Zimbabwe: Bunch of Spineless Cowards?

opinion

SOUTH African newspaper columnist and vastly experienced editor Barney Mthombothi set the cat among the pigeons last weekend when he boldly asserted that the time has come for that country to stop playing the role of nanny to Zimbabweans.

In a forthright article that has been praised and denounced in equal measure, he argued that Zimbabweans have brought suffering upon themselves by continuously voting for their tormentors. He said the people of this country do not deserve anyone's sympathy. His stance sparked controversy and heated debate on social media, particularly Twitter whose format is tailor-made for bare-knuckle discourse.

I carefully scrutinised the varying responses to Mthombothi's article. Many Zimbabweans were not amused. They felt he was not only insensitive to their plight but also callous in his attitude.

As the whole debate raged on, a question kept recurring: How can a South African journalist, on one hand, accuse Emmerson Mnangagwa of stealing an election, while accusing Zimbabweans of bringing problems upon themselves on the other? Surely, there is a fatal contradiction?

There was no shortage of counter-arguments to this. One of them was that, even if the election was indeed rigged, why is it that the Zimbabweans did not take action to reclaim the stolen vote? Whose responsibility is it to fight for democracy in Zimbabwe?

Mthombothi says Zimbabwe is not the first country to suffer from autocracy. What is strange about this particular country is the manner in which its citizens have gone about breaking the shackles of oppression.

He is not advancing an entirely new argument. I have heard this line countless times whenever I visit neighbouring countries, especially South Africa and Botswana. What I have noticed is that neighbouring countries are sick and tired of Zimbabwe's never-ending crisis. They liken us to that hopeless drunkard in the family who makes it extremely difficult for anyone to help him.

But this week, students at Njube High School in Bulawayo showed the world in emphatic fashion that Zimbabweans are not cowards at all. Throwing caution to the wind, the youngsters staged a protest which took everyone by surprise. They made their feelings known about school fee increases and the absence of teachers who no longer report for duty owing to pathetic salaries.

If you want to appreciate just how audacious the students' protest was, jog your memory back to August 1, 2018 and mid-January 2019. This regime does not hesitate to spill blood. There comes a time when fear is no longer a factor. If you see a rat sprinting headlong into a vicious fire, you must know that something hotter than flames is after its life.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the mainstream opposition MDC, was in fiery mood on Tuesday this week when he presented his much-anticipated "Agenda 2020" address to the nation.

He emphasised the importance of finding a solution to Zimbabwe's intractable political and economic crisis. Chamisa's critics in Zanu PF have sought to pour cold water on his speech, pointing out--rather sarcastically--that his presentation was so dismal that opposition supporters are still waiting in vain for the all-important "signal" to throw down the gauntlet and tackle Zanu PF head-on.

Media scholar and journalist Pedzisai Ruhanya went for the jugular the other week when he bluntly described opposition leaders as cowards who conveniently accuse the povo of lacking the courage to confront the Zanu PF system.

He argued that the masses are not cowardly but were being let down by a lethargic opposition leadership.My take is that--just like the Njube High School students--the people of Zimbabwe will one day overcome fear and take destiny into their own hands when the moment of truth finally arrives.

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