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Zimbabweans Need a Radical Transformation of the Mind

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It has often been said that the greatest battles are fought in the mind. This is certainly true in the case of Zimbabwe, particularly in our tortured struggle for democracy, good governance and human rights. If the struggle is approached with a mind already defeated and not open to possibilities, as is often the case, then there is small wonder how a very small group of predominantly old and frail men can subjugate millions of people for decades without as much as a whimper from the long-suffering masses.

Much like a bird caged and kept in captivity for most of its life, even when the cage is removed, the bird refuses to fly away, because, in its mind, the cage remains, making the physical absence of a cage irrelevant.

The Zimbabwean education system further compounds the crisis of a defeated mindset by lacking the ability to produce people who are critical and analytical, but perfect academics who regurgitate what they are fed by the teacher who is supposed to know all, but remain blinkered to the world around them. I will explain, lest one take offence at what, at first, may seem a reckless statement.

Our education system and socialisation has broken our collective spine, and prepared us to be meek subjects who shall obey authority without question and not empowered citizens with rights and ability to challenge authority. The MDC in government should seriously consider putting forward a proposal to inject civic education and critical thinking into our educations system from primary school level.

Back in the days as a student activist at the University of Zimbabwe I was often exposed to this attitude that to question authority is sheer madness, foolishness or utter stupidity. Whenever I pointed out the shortcomings of the then ZANU-PF government, often I would be dismissed with the following words: Ndivo vafana veku univhesiti vanoitira weti mumafiriji, havatendi hurumende inovapinza chikoro, musavatevedzere (These are the university boys who urinate in fridges, they are an ungrateful lot, do not listen to them) – this was in apparent reference to a students demonstration at the university of Zimbabwe where some students had, according to the State run Herald newspaper, overturned fridges at the institution and urinated in them in protest against poor catering services there.

To be fairly critical of authority’s misdeeds is to label oneself a pariah. Everyone must conform to the norm. Do not put your head above the parapet, or it will be chopped off, or so the advice goes. To many in Zimbabwe, decency is about being careful not to rock the boat, not to ruffle feathers, but to avoid any confrontation and get through life quietly, meekly.

The late iconic Zimbabwean singer Leornard Dembo, perfectly captured this mindset in one of his songs entitled Manager, where he admonishes those who confront the manager at work because they forget they have families to feed. A relative of mine also reflected this mindset during my days at the university when she advised me thus: “Don’t you forget your background. Your parents struggled in abject poverty to send you to school, and you have seven siblings – don’t you start trouble at university. The moment other students start demonstrating, take the first bus out of campus and come home and lie low until it’s over.” It is advice I gladly ignored, but which, I am sure, was not uncommon.

This mindset focuses on short term gains of being safe in the crowd but, sadly, compromises on the bigger picture. It normalises the abnormal and celebrates fear and mediocrity. The few people who keep trashing our rights can do so with impunity because the majority have accepted as normal that which is obscene. Joseph Chinotimba can boast, with all the audacity, that he “farms people” and no-one bats an eyelid. Muchadeyi Masunda, Harare Mayor on a Movement of Democratic Change ticket can use government resources, in such difficult times, to buy himself a US$152 000 luxury vehicle – and that is normal! To make matters worse, there are people within the purportedly progressive democracy movement who will be upset when the issue is raised. Why? Because leaders should not be questioned, they are always right! Or some such load of rubbish.

But what I find most astounding about this mindset that has crippled Zimbabwe’s democracy and human rights movement is the quite illogical expectation that someone must fight on their behalf to bring about change. In beer halls, in churches, in schools, at work, Zimbabweans analyse, they know exactly what is wrong with governance, they are fully aware of the root causes of our multilayered crisis. But that is as far as it goes. A learned colleague has found a term for this phenomenon: paralysis of analysis. They do not want to take action themselves, at an individual level. But moan that not enough is being done to liberate Zimbabwe! Of what use is your thorough and superior understanding of the crisis if you are not prepared to act on it?

Sometimes I come to the conclusion that we get the leaders and type of governance we deserve. Do we honestly believe that ZANU-PF, so comfortable in the seat of power, will voluntarily give up power? Or that democracy and fundamental rights will be presented to us on a silver platter? To entertain such hopes is to dream in broad daylight. We must say, “Enough is Enough,” and then, at an individual level, commit to playing each his or her part to liberate the country. I will borrow this statement from the English and say, “Zimbabwe expects each man to do his duty.” Be the change that you want to see in Zimbabwe. The mantra should be, “None but ourselves!” If not yourself, then who should act on your behalf while you remain in your comfort zone?

For democracy, good governance and a culture of respect for human rights to thrive it does not just happen. There must be a critical mass of people prepared to advance and defend these ideals at all costs. The collective mindset must accept that it is right, a sacred duty even, for one to defend principles and ideals of democracy and to openly declare that position without having to look over the shoulder. The collective mindset should focus on the greater goal of justice and freedom for all ahead of short-term personal security which, in any case, cannot be guaranteed even if one thinks that the safest way out is to collaborate with the oppressor.

Unless there is a radical transformation of the mind, individually and collectively, which leads to action from within Zimbabwe, then victory for democracy and human rights will be postponed indefinitely. Even if new leaders or new political formations come on board, without a change of mindset, which catapults us from meek subjects to bold citizens with rights and who know and stand up for their rights, the result will be the same. That is, a few people in power will continue to trample on the dreams   and rights of the majority and get away with it.

Already Muchadeyi Masunda, the rogue Harare Mayor, has shown that his MDC jacket does not stop him from taking people for granted, but, is it not with the implicit consent of Harare residents?

As you reflect on our individual role and contribution, to either aiding or resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe, ask yourself: Am I a subject or a citizen? What action will I take as my personal contribution to the development of a new Zimbabwe?

3 comments to “Zimbabweans Need a Radical Transformation of the Mind”

  1. Comment by Kubatana.net speaks out from Zimbabwe » Blog Archive » Silent for too long:

    [...] a recent blog Dewa Mavinga challenged Zimbabweans to become active citizens rather than passive subjects. Kubatana [...]

  2. Comment by Kubatana.net speaks out from Zimbabwe » Blog Archive » Minister, take a listen:

    [...] back and just enjoy or act as if I don’t see anything wrong. Actually I am taking advice from Dewa Mavinga who said Zimbabweans need to stand up and say something. So here I am standing up. I would like the [...]

  3. Comment by Mazvi:

    There is nothing that has been said that Mugabe has not had,nothing that people have done in retaliation that he has not seen,no suffering that he does not know of.He knows people have died trying to revolt against his government.Shall we then say Zimbabweans have not been analaytical enough to see the evils of the ZANU PF government.lets talk about the elections,we showed the ZANU PF that we had had enough,but what happened?One man elections and the old man was reinstated.We put our tust in Tsvangirai,kudos to him for being brave and fighting but as the saying goes,”Tis well that ends well”He has not finished the race well,Or was he supposed to?We said OHHH SADC hear our cry,where are we today and what has SADC doen for Zimbabwe,what has the United Nations done for Zimbabwe?What has anyone done for Zimbabwe? WOE to the man who puts his trust in man! Zimbabwe wake up! its time to TRUSt in God, some people say that’s a passive perspective and pathetic excuse for productive action. Well, I am saying this because I know the Word of God works.Faith is the substance of the things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.I believe, so I speak

    We can fight with our hands, fight in our minds but wait till you start fighting form heaven,wait till you understand we do not fight against flesh and blood.What kind of flesh sees the suffering of multitudes and turns a blind eye,there is something behind it.Now because MDC officials have food on their tables,they are comfortable what more will they ask for.The same corrupted mindset of self centeredness has infiltrated MDC.Where does that leave us,If we have never believed God, it is time!It is time to free our minds form the rudiments of this world.Where Jesus is there is liberty