Revisiting 1980 elections

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Coming Home
By Olley Tsino Maruma
Published by Gonamombe Press (2007)
ISBN: 978-0-7974-3352-6

THERE is a hive of activity on the local political scene as the nation braces for the 2018 harmonised elections to vote into office the Head of State, Members of Parliament and Councillors.
Various political parties have began campaign rallies in different parts of the country.
The anticipation that grips the nation is the same that people had in the build-up to Zimbabwe’s first elections in 1980.
The 1980 elections marked the dawn of a new era.
The efforts of the sons and daughters who sacrificed their lives in the liberation struggle yielded positive results.
Zimbabwe was birthed.
The country was now free from colonial bondage.
It is the story of the build-up to the 1980 elections that is re-lived in the book Coming Home by Olley Tsino Maruma.
In the book, through a narrator, the author takes the reader through the six-month transition period leading up to the independence of Zimbabwe afters years of British settler-colonial rule.
The narrator is a young black lawyer who had left the country for the UK to pursue his studies.
He was only 18 years when he left the then Rhodesia.
At that time, the war was at its peak.
The narrator, like his fellow blacks living in Rhodesia, had to bear the brunt of the ruthless colonial regime.
Blacks had been reduced to third class citizens in their country of birth.
As such, action against the colonial regime had to be taken.
Many chose to take up arms and fight the colonial regime.
However, the narrator chose to go to the UK to further his studies.
He was of the view that his ‘freedom’ lay in the land of the whiteman.
“In those days, I had believed that living in England would be like living in a paradise where one would never be demeaned or despised again because of the colour of one’s skin,” recounts the narrator.
“I deluded myself that it would be a world where I would not be forced to live in perpetual fear of authority and the police, a land of peace and freedom, where I would not feel threatened with state violence and imprisonment for expressing thoughts and opinions which, despite being quite normal and making perfect sense, were considered dangerous, subversive or unacceptable.
To be able to walk in a world in which one did not have to call white people Madam and Baas!”
Unfortunately, what the narrator had thought about England turned out to be a mirage.
This is the same plight of most Zimbabweans today who have left the country in pursuit of ‘greener pastures’ abroad.
It is only on getting there that reality strikes; living abroad is not all that rosy .
“I had gone there and received a good education and, for the most part, lived a comfortable and fairly exciting and eventful life,” said the narrator.
“But I had also seen the ugly underbelly of British Society, the subtle and sometimes not so subtle racism and class bigotry, which in some cases, were just as virulent as those in colonial Rhodesia.”
The narrator returns home six months before the elections, moves in with a relative till he gets a job.
On his return, the narrator notices changes in how blacks now carriy themselves around the country.
Locals had looked forward and participated fully in the country’s first elections.
“For the first time since I had joined the Club, there were more blacks in the crowd than whites,” said the narrator.
“When the results were announced, most of the blacks in the crowd burst into a frenzy of joy and delight.
Dancing excitedly, they waved their hands in the air, squealing in wild shrieks of delight.”
The results of the elections, according to the narrator’s account, were well received, especially by blacks.
The results signified the dawn of a new era.
“The news that the Patriotic Front had won the first independence elections came as a great relief to the majority of the blacks,” recounts the narrator.
“They felt that, at last, the country could now return to peace under the safe hands of uncompromising nationalists who had the power and authority to stop the war.
The country could now look forward in hope and breathe more freely.”

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