Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

A Zimbabwean Afro-pessimist

TOP del.icio.us

Perhaps I belong to that species some prefer to call rather unflatteringly “Afro-pessimists.” But for me, I figure that I elect to embrace that gloomy outlook with good reason. For many years we have listened to what I call the “Pan-types” who, despite all evidence, have internalised and radicalised their belief in that all criticism of an African politician – and as common sense will have it, any Blackman – is a manifestation of toadying to the racist Whiteman who has failed to see anything positive emerging from the Blackman’s universe. These types are those who will invoke juvenile history lessons to state their case, and become conveniently amnesiac where it involves atrocities and other evils committed in the here and now by men and women of colour.

I raise this here after a colleague said to me the other day after the signing of the Government of National Unity agreement by Zimbabwe’s main political players that I was an inveterate pessimist after I confessed that I could not see anything fruitful emerging from the “historic” signing, be it in the short or long term. We had been told that the nation would know about cabinet appointments and allotments before the week of the signing was over. I did not hold my breath. As if by some ESP-based intuition, something told me this party formed in the 1960s – which would make it a dinosaur – would stick it out and trash all attempts to make something out of that crap signing. And here we are many days later not having a clue about where we are at as a nation.

My pessimism about all things Zimbabwean is informed by the fact that this country has had many false starts; each time the people imagine they are about to pass this man-made hell, the “veterans of the struggle” cock a snook and show us their butts. And then with glee they shout “Gotcha!!” Just analyse all elections held since 1980. They have always been about “See, we hold regular elections, so why accuse us of being enemies of multi party democracy?” But the setting up and subsequent flourishing of democracy based checks and balances and other democratic institutions do not form part of the multi party agenda, so you know where that leaves us. But I digress. The hubris that emerged after the signing where you had whole neighbourhoods blowing trumpets, beating chests, and as Patrick Chinamasa alleged, beating up people as they celebrated the coming into government of their point man, Morgan Tsvangirai was another pointer of the naivety – or desperation – of a crisis-weary people yearning for better days. Call it the plebeian excitement of the working class, but you had to see it to believe it. It was the stuff popular street uprisings a la the Orange Revolution are made of.

I could hear and see people celebrating that those folks whose lives depended on remittances from abroad were in the coming week – not weeks – to be reduced to “ordinary” Zimbabweans as the street exchange rates were doomed to plunge to all time lows, thereby depriving them of that elitist existence they were enjoying thanks to the voodoo economics of the “out-going” cabal of kleptocrats. Noone cared to explain how this would happen, but I imagined it had something to do with the whole thing that the people are fed up with Zanu PF’s false promises and self-aggrandisement streak. It eerily appears as if this streak is indelibly etched in their DNA, someone whispered the other day. I listened, bemused by all this tabloid-like stoking of emotions. Toothless grannies yearning for tea with milk, bread with butter, stopped you in the street asking what was happening. They too were already celebrating that at last the one with a funny if not silly moustache was on the verge of what would have been an equivalent of what would in the next days befall his trusted foreign minister and fire fighter Thabo Mbeki.

First, what has become the pulse of the economy, the street-based foreign currency trade became the pointer of better things to come. The “illegal” black market saw a huge and dramatic dip in the exchange rate of the local useless dollar against major currencies as speculators spread falsehoods and in the process raising alarm and despondency. We know the fate of others who treaded that path! This was a sure miracle for many, a Godsend of some sorts. A guy who is always eager to fleece old women of their forex said to me the other day after the signing, ‘I am not touching any of that foreign money. I would be stupid to accept that. What will I do with the (South African) Rands next week?” He asked. I asked him back, “What is it that you have heard?” “People are saying…” was his response. I dismissed him with the contempt he deserved. “Ignorant fool,” I might have added, but then you do not rub it in when in the company of people who have no clue about anything but appear to know more than everybody else in that realm of what has become the favourite of many here: arcane contemporary politics… and economics. And in present day Zimbabwe, such types come in their millions. But before the shyster could yawn, the rates had shot two fold! I said to myself, what kind of people have we become that we have no clue about anything in a time and era where news dissemination now transcends all sorts of censorship? Shouldn’t people have the right to know when it is their livelihoods that are being discussed by men in suits…and dark glasses? As a wise crack quipped ages ago, if you want to control people, deny them information. And Zimbabweans now provide ample thesis material in that miserable regard.

Keeping a permanent gloomy outlook about all things Zimbabwean has helped me not raise my expectations about the future only to expose myself to a possible cardiac attack after having cursed friends and foes alike basking on my ignorance that if cameras flash then hey “Turn up the boombox, put on your hightops, Come on outside, today’s gon’ be the day we Start livin in the new worrrld.” (apologies to Black Thought, Tha Roots). I am yet to be provided with any reason to raise my head up high and say I will buy my two boys baby cereals and all that stuff paediatricians tell us will make prodigies out of these tiny tots. But in my guarded pessimism, I try to be careful that this – like hate – does not consume me to that extent that I move from being compos mentis to what the Hispanic chaps would call loco.

Comments are closed.