Zimbabwe — The People are not Ready
- Commitment Issues
- We are waiting for a signal” is avoiding responsibility
- “There is nothing we can do about it” is a comforting lie
- “If only we had guns” is both a reality and an excuse.
- “People have not suffered enough” is a misdiagnosis.
- Readiness is a state of mind.
The people are not ready. Fullstop.
Things will happen, change will come, and development will take place. Progress will be the order of the day when people are ready.
When people are ready, there will be no weapon formed against them that can prosper. Things will change, with or without a physical revolution. The biggest revolution is the mental one. The change of mentality from a state of being unready to a state of readiness is the key.
“People are you ready?”. People say they are ready, but the irrefutable truth is that they are not. Of course, there are exceptions. A few pockets here and there that are ready. However, large swathes of the population are not ready.
When people are not ready, they fail to commit themselves leading to commitment issues. Zimbabweans are generally not committed to Zimbabwe. The leaders, those in power, are not committed to making Zimbabwe a better country. Those who are not in power are also not committed to doing all it takes to make the country better.
The voter turn-out is a clear indicator of the commitment issues. The reported voter turnout is a suspicious figure. Whether we agree or disagree with that figure, we can all broadly agree that there are many people who don't even register to vote, and these are not reflected in the voter turnout figure because the voter turn-out only reflects those who turned out to vote as a percentage of those that registered. This is a commitment issue.
Young people are not actively engaged. They are not overly interested in making the country better even if they carry the heavier load of a dysfunctional economy. They are interested in other areas of life, anything else other than bread and butter issues. Sex, entertainment, soccer, jokes, music are their primary focus. This lack of commitment to real matters from the young ones is what makes Hopewell Chin’ono very angry. “Twabam! Hauskuda! Man United bhora”, all day, every day. This lack of seriousness from the youths will give Hopewell a heart attack. It's shocking.
The same lack of commitment from the rural people drives urbaners insane. They don't understand how these rural folks keep neglecting their country by voting for Zanu PF.
The country deserves better citizens. This relationship is one-sided. It's close to being abusive. The country loves us and is committed but we are not equally committed. Zimbabwe is beautiful, sexy, and endowed. Minerals, methane, green vegetation, brilliant minds, healthy agricultural soils, magnificent rivers, glorious mountains, game animals, the big five, and many other goodies. The country deserves our commitment. The future generations deserve to inherit a better country. They deserve the commitment from the current generation.
People are not yet ready for a commitment. When they are, things will happen. The country will get better with or without the two big political parties. When people (including the power brokers) are committed, whichever government in power (including the Zanu PF one) will be forced to deliver. But alas, for a variety of reasons, the people are not committed.
We are waiting for a signal
Those who are familiar what relationship issues where one party is not committed are probably used to this type of excuse. The other party basically claims that they will be committed if event X occurs or if they see sign Y. It's all obviously just an excuse used in avoiding responsibility. It is shifting the responsibility to some other person.
The people of Zimbabwe are good at this one. The excuse is that Nelson Chamisa or some other leader should give us a signal so that we can do something about our situation. He should lead us. He should take charge and we follow. If he cannot lead us, then there is nothing we can do. It’s a convenient reason.
The country is bigger than one person or one political party. The power is in your hands. Governance is on your shoulders as well, even though much of the governance is on Emmerson Mnangagwa’s shoulders and much of the organizational capabilities are on Chamisa’s shoulders. You have a role to play beyond political followership.
So, if Chamisa doesn't give a signal, nothing happens. Fifteen million people waiting for one person to lead them in changing the country! Isn't that nuts.
Even if Chamisa gives a signal (whatever that means for whatever action) few people will actually turn up or get involved. The very same people who were crying for a signal will be nowhere to be found. Clearly, the “signal” mantra is just an excuse to avoid responsibility. People are not ready. Klaar.
Some of the changes needed to make a better country don't even require political involvement. An example is reforestation, which is really needed in some parts of the country. You don't really need MDC or Zanu PF to plant trees in your area, your village, or your homestead. You don't need a signal, and this a change that actually matters.
If only we had guns
This is a reality, as well as an excuse. People say they literally cannot make Zimbabwe a better country if they do not have guns to fight those who are in power.
How does fighting those who are in power with guns make a better country? Civil wars generally don't make the country better. Sometimes the battles are protracted, infrastructure is destroyed and the winner effectively loses as he inherits a tattered dysfunctional country. That being said, it's also a reality that some military juntas are difficult to remove from power without military intervention. It is a lived reality.
However, in the context of Zimbabwe, the “if-only-we-had-guns” statement is predominantly used as an excuse. People cite the absence of guns as the reason why they cannot do anything to change the country. The truth is, there are plenty of things that those people could do other than holding guns.
The very same people who cite, “if-only-we-had-guns” will run away if somebody tries to give them guns. They say, Chamisa should give us guns, we are ready. But this is usually very far from the truth. It's false bravado and excuses.
If Chamisa brings guns today, very few people will be willing to take up arms. People are not ready. Not ready to die in battle, not ready to sacrifice themselves, not ready to commit themselves to a better country, not ready to fight for the benefit of others. Everything else people say is just an excuse.
The bottom line is that the people are not ready.
There is nothing we can do about it
Lies can be very comforting. The biggest one we usually tell is that there was nothing I could have done about it. It comforts us and helps us in healing and overcoming regret.
In present tense, the lie is there is nothing I can do about it. Okay! Is this an Act of God (Force Majeure)? If no, then most of the time there is something you can do about it. It might not be much, but there is something you could do.
Okay, you are not a leader, you are not Nelson Chamisa. You are not in government. You cannot influence policy. But at your level, there is something you can do. Have you done it? Before you ask ED and Chamisa to do this and that, have you done what you can do and what you are supposed to do?
Have you registered to vote? Have you explained how the economy works to your grannies and how the same is being mismanaged? Have you tried to talk to your brothers in the army and the CIOs regarding the country with a view to changing their political orientation? It's a non-starter for you, right? But you expect another mother’s son to do it.
There is always something that you can do about the country. It doesn't necessarily have to be demos and violence. Word, power, and sound. Ideas. Perception. Mindset. A tweet. A Facebook post. A solo demo. Raise awareness. Help the poor and needy. Expose corruption. Refuse to pay bribes. Educate the youths. Each one, reach one and teach one. Out of many came one. Civil disobedience. Plant a tree. Vote. Volunteer. Sacrifice to make a better nation.
There is always something you can do, including self-sacrifice.
People have Suffered Enough
That people have not suffered enough is an appealing diagnosis to explain the state of being unready. It is a buyable narrative. The base argument is that when people have suffered so much, they will be pushed into a fight or flight mode where they have no option but to take action. As the level of sufferation increases so are the chances of successfully changing the system.
When people have suffered enough, measured by either the length of the sufferation period or the depth of the sufferation, the mind gets transformed. Individuals will no longer seek to be the ones benefiting from the corrupt system but would rather seek to get rid of the corrupt system. In short, they abandon selfish individualism for collective justice. They elevate the collective above the self. Zimbabweans, according to Noah Manyika, are still fighting to be included in the corrupt system instead of getting rid of the system because they have not suffered long enough.
This explanation is palatable. It is easy to digest. However, the diagnosis results in a difficult follow-up question; how much suffering is enough? The answer to this follow-up question is obviously generic; enough to make people want to change the system.
The view is generic and simplistic because things are generally simple. It is a simple as that. The answer to the follow-up question can be followed up with another question; how much sufferation is enough to make people want to change the system? The answer will either take the form of the previous answer in a never-ending loop or there is no answer.
Looking at the evidence on the ground, it is beyond reasonable doubt that Zimbabweans have suffered. The people have suffered enough. How enough is enough? Enough to make them want to change the system. There we go again into the loop.
Zimbabweans have endured hunger and starvation, abductions, beatings and torture, political persecution, lack of service delivery, hygiene disease outbreaks, currency depreciation, hyperinflation, endemic corruption, perennial chronic government failure at all levels of government, every form of repression, among many other things. If this is not suffering enough, then what is enough? Death, yes, it is there, the chronic failure in the health system is literally killing people. Political violence has literally resulted in death.
Which other level of suffering haven't we experienced? What's the next level? Troops shooting unarmed civilians in broad daylight? Huh. Genocide? How is a genocide going to drive people to the point of saying it's enough? It's not mathematically possible because genocide is the mass killing of people, and people cannot say it’s enough when they are dead.
A few killings here and there that leave the rest of the population alive might drive people to the point of wanting to change the system. The keyword is here is “might”. An equally possible outcome is that the killings might actually drive people to the point of not even wanting to change the system for fear of the consequences involved in that undertaking.
There are two dimensions to sufferation; length and depth. Clearly, by all metrics of measuring depth, Zimbabweans have suffered. The same levels of depth would have resulted in people changing the system in other countries. The levels of inflation alone witnessed in Zimbabwe would have resulted in people revolting against the system. Failure in basic service delivery alone would be “enough” in any other country.
Turning our attention to the length; Zimbabweans have suffered long enough. If the two decades from 2000 to 2020 are not long enough then what is? Is it three decades? Well, people were suffering from the ESAP years in the early 90s, there was a little bit of recovery in the mid-90s, but the late 90s were a disaster with massive currency depreciation in 1997. So, it's three decades of suffering. Isn't this long enough.
A young person who was 20 years old in the year 2000, is now a 40-year-old. He is still unemployed. You have an entire generation that has never been formally employed. We have decimated our pension systems twice in a decade. Isn’t that long enough? If that is not long enough then what is? Is four decades-long enough? Well, the corruptive regime is eyeing to be governing beyond 2030. Will that be enough?
Claiming that people have not suffered enough is a misdiagnosis. These people have had it. Enough of it. Shame. But they are not ready.
Ideally, they should be ready. Apparently, based on the depth and length of the sufferation, they should be ready. But they are not ready. Why?
Because readiness might not be a linear function of the levels of sufferation. Yes, our assumptions of linearity could be wrong. The equation is more complex than we think. Readiness is not a direct output of sufferation. Readiness is largely a state of mind. Several inputs go into the equation that results in the state of mind. Sufferation, (real or perceived) is just one of them. The battle is of the mind. It's the mentality.
Readiness is a state of mind
MCs, presenters, and anchors in the entertainment business understand readiness. They drum up support for the main act. they make sure that before their artist goes on stage, people are ready.
“Let's get ready for the Royal Rumbleeeeeeeeeeeee” always gets a wrestling fan ready for that Royal Rumble. Always. It works very well in that space. Although you have been waiting for an hour or more for the rumble, the “lets-get-ready” pushes you into a ready state of mind.
There are plenty of examples in showbiz. Even in church, the guy who plays the keyboard is key to making people ready. He has those particular keys that he plays when the preacher is about to make a call for people to choose salvation.
Readiness is a state of mind. Are people ready for change? Are people ready to change? Are you ready?
The state of mind is all that matters. If people don't think that it's possible to change then it becomes very impossible to make a change. If people think that they can make a change, then it becomes very possible to change things. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
Perception matters, that is why the junta regime invests a lot of resources into their propaganda machinery, offline and online. Paid trolls spewing propaganda on Twitter and Facebook without ceasing. Consultancy firms being contracted to clean up the image of the regime abroad. State media constantly heaping praises on the regime, celebrating a minute single positive result as if it brings fundamental change to the country. Door-to-door village campaigns using paid goons. A battalion of Central Intelligence Officers dedicated to persecuting those who want to swing minds to believe that change is possible.
It's a huge investment in the machinery that's meant to make people believe that it's impossible to make a change. The battle is on the mind. Do you believe that it's possible to change things? If you don't believe that it's possible, then the regime’s efforts have worked, a good return on their investment. They have you exactly where they want you to be, in a state of disbelief. They want you to be in a state of mind that is unready.
The propaganda is meant to make people believe that things are okay, even if they are not. It's meant to make you believe that we are traveling in the right direction, even though we are not. If you buy into the propaganda, then your state of mind becomes that of not wanting change. Why should you change something that's working well?
People, especially the urban and educated ones, grossly underestimate the power of propaganda in shaping the mindset. Propaganda makes suffering villagers think they are suffering for a good reason, and that the leadership is addressing their problems, even the evidence points otherwise.
The use of force is meant to make those who want change believe that they are not able to effect change. The battle is more on the mind than anywhere else. By using persecution, abductions, killings, “show-of-force” tactics such as rolling full combat army tankers down the ghetto streets, the regime makes sure that the state of your mind remains in the fear region and is unready. That's the biggest obstacle; fear.
The change that people want will come when 1) Propaganda and 2) Force and “show-of-force” stop working at the mental layer of the population. By this, it does not mean propaganda won't be spewed and tankers won't roll down the street. They will roll tankers, but the people will still believe that change is possible, even when faced with shootings and killings.
People will win, as long as they believe they can win. When people believe they can win, they become mentally ready, for winning. That readiness of the mind is a powerful weapon in itself. It evokes new discussions, new discourses, new resources, et cetera.
When huge swathes of the population are ready, it becomes only a matter of time before the “mentally captured” brothers and sisters in the army, police, and CIOs become ready for change as well, for the majority of them are also suffering from the dysfunctional system as well (hard-to-believe but true, we are blinded to think that all in the state apparatus are benefitting).
Since readiness is a state of mind, and readiness is a function of many things but currently being largely driven by propaganda and fear, and since it is very hard for other factors to influence the state of mind, it can be concluded that there are very little chances that the prevailing state of mind can change any time soon.
By optimally using fear and propaganda, the regime is manhandling the population by the balls, and there is no chance of escape.
The mind has been conquered. It is defeated.