When silence became golden…lessons from the political earthquake in Zimbabwe

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UNDOUBTEDLY, the dramatic events which unfolded between November 14 to 24 2017 will constitute a watershed of some sort, marking the end of the Mugabe era and the birth of a new one.
The national drama was unpredictable and awesome, leaving most of us on tenterhooks most of the time as the country entered uncharted territory!
Many of us feared that bucketfuls of blood would flow on the streets, but fortunately that gory business never came to pass, thanks to the impeccable manner in which the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) choreographed the whole business until the inauguration of the Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa as the new President of Zimbabwe.
A lot is being said already, and much more is coming, about what happened, why it happened and how it happened and when!
We are all desperate to understand ourselves as a nation and that kind of process will take some time and some bit of serious thinking.
Accordingly, whatever we say now, in our attempts to comprehend the events of the last few weeks, can only be by way of preliminary lessons!
First: A big credit to the ZDF.
It carried out a nuanced military operation which ensured that there was a smooth handover of power from one outgoing president to the incoming one without bloodshed.
Military coups in Africa and elsewhere have always been bloody affairs but in Zimbabwe, it turned out to be ‘a coup that never was’, something different and not easy to define if we are to rely on the conventional political vocabulary of the West!
Political fundis are scratching their heads in disbelief, wondering why and how the ZDF managed to handle the transition period as if they had done it several times before?
Could it be because it has highly educated generals and commanders, who in turn have encouraged those below them to improve themselves?
Could it be because the top hierarchy of the ZDF is well steeped in African history which informed them of what to do and what not to do?
Could it be because of the discipline that it is known for during peace-keeping missions all over the world?
One wonders!
Indeed it could be all of these and more.
Whatever reasons we come up with to explain the superb performance by the ZDF, there is no doubt at all that their handling of the national crisis was informed by an overarching and life-affirming value system known as hunhu/ubuntu.
One senses this value system at work in the way they handled the former President right up to the time of his resignation.
The same applies to the content of their messages to the public and the manner in which they communicated those same messages; one senses the same in the way they related to the public, especially during one of the biggest street protests ever conducted in Zimbabwe.
Our prayer then is: If the ZDF could handle a national crisis of epic proportions so well because it was informed by a value system of hunhu/ubuntu, why should all other sectors and sections of society not do the same and develop our nation accordingly?
Food for thought!
Second: There is something which most papers are not highlighting now but which most of us often alluded to in beer halls, hair salons, supermarkets, at weddings and during funerals etc.
It is the dignified manner in which the newly installed president bore with dignity and fortitude the reckless insults and invectives which were thrown at him at almost every interface rally held by the ruling Party.
Lesser souls would have stopped attending such rallies or attempted to answer back.
He never did and has not bothered to do so since.
As a human being, he may have wanted to respond to such provocations and give his side of the story, but he held back throughout, judging that to do so would have made him fall into a trap set-up by his political opponents within the ruling Party.
In this context, silence became golden, something which spoke louder than anything else that he could have said by way of answering back!
The more his political opponents railed against him, the more they suffered from the law of diminishing returns.
All failed dismally to convince the general public that ‘Cde Mnangagwa was an enemy of Zimbabwe’.
The key lesson here is: As long as people are principled, sincere and honest in their deeds and actions, no amount of mud-slinging and name-calling can undo the good that others are bound to see in them.
Shouting long and loud at a rally is not necessarily good communication!
Zimbabweans were able to discern truth from falsehood, good from bad, honesty from dishonesty and the results of that is what we saw on November 18 when hundreds of thousands of people marched in solidarity with the soldiers and in support of the then expelled Vice-President.
Once again it comes down to hunhu/ubuntu.
The silent majority made a decision and the rest is history.
Third: One tendency which we should guard against is to regard the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe as something which happened ancient years ago, as something whose significance is bound to lesson as war veterans who fought in that struggle succumb to the ravages of time.
There has been this perception that as liberation war veterans die, including those who were directly affected by the liberation war, it means that the founding narrative of Zimbabwe should also change ostensibly to accommodate the ‘born frees’.
This approach is linear in logic and inadequate in so far as it ignores the potency of the founding narrative.
The story of our liberation struggle is a story without end!
Why?
Because it is the only story which tells us and the whole world how we came into existence as a nation.
It is history about our origins as a nation.
With time, our founding story will graduate into a legend and ultimately metamorphose across generations into a founding myth. And we all know myths do not age and die.
Therefore the story of our struggle is not going anywhere and away any time soon!
In fact, it will outlive all of us.
In practice, it means we should not play political games designed to marginalise those who fought the war of liberation for whatever reasons.
Their contributions then and now are part of a national psyche that is in the making.
Put differently, liberation war veterans are part of the founding story of Zimbabwe and part of the content which goes on to define our national identity as a people.
In other words, to oppose them, to exclude them and to expel them from the ruling party they founded is a self-defeating exercise.
It is an epic story, so powerful that even those who betrayed the struggle or fought against it in support of the enemy have no choice today but to lie and insist they fought on the right side of history.
In a sense therefore, the story of our struggle is not confined to numbers of those who fought and those who did not, those who witnessed or participated in it and those who were born free.
It is a foundational story whose significance is ubiquitous and seminal.
It is a story harbouring a vision of independence and freedom for all time, a story which is bound to challenge, as well as inspire every generation that follows.
Therefore, to deviate from it in an attempt to revise it and edit it for opportunistic reasons is to risk that which binds us together as a people hence ‘Operation Restore Legacy’.

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