There is a popular saying, “nothing under the sun is completely new” – as, with the planets, solar systems, galaxies, and the universe, everything simply goes round and round in circles, repeating itself over and over again.
In fact, history, as a record of human activity, appears to be the most telling of this phenomenon – as evidenced by the tendency of it replaying itself, even cleverly disguised as something new, especially for those who do not bother learning anything from their past.
The past few weeks have been extremely exciting and enlightening for me – and, of course, quite disturbing and worrying, at the same time – as I have spent a great deal of time on the topic of the rise of mass nationalism during the colonial era, and the subsequent liberation struggle – primarily as a result of the history lessons I have been providing my son.
These opened my mind to so many aspects of pre-independence Zimbabwe, whose colonial elements I had either forgotten or had not known about previously (possibly, due to the distorted history we ourselves were taught during our schooling days, over three decades ago).
Nonetheless, what I have learned so far has left me dumbstruck and shell-shocked – as I realized just how much history was repeating itself in Zimbabwe, right in front of our eyes – since it had become undeniably clear that, the country had gone full circle back to the pre-independence colonial era.
Therefore, it did not, particularly, come as much of a shock, when Zimbabweans were informed yesterday that, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had set ridiculously prohibitive fees for those intending to participate in next year’s harmonized elections.
Who would have thought that forty-two years after a grueling armed struggle for ‘one man one vote and ‘majority rule’ – amidst sweltering poverty and suffering – a presidential candidate would be required to fork out a staggering US$20,000, and a prospective member of parliament (MP) US$1,000?
Does this not remind us of the colonial qualifications for blacks to participate in the electoral processes – who were largely marginalized, lacking universal access to basic education, and living on the fringes of the economy – and, were required to own property worthy $1,306, or earn an annual salary of $739 a year, as well as be able to read and write (an unattainable feat for the vast majority at the time) for them to register to vote?
The average income for a black person at the time was $319.
Which meant that, of the measly 11,500 voters registered on the so-called ‘B’ Roll, 10,500 were blacks – whilst, on the ‘A’ Roll (whereby, one was required to earn $2,218 per annum, and own property worth $4,620), of the 95,000 registered to vote, 90,800 were of white, coloured (mixed race), and Asian descent, whose average annual salary was $3,428.
This, undoubtedly, resulted in the further disenfranchisement of the black majority – who, in terms of voter numbers, were now in the minority.
As such, it is unbelievable that in 2022 – a full forty-two years after the country finally attained independence – we are faced with a similar dilemma, in which, the electoral process has become a preserve of the elitist minority.
Surely, how many Zimbabweans will be able to stand in future elections – especially, those from smaller poorly-resourced political parties, or standing as independent candidates?
I am sure, even such organizations as the Rhodesian Bantu Voters’ Association (RBVA), from the 1940s, would have had something to say about this.
In fact, Zimbabwe has become, in true Animal Farm fashion, a replica of the colonial Rhodesia era, in so many ways.
Millions of ordinary Zimbabweans now endure unimaginable impoverishment – half of whom (7.1 million) are forced to survive in extreme poverty (less than US$1.90 a day), nearly 80 percent earning far below the ever-increasing food poverty datum line – the consumer basket for a family of five in July at ZW$140,000, yet the lowest paid civil servants receiving ZW$35,000 per month.
Can we be more marginalized than this?
And, just as in the colonial times, real militant union activism has virtually been outlawed – with labour leaders being victimized, through repeated arrests on spurious charges, as well as dismissal from work and freezing of their salaries, with any strike and protest action being brutally clamped down by the country’s state security forces, under the draconian Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA), which takes its cues from the colonial Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA).
I am quite convicted that this barbaric anti-workers attitude and response by the Zimbabwe regime, is making unionist pioneers as Masotsha Ndlovu and Benjamin Burombo turn in their graves.
It cannot be denied that the ZANU PF administration has taken the country full circle back to the colonial days – and, there can never be denying it that the time is ripe for the rise of a new wave of nationalism and liberation struggle for the oppressed, alienated and marginalized people of Zimbabwe.
We cannot continue sitting back and merely watching, as our promising nation is hijacked by a small group of opportunists, in the ruling elite, who care only about themselves – as they plunder and pillage our national resources for their own self-enrichment, whilst the majority sink deeper into the abyss of poverty and suffering.
In fact, it has become more dangerous in Zimbabwe for a social justice activist – who is simply speaking out and standing up for the repressed impoverished majority – than for the one who loots the country’s resources, since he can do that with relative freedom and impunity.
Zimbabwe now desperately needs a new breed of Burombos, Ndlovus, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomos, and Herbert Wiltshire Chitepos – who will fearlessly confront this new form of suppression, subjugation, and segregation – this time around, by a black minority over a black majority.
– Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: email@example.com
Main Photo: /The Conversation