As 2010 looms, it is time for the Zimbabwean people to unite and become focused on one goal. The united call for the removal of Robert Mugabe and the Zanu PF one party state system of Government in Zimbabwe. Our call for free and fair elections, democracy and freedom of speech has never before been more needed by our nation, and never before have the Zimbabwean people been in such a powerful position to make this call felt all around the world.
I hear you all laughing out loud and muttering under your breath, but allow me a moment of your time, and humour me and read on. I write as I do today having looked back through history at many popular struggles throughout the world. In many ways, it is not uncommon for people who are ruled over with a hard line mantra to eventually buck the trend and begin to demand change. This happened with the African American Movement in the US, the Chinese Freedom Movement in China, the freedom movement in India, the Tibetan Independence movement and so many more that I could write a book just naming them.
The one common trend that sticks out clearly in each of these cases is firstly the fact that the uprising while fraught with difficulties and hardships, were mostly peaceful and calm on the part of the protesters. The governments at the time are the ones that over reacted with the use of force in most cases and through this action brought about a change in opinion worldwide. Secondly each of these movements had strong leadership and stuck to the cause, even when the leadership that they once so diligently followed was gone. Thirdly is that no matter how long the struggle, change was inevitable and when public opinion falls on the side of the oppressed it is inevitable that change will happen.
Let’s take for example the case of Martin Luther King. An obvious parallel for our current situation some might say, but I tend to disagree. Yes it is a large chunk of the population of Zimbabweans around the world that want Mugabe out. Yes it is a call from a people oppressed and cruelly prevented from prospering and being given the freedom of choice and the rights that all humans should enjoy by way of our acceptance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yes it is a call from a marginalised group of people who have had much taken from them with little thought to the process by which this has happened and with no thought to the long term detrimental effects on the economy. As was the case with Martin Luther King, any form of protest against the Mugabe regime so far has met with swift and decisive action on behalf of the power he commands over the military and police, let alone his terror squads. Yet there are differences in the struggle. The Zimbabwean situation is a struggle against a corrupt and desperate junta that cling to power to prevent being held accountable for their failure and abuse of power. Generally people are resistant to change because they have a fear of change. This cannot be the case in Zimbabwe, and the fear is of another kind. Furthermore, and more importantly however what is lacking in the Zimbabwean stuation is our Martin Luther King. Strong leadership with a voice of reason and passion has yet to call out to the people of Zimbabwe.
Martin Luther King was the leader of the African American civil rights movement, a clergyman, a respected speaker, a passionate man, and a dedicated leader. He excited in people a sense of moral justice and a yearning to be a part of the movement of change. Even in his death, he deplored the use of violence, and brought about a change in the law and outlook of American people through careful use of pressure at the right moments in the right places and never with the use of violence against the establishment.
In China the death of Hu Yaobang sparked the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 which culminated in the deaths of hundreds of civilian protestors. One of the most famous images of the 20th Century emerged from this peaceful standoff led mainly by students and intellectuals who gathered to mourn the pro-democracy and anti-corruption activists death. 1 million people gathered in a movement that lasted seven weeks before the military were finally able to clear the square, calling for everything from free market reform to those who called for an end of communism. As the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square one man had the courage to stand before the tanks and bring them to a complete stop, an image that has captured the attention of the international media and world populous alike. This single demonstration brought about the collapse of a number of communist governments around the world as public opinion changed towards communism and the human plight of people living under these authoritarian governments.
These protests have brought about change for the greater good through the use of pressure and peaceful demonstration. While change did not happen overnight, a slow, constant campaign of pressure, protests, public speeches, brought about a realisation in the public at large that people had a right to put their message across. Change became acceptable because the public embraced it rather than see the prolonged acts of violence carried out in their name. And while some have lead to a complete change in the way people are treated, others are still a work in progress.
If we look at two recent examples of where public pressure and the use of the media, international events and public opinion have begun a process that in time will see the next wave of changes occur through our world as we know it.
Firstly was the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and how the whole event was hijacked by the Tibetan Monks as a way to highlight their plight in a way that had not been possible for them before this event. The Olympic Games did something for China that no other event could ever have done. It brought the international media to their doorstep. The Tibetan Monks were not foolish when they began an protest just as the Olympic Torch began its tour around the world. It was well known that the reaction from the Chinese government would be decisive, swift and merciless. It was this reckoning that meant that the Tibetan Monks were able to pull one over on the Chinese Officials. The international condemnation of their reaction threatened to derail the whole Olympic Games, and many people were quite willing to stay away in boycott of the games because of this reaction. It was only a monumental effort of the IOC, and the major leaders of the world that brought everyone back in line and agree to participate in the event.
The recent protests in Iran show how times are changing. When people take to the streets in protest in one of the most secretive nations of the world, where people live under a cloak of fear for being persecuted by the secret police for their public protest against the Ayatollah Khomeini, then you know that times are really changing. While the uprising was contained and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in for another term as President of Iran, it is with quiet wonder at what cost it happened. How long will it be before he is ousted from power through an internal uprising. It would be in the West’s interest to try and support a challenge to power in Iran to oust the existing infrastructure and rid the area of a dangerous loose cannon, and in this protest they have uncovered a deep loathing within the nation of the seat of power in the country. This is something that surely will play into their favour as the game unfolds. It interests me to see what will happen in the years ahead as Iran continues to be a thorn in the side of the West.
But what is interesting more than anything is that an Islamic nation revolted so spectacularly against their leaders. The sudden outbreak of public opinion and the outcry of the people must have shaken the establishment to the very core of its foundation. Never before has such an impassioned call for change been seen in an Arabic nation, let alone a challenge against a supreme leader. Such actions must be a real cause for concern among leaders in Islamic states, as they realise that their people are human too and can tire of the incessant fool hardiness of a government protected by power and lavish lifestyles while their nation and people struggles on, trying survive and make a life for themselves under oppressive international sanctions.
Ok so where does all this lead. Well if you follow the common trend, you’ll see that peaceful protest does in time bring about change. There are some fundamental things that need to be established before this change can be brought about though, and it is not something that will happen overnight, so it needs passion, commitment and a thick skin. Morgan Tsvangirai has already proved that to stand for change in Zimbabwe will mean that you will engage in a hard and painful line. But what we don’t really realise is that Zimbabwean’s are in a rather unique position to make things work to their advantage. It is now that Zimbabwean’s should really be grouping together with a common voice, common language and be sly and cleaver about their approach to changing public opinion in their favour.
Firstly, Zimbabweans need to see beyond colour. Racial integration is something that I personally think will be a sticking point in Africa for many years to come and this is a sad fact. It is unfortunate that the international community don’t really like this attitude of blame everything on your past and never seek for ways of changing your future. Robert Mugabe has successfully run a propaganda campaign that blames the white man, colonialism and the West for every problem that Zimbabwe has. Many fall in line and accept this party mantra as the truth and fail to realise that without the white man, the west and to an extent colonialism they would not be where they are today. Now please before you begin to throw verbal abuse and shout me down, I accept that colonialism was a pathetic attempt by the white man to own the world, to oppress the native people of the land and to rape and pillage the land for their own gain. Yes I understand that it marginalised a people into poverty and bread a deep routed hatred of the Colonialist approach to things. That is a pain that will be carried long into our future as the hatred is passed down from one generation to another, and that is why I feel that we will struggle with this issue long into the future. Society needs to somehow find a way to teach our children that the faults of yesterday’s generation are not the burden and responsibility of this day’s generation.
What colonialism did do however was build an infrastructure that with good governance and business acumen can be built on and grown into a viable and prosperous nation. What Zimbabwe as a nation must come to terms with is that to be successful and productive in today’s world, business and trade will have to take place with the white man, and the it will be the white man that will seek to invest in the infrastructure and future of any new Zimbabwe. Until our government realise that alone we cannot survive, and stop infuriating the West and begin to work with them we are doomed as a nation. This stigma of I am black and you are white is something that we really must address as a we seek to rebuild our nation. Martin Luther King didn’t want a land void of white men, he just wanted the right to live with the same rights and opportunities as a white man. Nelson Mandela didn’t want to punish a nation for the faults of a government, he sought to heal and reconcile his nation through integration and breaking down of racial barriers. The sins of our past are our lessons for tomorrow. And accepting this we learn to grow as people and as a nation.
From within a united front a strong message can take shape that we as Zimbabweans demand change. As this message takes shape and we begin to apply pressure where it is needed I believe earnestly that a strong and diligent leadership will emerge and take shape to guide us in our call for change. 2010 approaches us with speed, and an international platform that we can use to present our case to the international community beckons us on our doorstep. The World Cup will arrive in South Africa next year, and with an estimated 2 million Zimbabwean’s living in South Africa can you imagine the power in our hands right now?
Picture this. A protest of 100,000 Zimbabweans takes to the streets on the day of the opening match in central Johannesburg and sits down in silent protest at the government of Robert Mugabe and the failure of the SADCC nations to do anything about his corrupt regime. Our message will capture and fill every network around the world. Johannesburg will be brought to a standstill, and the plight of the Zimbabwean people, the disgrace of the SADCC nations failure to help them and the deborchery of the Zimbabwean Government will be seen by the whole world. The fact that the people of Zimbabwe peacefully found the need to call out to the world to ask for their assistance as every political avenue in the African Arena has failed will bring the plight of the Zimbabwean people into the home of every football fan in the world. Every news channel will carry and lead with the story. Researchers will be pulled to dig the dirt and reveal as much as possible on the main story of the year. The high light of the World Cup 2010 will always be associated with the day that Zimbabwean’s from every walk of life sat down for the right to freedom and good governance.
This is not all. It is estimated that around a million Zimbabwean’s live in the UK. There is possibly another million in various other places around the globe. Living in Diaspora they call it. Whatever fancy term you wish to link to it, picture this. Christmas eve 2010, 10,000 Zimbabwean’s gather at strategic places in cities all around the globe. New York, London, Madrid, Rome, Sydney, Wellington, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Washington, Toronto to name a few. They hold carol singing ceremonies with speeches that are prepared to back up the call for pressure and removal of Robert Mugabe’s regime across the world, simultaneously, with invitations to the press. If you think about it 10,000 people will fill Time Square in New York. It’ll fill Trafalgar Square in London. Peaceful protests wishing love, peace and goodwill to all men, yet putting our message across in the most powerful terms possible.
We don’t need to take up arms. What we do need is passionate people, with vision and a calling. These are just two ideas that we can use that will spring board a call to change into the Interantional agenda of many nations. What we have to do is take on the oppressive institution of Robert Mugabe and the Zanu PF by challenging the world to take up our plight and back our corner. If we call for every man woman of voting age to write to their leader on our behalf. If we were to create petitions around the world for people to sign, all saying the same thing, all signed by people from every nation that Zimbabweans have fled to, all calling for the UN and other halls of power to drive change in Zimbabwe, then we, yes the humble peaceful people of Zimbabwe can bring about change in our nation. There are many challenges for us to overcome. There will be highs and lows as we seek to overcome, but ultimately I believe that we have what it takes to make a change. We just have not learnt to use that power effectively and to our advantage.
I understand that not everyone will agree with me. I also understand that in order to reach this kind of unification that we must all buy into a common idea, with common goals and a strong agenda. What I have come to realise is that without doing something ourselves we will only be in the same situation in 20 years from now. It may well be under another leader, or a different party, but we will suffer the same historical line that so many other African nations have taken before us. It will only be us who will make a change in Zimbabwe. Just as the UK and other nations face tough decisions over things like spending and economic policies for the next 50 years, it is up to us as a people to make the tough decision of whether we wish to see change and are willing to step up to the mark to make it happen or are willing to let the tide of time make the change for us. I do believe that we need to dialogue between each other and thrash out the pro’s and con’s of our ideas, seek these common goals, find an agenda we can all follow and take up the challenge of changing our nation ourselves.