Shouldering the burden of history

I read a long time ago that when Steve Jobs was first fired from the company he founded, he sought out the founders of HP to apologise for letting the next Silicon Valley generation down. As we all know, this was not an incredibly egotistical statement to make. He bounced back to make good on his apology and did embrace his role and ambition to “make a dent in the universe” as he had urged his friends to do with him in his chosen field of human endeavour.

Today, in Zimbabwean and African politics, the burden of history is lying in limbo waiting for someone to shoulder it. Zimbabwe, a strategic African country liberated after a glorious 14 year war for independence, is a stark example of unfulfilled potential. Unlike the young and brash Steve Jobs, Zimbabwe is a 14 million population strong country with a devastated economy due to the ineptitude and greed of a cynical and uncaring leadership that has plundered the nation’s resources in a ferocious and unseemly feeding frenzy. It is a country where the quest for revenge was stronger than the vision for Africa’s development, cog by cog, nation by nation. Far from helping to advance the African Renaissance, Zimbabwe is a festering sore that hobbles the continent’s walk towards a new age.

And yet.

And yet one of Zimbabwe’s enduring qualities is a world renowned work ethic from farming stock people of the soil to a highly educated population with a love for the books to the extent that even street vendors used to sell textbooks in the early years of independence. In a sense, this education has meant that the youth bulge that could have led to demands for reform and change has never materialised as Zimbabweans simply take their skills elsewhere to live near normal lives in exile and take care of their dreams and aspirations. I say ‘near normal’ because when you are forced to leave because of push instead of pull factors, there is always the sense that you did not do so on your terms. Families are incomplete and grandparents can only see and talk to their children on skype, when there is electricity. This is not normal.

This same education also means that there are competent Zimbabweans with the right public core values who can and should help lift Zimbabwe from the quagmire and build a new society. The current opposition, though bravely taking on the government of the day over the last two decades, has failed to break the log jam and, in many instances of undemocratic practice within its own ranks, given us a glimpse in to what sort of government they would have created. They are not an option. The new entrants in the opposition are a cynical group of disgruntled politicians expelled from the feeding trough, despite their protestations of love and loyalty to the tyrant, and looking for a way back close to state coffers. I say cynical because they do not even begin to apologise for their role in the murder of 20 000 of their own people, forced eviction of hundreds of thousands of their own people in the middle of winter and the wanton violence across the country every time their political party’s hold on power was threatened. They are not an option either!

The burden of history therefore falls on Zimbabweans, in and out of the country, to step up and begin to make their mark on the direction the country is going to take post 2018. Bob Marley sang, “every man thinks that his burden is the heaviest”, but I can reasonably argue that a country that had the brightest prospects of any post-independence African country now stands at a precipice between calamity and safety. We are leaning towards calamity unless Zimbabweans respond to this call.

The Harare regime has never been weaker, more divided and greedy. They have expelled their Vice President, are suing each other in an orgy of self- destruction because they simply cannot shed their core values: Zanu ndeye ropa. Bar a couple of individuals, this institution is a messy wreck of individuals fighting over a loose steering wheel and failing brakes of a decrepit vehicle heading in to the chasm of perpetual despair.

We simply have to save our country and we have to start mobilising now. One of the most important things in preparation for change is to register to cast that all important vote. Between now and the end of January, use the holidays to register as a voter.  If your burden of history is simply to register now and vote later, then so be it. Please make the time to do this one thing and discard the disappointment of the past, the belief that nothing will change and embrace the opportunity that the current economic crisis, walking wreck that is ZanuPF and your duty to family and country represent to register. It is extremely tough in Zimbabwe, our people have been robbed of their dignity in every single way imaginable but we cannot afford to remain frozen in despair. Rouse yourself, one more time, and shoulder this burden.

Steve Jobs came back to his job and achieved his desire to “make a dent in the universe” with his genius and products. You, with your vote for capable and competent Zimbabweans, will do the same for the beginning of the restoration of Zimbabwe to a rightful place of honour among the nations. We have work to do and Zimbabwe has a role to play in building the African century. “Light a candle, instead of cursing the darkness.”

Albert Gumbo

8 November 2016

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