When the nationalists embarked on protests, talks, frustration, armed struggle and then finally negotiations for ceasefire across the continent, it was not driven by selfish ambition. Many of them were corrupted later by the trappings of power. This is why we look, with a certain nostalgia, at the black and white pictures of the nationalists arriving at some conference, cane, flywhisk or handkerchief in hand, in pursuit of efforts to liberate our countries from the yoke of colonialism. There was a purity and beauty in those images. Beauty is a thing of higher cognitive awareness in the intellectual interpretation of the physical thing or music note in front of us. Poet and song writer Patti Smith, in her acclaimed memoir Just Kids, gives us a lovely glimpse in to recognising a thing of beauty when she recalls a singular event in her childhood.
“When I was very young, my mother took me for walks in Humboldt Park, along the edge of the Prairie River. I have vague memories, like impressions on glass plates, of an old boathouse, a circular band shell, an arched stone bridge. The narrows of the river emptied in to a wide lagoon and I saw upon its surface a singular miracle. A long curving neck rose from a dress of white plumage.
Swan, my mother said, sensing my excitement. It pattered the bright water, flapping its great wings, and lifted in to the sky.
The word alone hardly attested to its magnificence nor conveyed the emotion it produced. The sight of it generated an urge I had no words for, a desire to speak of the swan, to say something of its whiteness, the explosive nature of its movement, and the slow beating of its wings.
The swan became one with the sky. I struggled to find words to describe my own sense of it. Swan, I repeated, not entirely satisfied, and I felt a twinge, a curious yearning, imperceptible to passersby, my mother, the trees, or the clouds.”
We do not have the same reaction when we look at post independence portraits of most of our current leaders brooding at us from government buildings everywhere because we know the persons are no longer the nationalists they used to be. It does not mean we must not aspire to serve because we are afraid we will turn out like them with imaginary enemies everywhere. Nor does it mean we must hastily paint all future leaders with the same tainted brush in the mistaken assumption that they will follow a similar path.
I have given it some thought and have concluded that the black middle class must learn to fall in love with politics. Not with the example of politicians we have witnessed to date, but with the idea that to serve one’s country in this particular sphere is a thing of beauty. Our middle classes like to quote successful corporate leaders and they buy books a plenty in a bid to one day succeed like them. Why not pursue a life in politics with the same ardour and be the ones who set the new trend for future politicians? We cannot save Zimbabwe, and our continent, without you.
I appeal to this particular class for the simple reason that many of them shy away from politics because of the perception that they have of politicians as a direct result of their behaviour. But if the likes of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, people we like to quote and admire, would go for a career in politics really for the highest ideal of serving, of helping to make a significant contribution because it is an aspiration, why oh why can it not be the same here? I am more than convinced that given sufficient reflection, some of our brightest and best would be willing to step forward for a new project to build a new Zimbabwe. It is grossly unfair to criticise the current opposition for their naivety or lack of strategy while you sip a whisky in a head office pub or country club complaining about the state of the country. Equally, it is also not enough to say, ‘but we advised them to do this and that!” I know you did! I was present in some instances but stepping up to the plate today means going beyond very welcome furtive donations and advice.
Stepping up means understanding we are in this together. The destiny of our nation, and indeed our continent, can no longer be left to the traditional politician who harangues people at rallies and lords it over the masses once in power. We have to step up because to help save the nation is a thing of beauty, to help lay the foundation for recovery is majestic and to build a prosperous nation because you have a sense of legacy is poetic. This is the person we are looking for. We are looking for leaders who want to build strong, self assertive women using political office to do so. How else will we build a new nation? We want to mould young men and women in to fiercely patriotic and fully functioning citizens but a fierce patriotism that does not mean praise singing or beating up political opponents. No! We seek to produce a fully functioning citizen who wants to create the next global app, the next drought resistant crop variety, the next wave of solar technology and the most efficient production techniques for our manufacturing industries. We want these young people to be motivated by their political leaders, not sick of them.
You must help us “light this candle, instead of cursing the darkness” of the inept and bankrupt management we currently have by stepping up to the political plate. Start thinking about it! Start thinking about what your contribution can, and will be, in preparation to stepping up to a life of beauty. There is a third way possible to save this glorious nation and beyond and we all have a responsibility to get actively involved. It is time for black swans to emerge!