to resist.
The tragedy of Zimbabwe is our tragedy. It’s the personification of the tragedy of humanity shackled. That is why the triumph of the people of Zimbabwe is also our triumph. They have been and remain our comrades in the long hard battle for a better society in a troubled world.
The tragedy of Zimbabwe, like that of most of Africa, is that what in 1980 claimed to be a hopeful and positive turn of events, claiming to end injustice, oppression and abuse of power, evolved into a shabby police state. Personal lust for power was clothed in the lofty language of revolutionary zeal. The battle against the white minority rule became a curtain raiser for the battle for genuine national emancipation as the corruption case of power set in. The obscene display of naked power by Mugabe and his wife became nauseating much like some stake and monotonous pornography which ends up boring everybody including those who practice it.
Whether there will be more convulsions in Zimbabwe depends on how the new leader conducts the affairs of state. For he, more than anyone else, has an obligation to the past, the present and the future. He has to prove that the independence struggle was worthwhile, that the present change will make things better and that the future will not be lost on account of unnecessary squabbles. He needs to stay alive to the fact that change and renewal are a constant in nature and in human affairs.
As for the opposition their job is to keep the necessary alternatives to ZANU-PF before the people of Zimbabwe – an alternative which is purposeful, hopeful and decent. The shadow that Mugabe and his inner circle cast over the aspirations of people of Zimbabwe has been lifted. For now the Ship of State is stable. It now has to move in the direction desired by the Zimbabweans themselves. That is the only way for the new crew not to be seen as a bunch of pirates.
Mnangagwa has only one task – to influence things by personal example. So far he has done well. He has the opportunity to be Zimbabwe’s Cincinnatus. Roman ruler Cincinnatus worked his own small farm until an invasion prompted his fellow citizens to call for his leadership. He came from his plough to assume complete control over the state but, upon achieving a swift victory, relinquished his power and its perquisites and returned to his farm.
Mnangagwa can be that man with the heart to turn his back on the limelight and let the limelight seek him. A man who exercises supreme command over a nation in crisis with firmness and compassion. He will also have to institute an adroit and wise foreign policy to unleash positive energy from around Zimbabwe and tilt the global balance of forces in favour of Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa’s example will solidify the Zimbabwean national character that the whole world is now praising. As long as Zimbabweans remain themselves, the world will embrace them. Worthwhile things cannot be ignored. As Henry David Thoreau wrote: “There is no illwill which may not be dissipated, like the dark if you let in a stronger light upon it…If the light we use is but a paltry and narrow taper, most objects will cast a shadow wider than themselves”. However if Mnangagwa’s taper is a strong one, then the rays will penetrate every corner of the globe and in time dissipate any outlook of gloom that may be prevailing.
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