15 June 2012

Zimbabwe: A Hope for the Future


I was reading the RAU report posted on this page and of course I am concerned about the plight of teachers, but what really got me going was the title of the article, "What kind of citizens will Zimbabwean children develop into...?" This question is not only relevant for the future, but lies in the here and now.

Zimbabwe's press is overloaded with reports of carnage on the road. In April two horrific accidents took the lives of 33, 12 people burnt beyond recognition in a double cab (overloaded, you think?), 21 killed in a bus and then in May 13 died in a commuter omnibus. These are the reported cases. But what you do not see reported is the number of drunk drivers on our roads, nor the untold misery suffered by the families of the victims.

Over the past week two incidents, both involving drunk, young Zimbabwean drivers in their early twenties, have claimed the lives of at least six individuals. In Harare, two vehicles left the drag racing circuit outside the city, and instead of leaving competition to the track, they started racing down 2nd Street, a major thoroughfare. One of the vehicles had a head on collision instantly killing the passenger in his car and the driver of the vehicle he had rammed. The drunk driver survived and I have been told his sister is in a coma.

In Bulawayo, yet another drunken youth, apparently speaking on his cell phone and going at excessive speed, overtook a truck into the oncoming lane, instantly killing one of his friends in the passenger seat and an elderly couple, one of them an iconic figure in the small community. The second passenger passed away a couple of days later. The drunk driver survived.

Yes, drunk driving is a universal problem, but in Zimbabwe the issue is exacerbated by the fact that our youths are being brought up in a society where there is zero respect for authority. How can any Zimbabwean child understand respect when everyone, from the top down, is engaged in nefarious activity? How can any young adult be expected to develop due regard for the sanctity of human life when the powers that be can, with impunity, murder, maim, torture, terrify and humiliate? How can any child or young adult understand the need for laws and rules, when the very institution that is responsible for maintaining law and order sanctions the solicitation of bribes? For a price you can get away with anything, even murder.

Think about these two young drunk drivers and about the last 12 years in Zimbabwe, think about the decay and the rot. The drivers are obviously part of a small minority whose parents can afford to give their kids expensive and dangerous "toys", but sadly these kids have failed to learn the lesson of accountability. Not for one minute do I believe that either should be spared the full might of the law, but at the same time I see two young Zimbabwean victims. If there was a system that meted out justice fairly and squarely, I would like to think that our youth would not act with such disregard for their fellow beings.

Yes, I despair, but I was also uplifted by a new Facebook page called "Zimbabweans Against Drunk Driving", ZADD, that seems to be going viral. It was started by a young Zimbabwean horrified at the recent tragedy and whose initiative is clear evidence that there is promise for our youth. While many comments speak of the anger, the fear, the apathy and the lack of trust, I also see signs of inspiration, positive engagement, creativity and a willingness to take responsibility.

But most important of all, I see hope.

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