Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Zimbabwe at 32: Rambai maka shinga

When one mentions Zimbabwe, whether around dinner tables with sophisticate folk, in seminars with the scholarly or overloaded minibus taxis, images of police brutality and starving children are immediately conjured. For some, images of Mau-Mau style displacement and terror come up, 'innocent' farmers macheted and shamboked out of their safari-style African dream. Not to mention the pistol-whipping, both literal and figurative, of propaganda into the working class's heads by state police and ruling party youths.

In these moments, amid recurring carelessly thrown about remarks about Zimbabwe's dysfunction (scathing because of their truths), I find myself awash with despondency, it is difficult to stick my neck out, to 'shinga' (be strong) as my patriarchs demand.  At the height of Zimbabwe's famed political and socio-economic meltdown, chapped lips grimaced on the half hour throughout the day as battery powered, car and occasionally electrified radios and TV sets strained to blast "taane minda murambe maka shinga," meaning, "we now have land, stay strong." ZANU-PF had commissioned, probably without pay, its  TV and radio broadcasters to play this skit throughout the day, it was publicized in newspapers and the occasional pamphlet, it was the ruling party's daily rhetoric. The nation was now free of 'imperial domination', free to chart its course ahead. And the conjurers of this grand plan?  I often wonder, how does one sleep peacefully at night, with Operation Murambatsvina ( a systematic, dehumanizing purging of shack and informal settlement dwellers from the city of Harare to make it look pretty for some or other international envoy) on your conscience? I can not answer these questions and the people responsible for this plunder have thus far not been brought to book. What I do know is that their pillows stained, if not with worry then the lather of hair dye, desperate clasps at virile youth. To their pampered wives' chagrin, what a waste of a million thread count really. While their husbands rouse up and arm the poor, they shop up a storm. The old men straightened arthritic backs, lifted their canes and over knobby noses, peered through spectacles pointed at the future. 

As jubilant village women gyrated to the militaristic beat of land acquisition, drenched in copious amounts of the blood of our  forefathers, don't you forget, the septuagenarians continued to stack their riches. Zimbabwe's globally desirable workforce, products of a formidable 82 % literacy rate, starved and hustled into economic exile. Imagine, the generation that read and passed down Dambudzo Marechera, took cheesy pictures next to Harare gardens' abundant bourganvilliea and competed fiercely in education now waits tables and lives at the mercy of iron-fisted immigration departments and hostile local citizenry. Many people are returning home, some are farming, stepping up to the demands of rebuilding the economy but there are many cracks in the wall, a consumption driven economy is steadily being built on the ruins. Does it have any roots if our history hasn't been questioned, re-written, if we don't have any faith in our own capabilities. 

My Zimbabwe is not in the cataract eye of some old man. 
it is not blood drenched land
but rather that which feeds.
It's a tiny mulberry stained hand
the progressively sown seeds
of a questioning mind pursuing knowledge.
I refuse to remember the urge
to spit in a smug officer's face
but rather, David Whitehead lace
warm Pork-pies and chilly Cascades
as i watch the blue and white escapades
of clouds gathered in the Limpopo
and scattered into the Zambezi

My Zimbabwe is not bone, skeletal
it's wrought iron and granite sculpture
Undulating hills of green, eerie mountains
which rise and fall like fountains
of rhythm, Chimurenga songs
the place for which my heart longs
leaves my feet dusty with its soil
rooted to earth
my senses awakened
from sole to soul
a grand departure from the cataract eye of some old man.

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