Of Zimbabwe Being A Polarised, Angry & Hurting Nation

Church has been doing well in keeping people’s tempers from flaring up through prayers and attempting to ease the political tensions between Pres Mnangagwa and Chamisa.

Of Zimbabwe Being A Polarised, Angry & Hurting Nation
Protestors gather near a burning tire during a demonstration over the hike in fuel prices in Harare, Zimbabwe, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (AP)

Zimbabwe has always been an angry and hurting nation. We are a country born of a blood-soaked liberation struggle. Combat—on battlefields, in the media, at the ballot box— has been with us from the start.

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Our history is punctuated by episodes, if not chapters in which aggrieved parties have settled their differences not through conversation, but with unbridled violence.

Politically and socially, our society remains a deeply fragmented society as our past is sullied by experiences of political violence and injustices that have left many people scarred both physically and emotionally.

Violence and conflicts have always been a cause for concern in Zimbabwe.

In the post-colonial independent Zimbabwe, the cases of violence were supposed to be erstwhile. However, they were frequent with chapters like Gukurahundi, 2000 parliamentary elections, Operation Murambatsvina (2005) and the 2008 political violence standing out to global attention.

Just like weevils, anger and hurt within a society – if unmitigated — can work their way to the core, shattering and dividing society, leaving room for endless conflict and regression.

To this present-day, scant efforts or headway have been made to address this recurrent problem and because the habit of violence is deeply etched, the recurrence and severity of acts of violence increase whenever there are major political events, particularly elections.

And yet our political system was cleverly designed to maximise the beneficial effects of polarisation, anger and hurt. Our constitution guarantees that we can argue with one another in the public square, through a free press, and in open court.

The separation of powers forces our representatives in government to arrive at policy through disagreement, tolerance, negotiation, and accommodation.

Our dream as a country is, in a sense, an optimistic reframing of the discontent felt by people unwilling to accept the circumstances life has handed them.

Justifiably, it appears that the people have every right reason to be angry at. This anger; this polarisation and this hurting are rooted in many aspects of our lives – politics, religion, and most badly our protracted economic relapse.

For years now, we have been going through a dire economic crisis characterised by a debilitating liquidity crunch, foreign currency shortages, rising inflation, spiralling basic commodity prices, erosion of disposable incomes, power outages and low productivity.

A dark cloud of economic sanctions, as it has been labelled, hovers over us.

The country has run out of passports and vehicle registration number plates, forcing citizens to wait for long periods to get them – yet another sign of a desperate shortage of U.S. dollars.

Fuel prices and bus fares are getting hiked every month or so.

An avalanche of blame is being heaped on those entrusted with running the game in the country.

A hoped-for economic turnaround under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from Robert Mugabe after a 2017 coup, is yet to materialise. With the ousting of President Mugabe from power, we had hoped to shake off our divided past, but last year’s disputed election won by President Mnangagwa only deepened political rifts.

A security crackdown on post-election bloodshed in August 2018 and another one in January against violent protests had critics saying that with the “new dispensation” under President Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe is revisiting the authoritarianism that was the hallmark of Mugabe’s regime.

Policy-related macro-economic instability, lack of investment, unresolved land tenure disputes, high input costs and outdated machinery, inefficient government bureaucracy, inadequate infrastructure, high consumptive government deficit, a high trade deficit as imports far exceed exports and unfavourable current account have remained the key challenges.

Protracted fiscal imbalances have inhibited development and social service provision, crippling poverty reduction and generating serious unemployment pressures, which have been soaring. This has, in turn, created despondency, particularly among the jobless youths who make up the bulk of the population.

The economy has been characterised by low production levels, which have raised unemployment and poverty levels and led to a high import bill compared to exports, a declining tax base due to low incomes, an informalised sector, declining local demand and de-industrialisation.

Political disputes and general discontent have added to the condition.

The now Advocate Nelson Chamisa-led Movement for Democratic Change Alliance has continued to dispute the election of Pres. Mnangagwa. Added to this, have been protests and stay-aways by a restless population protesting against continued disintegration of incomes and standards of living. By the time of this publishing, more demonstrations are looming.

The slow pace of political and economic reforms and reported fissures within the ruling party Zanu PF has also, unfortunately, dampened recovery momentum.

Every new week, we have a new crisis. This has become less episodic and more persistent, a constant drumbeat in our lives.

Heal Zimbabwe holds that if the government does not address the current crisis, the country might descend into an abyss of turmoil.

People can’t be happy and enjoy in this environment, can they?

The continuity of this predicament has shifted the tenor of our anger and pain to something more sinister. Researchers call the phenomenon in which anger, rather than making things better, becomes a cycle of recrimination, rumination and ever-expanding fury the revenge impulse.

The anger is directed at everyone, from our neighbours to strangers we come across at traffic lights.

It has become easy to demonise anyone. These targets may or may not have earned our ire; either way, they’re apt to be less invested in resolving our differences.

There has arisen another form of anger: corporatised outrage. This is fundamentally manipulative and tends to further the interests of the already rich and powerful. Rarely is it a force for social good.

To avoid that or all fate, we have to appreciate how polarisation, hurt and anger work.

Ordinary anger can deepen, under the right circumstances, into moral indignation—a more combustible form of the emotion, though one that can still be a powerful force for good. If moral indignation persists, however—and if the indignant lose faith that their anger is being heard— it can produce a third type of anger: a desire for revenge against our enemies that privileges inflicting punishment over reaching accord.

From where we stand as a country, it seems like our ongoing madness should reach its apex, but the sources of our anger run deeper than the present political moment.

We are farther down this path as a nation than we may realise, but it’s not too late for us to reverse course.

If we can understand anger’s mechanisms, we might find a way to turn our indignation back into a strength.

The church has been doing well in keeping people’s tempers from flaring up through prayer intercessions and attempting to ease the political tensions between President Mnangagwa and Pastor Chamisa.

Church leaders had stepped forward to mediate and reconcile political parties through a national dialogue, which would lay the basis for the recovery to normalcy and social sanity.

Bishop Ambrose Moyo, who heads the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum, acknowledged that the nation is bitter traumatised.

“Zimbabwe is clearly a hurting, angry and traumatised nation. Such a dialogue as initiated by the churches will help us to do some serious introspection as we speak to one another. We stand committed to this process, set up by the united church to build peace, unity and prosperity.”

Another ecumenical body, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) in a pastoral letter on current affairs in the country entitled Rebuild Hope, Trust, Confidence and Stability in Zimbabwe, said they were saddened and concerned by “the dissipation of hope for a united nation and a promising future when our politicians failed to harness the palpable oneness and goodwill prevailing among Zimbabweans across the political divide during and immediately after the political events of November 2017”.

“We also witnessed with sadness and concern the resurgence of political and social polarisation before, during and after yet another disputed national election held on 30 July 2018, culminating in the violent unrest on August 1, 2018, during which property was destroyed, many people were injured and at least six civilians were shot dead.”

The letter continues:

“We are saddened and concerned by:

Government’s failure to arrest the deteriorating economic situation that has seen many companies close, many breadwinners losing their jobs, the cost of living soaring beyond the reach of the majority of people; these have been the cause of industrial unrest in the country’s key service sectors, particularly Health and Education;

Violent demonstrations and riots that have resulted in the destruction of property and disruption of essential services;

Government’s heavy-handed and intolerant handling of dissent and expression of rights by Zimbabwe’s dissatisfied population resulting in injury and death to innocent ordinary people.”

Just under two weeks ago, Alpha Media Holdings chairperson and a member Presidential Advisory Council Trevor Ncube reiterated the idea of Zimbabwe being an angry and hurting nation.

In a streak of tweets on his official Twitter platform, the vocal Christian wrote:

“We are a polarized, angry and hurting nation. The tension in our society is palpable. Over the past few weeks during my morning prayer/meditation I have been drawn to pray that all leaders in our society be driven by one thing namely – what will improve the lives of people

Thus, I have found myself praying in particular that President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Nelson Chamisa and all leaders in society be focused, not on their personal ambitions to get power or retain power, but be seized by the desire/passion to do right for all Zimbabweans.

Moving the nation from where it is will require sacrifice from our leaders to focus on the big picture not narrow selfish interests or ambitions. No single individual has the answer to all our problems. It will take ALL of us compromising and working together to make progress

The militant and radicals in our midst will have us believe only a certain individual or group has solutions to all our problems. Their militant and radical pronouncements and posturing are a real threat to the fragile peace we enjoy.

Let us all guard against careless words and actions whose unintended consequences could surprise and overtake us. Let us invest in finding each other and finding common ground. There is more that unites than divides us.”

At the top of last month, MDC leader Mr Chamisa called for a week of national prayer and fasting. Last Monday, the cleric declared that his party was “moving into the next phase of very decisive steps” to confront the political logjam and economic crisis in Zimbabwe.

This week, churches have launched a fresh bid to end the bickering between President Mnangagwa and Pastor Chamisa.

“The nation finds itself in a paralysing complex of challenges that can only be effectively and sustainably resolved through a comprehensive and broad-based dialogue. As such, we call upon all Zimbabweans to support such a call which offers to unite Zimbabweans towards a peaceful, just and prosperous nation,” said the Zimbabwe Council of Churches at the weekend.

The call for dialogue, however, does not mean that things will automatically change for the better but, it is a hope that many people have that if President Mnangagwa and Chamisa dialogue things might start looking up for the country.


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