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Don’t be their cows

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A friend and I were speaking this morning about the upcoming election. We were reflecting on how limited each of the presidential candidates are, in their various different ways. Why aren’t we more demanding, we asked one another. Why aren’t Zimbabweans more insistent that they deserve good leaders. Why do we settle for so much less than the ideal?

This was still on my mind when I came into the office and found this poem by Tawanda Mutasah, extracted from The Zimbabwean:

The Rural Vote

We are their cows
Why else would we be herded
Driven under the whip by these clowns
To the voting booths as if to be graded?
Isn’t it them who should be proving
Their worth to us the electors?
Why do the goal posts keep on moving
At the whims of these pretenders?

Chief’s dog in front, bums rotund from diverting humanitarian food aid
Chief atop brand new tractor, comically close behind
We the people, single file in between
Chief’s enforcers brandishing their whips, bring up the rear
Chief says this is to deliver an orderly vote
We the people, have been assured we are independent
Chief’s made-in-China, bright red tractor, looks quite orderly
Chief’s beard looks well developed, very black, shiny

Miss this queue that’s to be joined by every independent serf
You have lost without recourse even that barren ten-acre erf
Walk a trifle too slowly or too fast
Your tenure in this chiefdom cannot last
Smile to your marching neighbor your amusement at the Chief’s comical traction
An enforcing clown’s whip will administer prompt sanction
Mentally calculate by how much Central Bank underwrites the Chief’s beard
Food aid will be withheld by those much feared

Chief’s overfed dog arrives first at polling station
Chief arrives, chief’s bottom and tractor’s top outpuffing each other where they meet
We the people queue up in the order in which we came
Chief shows off his ballot, a clumsy “X” next to aged face of the Pharaoh
Chief beardedly proclaims: “this is how we vote in this village”
We the people are then told we are free to vote “in the manner of the village”
Chief’s enforcers stand close enough for us to smell their patriotic sweat
Chief’s dog growls steadily when it smells my extracurricular thoughts

Are we their cows?
Or is the power in our hands?
Is it enough to be placid serfs behind pained frowns?
Or, each alone in the voting booth, is it possible to seize destiny’s reins?
But before I can complete the thought
My marching neighbor taps me on the shoulder
Time to single-file back towards destiny still elusively sought
Leaving the embers of the mind yet again to smolder

- Tawanda Mutasah

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