Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Zim Blog: I choose to fight - for life
BY THE FIGHTER
HARARE - Day 1. The aircraft glided over acres of scorched earth beginning its descent into Harare International Airport. The tawny African savanna was splotched with black inkblots blown artistically across the heart of my homeland - visible scars of what I had only read about in the press abroad. Operation drive out rubbish was quite literally a scorched earth policy.Leaving the airport I passed endless lines of parked cars inevitably ending adjacent to a fuel station. My journey took me through empty streets save for a few weary pedestrians. An African nation void of street vendors and their inevitable crowd of loiterers is indeed a peculiar sight. The few motorists on the road were uncharacteristically polite, giving way as others swerved to avoid potholes and driving slowly, presumably to conserve fuel.
I stopped to offer a lift to a familiar gent who lived near me. "Oh thank you boss!" he exclaimed amiably. I had given up asking him not to call me "boss" years ago. An aged domestic worker in Zimbabwe is not likely to grasp the concepts of equality, self worth, liberty or empowerment. Servitude and submission have been legislated into this culture for centuries. This may explain why despite the despicable state of affairs, government's appalling mismanagement and gross human rights violations there have been no mass uprisings.
"How are things?" I asked casually, authentically curious though cautious - in Zimbabwe this is an invitation to engage in a lengthy discussion about hardship, shortages, inflation and politics. "Aah, things are tough," the greybeard sighed. In the few days that have passed since then I have grown to despise a number of clichés, such as: "That is life." "What can you do?" "I can't complain."
What? And always said with a straight face or a half smile that causes one to question the speaker's sincerity. "It can't go on forever." Forever? Three days has been long enough in my experience. Common advice includes, "Just keep your head down and things will be alright." I find myself struggling to refrain from shaking people daily and screaming "This is not just life. This is not how things are supposed to be and there is plenty that you can do, yes you!" It's not alright and it is not going to end soon.
If I want to live here I have to make a choice - either bury my head in the dirt with the rest of the population, or strive to teach, inspire, empower and uplift my countrymen and my own fettered spirit. I choose to fight - for life, liberty and happiness.
Day 2. "Ah come on, what's this?" cried the distressed youth as his bag disintegrated in his hands under the strain of a thick blanket and a few belongings. "Ha ha another Zhing Zhong special!" teased his comrades. This derogatory term has become common-place in the new Zimbabwe. It refers to poor-quality Chinese imports. This tide of neo-colonialism ushered in by the government's "Look East" policy has many citizens bemused.
The implications, however, remain deeply misunderstood and usually amount merely to an exchange of comical remarks. As I explored the phenomenon further the truth and depth of the occurrence was made frighteningly clear to me.
A Chinese businessman explained that China, for the next 10 years, must build a city the size of Johannesburg every six weeks in order to keep pace with the rapid growth (50 million people a year) of its population. In addition, this population requires natural resources to sustain it.
My teacher painstakingly explained that every continent on the planet was more or less spoken for in terms of ownership, governance and stability. That is except for Africa - A continent that accounts for just 10 percent of the global population and yet possesses one third of the world's total natural resources. The reason for China's apparent interest and attempts to develop and invest in Africa suddenly became frighteningly obvious.
How could we have missed this? Why are we openly inviting such blatant exploitation and colonization? I am once again floored by the shortsightedness and greed of our leaders as they barter my heritage and pad their pockets. Where is the world? And when will they realize that they too face a dangerous future at the mercy of a China growing in power, influence and control. Perhaps I will laugh when a Zhing Zhong microphone falters during the next televised international political address. Probably not. Do you like Chinese food? I do. Perhaps that is a good thing.
Day 3. I am today deeply disturbed by the news of recent terror attacks in London. Like many Zimbabweans I have many friends and family in the vicinity. I am reminded that suffering and security are not purely Zimbabwean concerns - though only here we fear our government and not some ill-informed terrorist group. Our terror is legislated.
Attacks do not cause alarm - merely pain. Police uniforms appear on Zimbabwean streets as menacingly as Al-Qaeda t-shirts would at JFK airport in New York City. I mourn for the victims of this new wave of attacks and welcome the sufferers into our circle of survivors questioning why? Hatred has a home in the hearts of evil men. Freedom is forged by fierce men who must fight for its familiarity. Tomorrow Londoners will seek the safety of police uniforms. Tonight I wonder where I will run if the vehicle now idling outside my window should turn out to hold those sworn to protect and serve.