My Letter to a Zimbabwean Friend
I’m penning you this note to express a reserved joy that the oldest sitting president has finally fallen. I’m happy yet doubtful, joyful yet skeptical, excited yet reluctant, and delighted yet equally reserved.
You have been, for years, waiting for this very moment to be liberated from your own leader. A moment akin to a struggle for a second ‘independence’. The first, during which Zimbabwe had shaken the yokes of colonial dominations and the nationwide economic-cultural subjugation of the ‘aliens’, was a battle for human dignity, honor, respect, sovereignty, and self-determination; the second, which seems (and I dearly hope so) to have ended yesterday, was a fight against a within colonialism, an internal exploitations of the many by the few. It was a long struggle against brutality, corruption, nepotism, and propaganda by a man who heroically fought the first independence battle to liberate Zimbabwe only to enslave it in the course of 37 years.
Like a thunder, the “I, Robert Mugabe, formally resign as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe”, read in your parliament, resonated all over the country. The old lion has finally fallen. The “Comrade Bob” has vanished from the political scenes. Mugabe thought, like any other dictator, that only the unavoidable death would terminate his reign; only when “God says come” would he step down. In fact, the common feature with all dictators of all times is a paradox that has always hunted them: the (un)conscious belief of their ever-lasting rule and their simultaneous fear of an expected end of it. To satisfy the one and mitigate the other, they must be unpardonably brutal, ruthless, and merciless; they must increase their police force, raise a standing army against their own people. The longer they live, however, the more monstrous they become; each passing minute constantly reminds them of their immediate end. They grow distrustful to all—children, wife, brothers, and sisters; and become as powerful as solitary.
The second and present efforts to free the country was even more strenuous since Mugabe had the army and the police at his service. For too long, he has been their protégé. The reasons for them to turn against him today are all too well-known to you for me repeat or explain to you what you already know even far better than I do myself. The struggle was even more strenuous since Mugabe and his acolytes have spectacularly and dramatically failed to induce economic development, prosperity, and social well-being for nearly four decades in power. 37 lost years; you may justifiably conclude. His lack of clear as well as sound policies was compounded by various economic sanctions, which further isolated his geo-strategically not-so-meaningful country. The long wait and the unexpectedness with which it has finally happened could be imagined, felt, seen, and experienced. No wonder that the streets of Harare were filled with crowds chanting with delight. Their illuminating faces, like the sunny summer-days, were accompanied by “we’re very happy”, “we could not believe it at first”, “it seems like in a dream”. And so on and so forth. Their former despairs have vanished with Mugabe, and their hope for a new dawn regained.
Mugabe is not the first, nor will he be the last, dictator, authoritarian, despot (you name it!) to fall. Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, Mohammad Kaddafi, Blaise Compaoré, Yahiya Jammer—and the list is limitless—were first thought unshakable before their unexpected falls in different times of history and under various historical circumstances.
I said, from the outset, I’m reservedly happy for you, for your nation, and for the whole Africa that at least one political dinosaur has been eliminated from the African political scene. Yet, I’m equally reserved for the very reason that this ‘spring’ of hope can easily turn into a long ‘winter’ of despair.
With Mugabe gone, you Zimbabweans people are at a crossroads with only two choices on the table. Your first choice: You could do nothing by just contenting yourselves with the present situation and by chanting and dancing on the streets without pushing for a real change for your own good. With this choice, one of these two things will certainly happen: 1)—the military, now having turned their back on Mugabe after so many years, will unanimously choose a puppet president to serve them and not you the people—should this happen, you will soon find yourselves anew deep into the ocean of despair, hopelessness and helplessness; or 2)—the military, having unanimously thrown Mugabe out, will fail to agree on what to make of the post-Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, whereby the different fractions (of which you are better knowledgeable) within the military in line with their respective politicians will strive to eliminate one another. That seemingly internal struggle, however, will not spare you any more than a sinking boat would spare its paraphernalia.
Your second choice—and I need hardly demonstrate that it is the wisest, the best for you the people and for the country: as joyfully as you express your understandable delight for the fall of your political dinosaur, you may also choose to seize this opportunity to push for a real change with a free, fair, and transparent election; only then could you ensure that the government will-be is accountable, responsible, transparent, respectable to your rights and basic needs and dignity. You must never forget that the military and police forces you seem to felicitate were the same forces Mugabe used to brutalize, torture, and even kill you, your compatriots or relatives, and that nothing would prevent them from doing so again should they succeed in choosing a president for you at their mercy. You must never forget that the fall of Mugabe was a somewhat political coup de grâce. At the age of 93, what could be a better gift than to be offered a retirement? Nor should you forget the military’s claim that their intervention is to restore ‘legacy’ with brutality and disregard of basics human rights.
“It is my feeling” says Rabelais, “that Time ripens all things; with Time all things are revealed; Time is the father of truth.” Only time would be the best judge of any human action. And in the course of time the world will judge and condemn you or felicitate you for what you are to make of the present situation in your country. Do know, and always keep in mind, that the world is watching!
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