Comment published in the Standard Newspaper 9th October 2005
by Pius Wakatama
A few months ago, I was invited to a private dinner along with a number of eminent Zimbabweans from various walks of life. Among the guests was none other than my good friend and fellow journalist, Dr Ibbo Mandaza, the ardent Zanu PF supporter and favourite government media analyst and apologist. Some foreign dignitaries were also present. The discussion at the table was about the future of Zimbabwe. Some voiced a lot of platitudes about the need for Zimbabweans to work together and so forth. Others talked about how the opposition and the ruling party were engaged in talks to bring an end the political and economic crisis the country is facing. One or two talked glowingly about the "economic turnaround" that the country was into and painted a picture of a rosy future indeed. I begged to differ with all of them. I said there was no hope for Zimbabwe unless Zanu PF went out of power or underwent a radical metamorphosis which was rather unlikely. I said: "A hungry man is an angry man. If the economic situation gets any worse the people might resort to violence." Mandaza differed with me rather strongly. He accused me of not looking at the situation rationally and of being too emotional. He went on to describe how good and capable the Zanu PF government was at meeting the national challenges and working hard to make Zimbabwe a success. He, however, admitted that some mistakes had been made. At first, I felt stung by Mandaza's remarks. I wanted to reply with some rather caustic and uncomplimentary comments about his party but thought the better of it. I didn't want to spoil the dinner. These days it is not often that I get invited to a free and sumptuous meal like the one we had. I therefore didn't want to ruin my chances of being invited again. Also on reflection, I concluded that the good doctor was right. I am indeed an emotional type of person. And come to think of it, there is nothing wrong in being emotional. Emotion is only undesirable when it arises out of irrational subjectivity such as when someone cries for no apparent reason or lashes out in anger without due cause. Otherwise emotion is a basic and necessary human expression of feeling.
I tend to become emotional when I rationally consider the ill-treatment of the powerless by the powerful bullies as is happening in Zimbabwe today. I become emotional when I survey the human and physical ruins brought about by "Operation Murambatsvina" and the unnecessary suffering it has brought to thousands who are now homeless. I become emotional when I see poor vendors who are trying to make an honest living by selling bananas, tomatoes and other vegetables being hounded and arrested when Zanu PF chefs are openly selling scarce petrol, maize meal, sugar, bread and other essentials on the black market with impunity. Indeed, I become emotional when I see how Zanu PF chefs and their cronies and relatives have carved out the best lands for themselves just like the white colonisers did. The colonisers were better because they took mostly virgin land and developed it. These shameless beggars wait until the white farmer's produce is ripe. They then swoop down to steal the farm, the implements and the ready-for-the-market produce. I get emotionally charged and mad when poor peasants who were allocated land and have been trying to eke out a living from the soil for the last three years, are being chased away to make way for gainfully employed civil servants and businessmen with mansions in town. Who would not be incensed at how shameless and crooked liars talk of lofty plans to help the poor when they are devoid of any feelings of love for their fellow men whatsoever? The only love they exhibit is the love of power and filthy lucre. The only feelings they show are feelings of hatred for those who dare question their legitimacy or right to eat like pigs when the rest of the country goes hungry. How can any true and caring Zimbabwean not become emotional and mad when the country's director of social welfare brazenly says Zimbabwe does not need international food aid? He actually said the majority of the people are able to buy food on their own thus invalidating the need for an international appeal for food aid. I wish I could call a rally of the starving masses in Dzivarasekwa and introduce him to them as the man who told willing donors that they didn't need food aid. "Vaimuita kanyama-kanyama."- They would tear him to pieces right there and then. The hunger and suffering there is pitiful. Ask the churches and non-governmental organisations who are trying to feed them with what little food they get if you want to know the truth.
I am not ashamed of being emotional because I am in the best company. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was very emotional. One day as he approached Jerusalem and thought of the evil in the place he wept like a child. He lamented the ignorance of the people as to what could bring about real peace. The Bible says that he entered the temple area and began driving out those engaged in nefarious activities. As they scattered in all directions some must have thought that they were being attacked by a lunatic. He said to them: "It is written: My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves'. (Luke 19: 39 - 460. Zimbabwe too, has become a den of thieves. Yes, Jesus became so emotional because of the wrong doing that He saw that He became violent. Oh, I wish that more people could be moved to become emotional as they see what is happening in our country today. Our children's future is being destroyed before our very eyes. We even rejoice when a son or daughter gets a visa to the much vilified UK, Europe or the United States to start a new life there. Shame on us!
Mandaza rebuked me for being emotional and thought that is an undesirable trait. He himself was an unemotional and able apologist for the government but where is he now? To tell you the truth, I was not surprised at all when I read that he had been unceremoniously kicked out of the Zimbabwe Mirror Group of Newspapers, allegedly by agents of the government he so ably defended. He is now frantically battling to regain control of the business he started through the courts. How the mighty have fallen! When I read about Mandaza's ouster I felt really sorry for my fellow scribe. He had worked so hard to set up the newspaper group. However, he should have known what most Zimbabweans know. "Inonzi ZanuPF. Ndeyekutamba wakachenjera." When playing with Zanu PF one should be very careful because it cannot be trusted. It is like playing with scorpions and vipers. Once you don't toe the line you are finished. My sincere advice to Mandaza is to forget about challenging the government through the courts. He will never win for our judiciary is quite partisan. And if he insists on fighting the powers that be to regain his business, he might end up being incarcerated like former Finance minister, Christopher Kuruneri or he might end up a fugitive in the diaspora like the former Zanu PF central committee member and businessperson, James Makamba. The list of Zanu PF unfortunates who fell out of favour is endless. The only sensible thing he can do is to cross the floor and team up with those actively opposing Zanu PF hegemony. Mandaza could only have remained at the helm of the Mirror Group by parroting Zanu PF and government propaganda. He was tolerated as long as he toed the middle line. But, when he openly went against government propaganda by criticising "Operation Murambatsvina", his fate was sealed. Our government does not tolerate independent thinking, especially by the media. Those who say that the right of the people to speak out through a free Press is a hallmark of a democratic society are definitely not talking about Zimbabwe. Ours is not a democratic society but a dictatorship. Those with ears to hear let them hear.