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Urge to vote

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Monday, May 23rd, 2011 by Thandi Mpofu

I loved every single one of them – the beautiful series of TV ads from South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission.  Each one was crafted to gently nudge citizens to register for and vote in the recently held municipal elections.  “Love your South Africa” was the poignant payoff line that summarised the advertisements’ intent.  I must admit, I felt quite moved to take-part in their elections myself.

Can you imagine if our own Zimbabwe Electoral Commission undertook a similar TV ad-campaign for voter mobilisation?  That would be something!  I know its wishful thinking.  There’s no money to conduct elections this year, let alone to design slick adverts.  And with nothing independent in the name or operations of the ZEC, having a non-partisan campaign is doubtful.

Nonetheless, one can dream.

They could start by showing black and white footage of people in long, winding queues.  Then the voice over would say “Lest we ever forget” as the ad would continue to show Zimbabweans patiently waiting to exercise their right to access cash, bread and anything that wasn’t readily available at the time.

“The fight for our democratic rights was hard,” the voice over would add before a melancholy tune begins playing.  Images would be run of women being beaten, battered and bruised political activists, maimed villagers and the lifeless bodies of once-promising youths.  I am certain we wouldn’t have to search far for such material.  There was more than enough violence perpetrated in the period 2006-2011.

Then the music would pick up pace and become a happy melody.  The voiceover would announce, “But that fight is over.  The people of Zimbabwe won.”  This would be accompanied by pictures showing the wealth gained from the struggle; fallow farms and derelict factories.  To emphasise the point, a snippet of an interview with a young man would be shown where he would enthuse how wonderful the fruits of our democracy are. “Currently I’m unemployed … because of illegal sanctions,” he quickly adds.  “But my tomorrow looks bright, thanks to the sacrifices of those who have gone before me.”

The pictures of some of the country’s most prominent independence-struggle icons would be displayed, concluding with that of the President in all his boisterous self.  Cue the voice over: “We fought hard to be where we are today.  Let’s ensure that this is the only future we’ll ever have.”

The background music would reach its crescendo, the screen would cut to a shot of the ZEC logo and the voice over would conclude:  “Make your mark and vote in the 2011 General Elections.  Your life depends on it!”

Stop injustice, accept our differences

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Monday, May 16th, 2011 by Thandi Mpofu

Why would one assume that others are gossiping about him/her just because they happen to be speaking amongst themselves in a language he/she doesn’t understand?  I often get that when a group of us are speaking SiNdebele around non-speakers.  Forget that we simply derive pleasure from conversing in our own tongue.  The reason SiNdebele is spoken is to gossip about other people because we really have nothing better to talk about.  It’s very irritating!

I suppose there is something in all of us that makes us regard with suspicion people who are different from ourselves.  And the differentiator needn’t be on major grounds, like being of another tribe, race or religion.  These days even a girl who doesn’t wear weaves in her hair is an oddity to be questioned, “What is wrong with her?”

The problem is when one isn’t open to accepting people’s differences distrust often results.  We then keep away from the object of suspicion and unwittingly become fertile ground for perpetuating prejudices.  So because I have limited interaction with Ndebeles, albinos and women with cropped hair, I then see these groups as being violent, practising witch craft and being lesbian.  Sadly, no matter how far-fetched or ridiculous the notion, lack of knowledge makes it all true.

It gets worse.  Stereotyping leads to intolerance which in turn breeds fear and hate.  And we wonder why society is plagued by discrimination, oppression and hate-crimes. Most people feel insulted and angered when they are exposed to politicians attempts to manipulate them. “What do they take us for?!” we hiss at rhetoric and blatant falsifications of the truth.

Well, let it be known that given the right circumstances – our own existing ignorance and suspicion of anyone different – politicians can and do successfully get the populace to think and act exactly how they want.  All it takes is for us to have the right conditions within ourselves; distrust, fear, hatred and prejudice.  For as long as we are unwilling to embrace peoples’ differences then the history of mankind will continue to be coloured red with genocides because we cannot accept that people look, dress, talk, worship and live differently.

In our fertile soils, each one of us can passively stand by or actively participate in forced evictions, Xenophobic attacks, ethnic cleansing, world wars etc, etc … the possibilities are endless.

Happy Birthday Zimbabwe

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Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 by Thandi Mpofu

Another year, another Independence Day.  Although we’ve gone through quite a bit since our birth in 1980,  Zimbabwe is still finding her feet and there is plenty that she must learn.  I reckon that she is like a teenager.  Typically, headstrong and idealistic, obstinately pursuing impractical ideologies without thinking things through.  She is also prone to peer pressure and values the opinion of her African friends far too highly.  This relates closely to the adolescent angst she often displays.  It’s frequently provocative speeches, violent tendencies, recklessness and spurning the assistance of elders such as Great “Aunt” Britain.   In fact, in recent years she has also taken to mixing with the wrong crowd – those countries that other wiser nations are rightfully wearing of.

But I don’t want to make the mistake that some are guilty of when it comes to young people, by only focusing on Zimbabwe’s flaws.   After all, speaking the truth usually ignites rebellion from teenagers (and many an older person).  Our Independence Day is a time of celebration and to be grateful for the good things that we enjoy in this country.   For instance, everyday there are gorgeous sunrises caressing the Eastern Highlands and breathtaking sunsets over the Matobo Hills.  Despite all that we’ve been through we still have the zeal to live full and productive lives.  People continue to fall in love, beautiful babies are born every day, children laugh and play and once in a while we have cake as we sing “happy birthday”.

However, what really is exciting for me and certainly worth celebrating this Independence Day is Zimbabwe’s potential.  Right here and now, we really have all that it takes to make this country great.  So much more can be achieved given half the chance.

One day we will have an Independence Day where every citizen, of whatever affiliation, will celebrate true freedom from oppression and injustice and we’ll all enjoy the bountiful fruit that this land has to offer.  But until then, we’ll have a braai and share a cold one with family and friends, all in a relatively peaceful environment – a comfort that many people on this continent cannot take for granted.


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Monday, April 4th, 2011 by Thandi Mpofu

Like a dog in the day
Like a dog in the night.
The main goal here is to score.
1, 2, 3 and maybe 4 more.

The art of mingling
Requires a little poison
Some liquid, some hash,
Some powder, some ash,
We really don’t care.
As long as it burns.

To lose sight of reality
We are drawn to noise.
Our senses crave release
The longing for touch increases
As our connection to love decreases.

Wasted energy
Wasted hope
Wasted dreams of the future
Wasted youth,
Better check yourself
Before you wreck yourself.

By Sanele Mpofu

Youth is wasted on the young

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Monday, April 4th, 2011 by Thandi Mpofu

Last week my neighbourhood experienced a massive electrical fault.  It was caused by a young man who was attempting to steal oil from a ZESA sub-station.  He got electrocuted in the process, was badly burnt and triggered an explosion that disrupted power supply to many homes.

I’m told that this chap was not more than 25 years in age and bizarrely, he only had one arm.  What could possibly lead a crippled person to do something that precarious, risking his remaining limbs and his whole life?  I know that there are millions in dire poverty in this country but it is only a few that would do something that dangerous.  I could only put it down to desperate times driven by the type of thoughtlessness that typifies youthfulness.

Apart from their rashness, youth are also known to be naively idealistic, wanting and claiming honesty, prone to personal selfishness and constantly questioning the status quo.  Used constructively, some of these attributes have seen youths all over the world revolutionise people’s thoughts, societal norms and entire systems of government.

And what of Zimbabwe’s young people?

History places them at the forefront of the fight against real and imagined colonial oppression. Modern policy states that our youth are the beneficiaries of the country’s wealth. Reality shows that this demographic has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS, unemployment and substance abuse.

So what is my point?  Zimbabwe’s youth are characteristically not much different from their peers around the world; so foolish acts (executed clumsily with one arm) can be expected.  However, whilst our youth brim with energy and potential, they lack outlets to constructively direct these.  And this is by no means a result of their doing.

The responsibility lies with their elders who have spread intergenerational infections, held onto power and position, unfairly distributed land and other resources.  The youth have been denied their chance to grow, to lead and to shine.  So yes, without opportunities, youth is wasted, and it is wasted by those who should have guarded the future.  And under these circumstances the young do what they do to earn a living and to keep themselves occupied.

Zimbabwe’s doctors of untruths

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Monday, March 28th, 2011 by Thandi Mpofu

The big-headed doctors have us in a spin;
Etching venom into the soul with each manic application of their instruments.
It’s for our own good, the medicated airwaves they prescribe.
We’re told it’ll help us see better if we don’t question what we see.
Just take it all in, swallow it all up.
But doctors of untruths – your opium makes me sick!

There have been too many injections, both intoxicating and toxic;
Administered under the guise of reforming the land.
We’ve been fed countless conspiracy pills, doses illegally sanctioned.
And we have taken up your calls to vote for and to sign against.
Like fools, we’ve believed in our rights and diesel pouring out of rocks.
But doctors of untruths – real skeletons will be exhumed!

My dog urinates on my car tyres, claiming it as his own.
So too do they mark  title on us.
Their tall tales imprinted on our sight, jingles ringing in our ears, wounds tattooed in our hearts.
They even have their grip on our nuts and we’ve accepted without resistance.
Is there any dispute?  We must be their people.
But doctors of untruths – no one owns fate, you cannot rig destiny!