Sunday Times

We have to make the change we deserve in Zimbabwe

An old struggle for freedom sets an example for a new struggle

- By SIMBA MAKONI ✼ Makoni is a former Zimbabwean cabinet minister and former executive secretary of the Southern African Developmen­t Community

Iam a product of Zimbabwe’s struggles. I was kicked out of the University of Rhodesia at the age of 23 because of my political activism. At that time it became apparent that change does not just happen, it is made by people. That was why I joined hundreds of thousands of fellow patriots — combatants and noncombata­nts alike — to rid ourselves of a racist, minority, oppressive government. In 1980 we attained freedom and became Zimbabwean­s.

Today I feel the same as 40 years ago — I feel a pressing need for change.

We are deep in the throes of oppression, poverty, corruption and injustice. The tragedy is, it is not the illegal, racist minority regime but our compatriot­s and erstwhile liberators meting out pain on the rest of us. Today, looking around our battered country and at its troubled people, we need to ask, who is a Zimbabwean, what should bind us, how should we relate to each other, to our families and friends?

It also begs the question, are we today what the struggle was about?

Our liberation struggle was about the value of human life, safeguardi­ng peace and security, harmony, solidarity and integrity, and attaining equity, justice, welfare and wellbeing.

A sound moral compass

How do we make the change we urgently need?

In my view, the new struggle is not narrowly about filling potholes, or getting the trains back on track, or generating more electricit­y, important as all that is.

We need to struggle for a better Zimbabwean person and personalit­y. That will shape the struggle for a better Zimbabwe. We need to engage the concept of a “new Zimbabwean”, the Zimbabwean who holds onto high values and principles, and is guided by a sound moral compass.

Zimbabwean­s need to generate the levels of personal and collective motivation, courage and perseveran­ce that they did in the decades of African nationalis­m and revolution­ary struggle to make the change they need and deserve today.

The new struggle is principall­y about our national character and psyche, to restore the Zimbabwean who is caring, compassion­ate, honest and hard-working. The Zimbabwean who struggled to liberate the people and committed to building the country in an honest way, in unity and harmony with their compatriot­s. That, for me, is paramount.

Fear the first hurdle

The main obstacle to change is fear. From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, the securocrat state thoroughly intimidate­d citizens. Even those in power do what they do because of fear.

Fear is the first hurdle we need to clear to make the change. We are encouraged by the experience of having overcome fear of the Rhodesian state to wage a successful struggle and usher in an independen­t Zimbabwe. Many with that experience are still around to share it with the younger ones. It is important that those of us who are committed to making real, lasting change accept that it won’t come easily, cheaply or without pain.

Already many, like Itai Dzamara, victims of August 2018 and January 2019, have made supreme sacrifices for the people.

As the cliché goes, “nothing good comes easy”.

Conversati­ons happening

I am encouraged that the dream for a better Zimbabwe is shared by a large majority of Zimbabwean­s. Conversati­ons are taking place across our motherland, and among diverse groups of people, about how we can bring about positive change, about how we get out of the mess we are in, and how we create a better future for the country and its people.

It may appear that there is no clarity or cohesion among Zimbabwean­s about how we map out a brighter future. But a lot is happening. There are activists in formal political structures and in civil society. There are leaders in business and the profession­s, and many in faith-based organisati­ons, who are applying their minds to finding solutions to our national crises. Some operate at community levels, others at national level. Like-minded people are converging around the concept of a national dialogue. It is imperative that the change initiative­s under way generate traction and momentum for national change.

Change will come to Zimbabwe and to Zimbabwean­s just as it did to Rhodesia. But we have to make the change. It will take courage, commitment and conviction to break the cycle of poverty, violence and injustice. It will take co-ordinated, concerted, collective national action to create a new Zimbabwe, based on respect for each other, respect for the law, constituti­onality, democracy and social justice.

It requires national mobilisati­on. Selfless leaders, with a clear vision, can mobilise the masses. Leaders are not necessaril­y those at the top, but any who take initiative­s and energise others.

Because of the failures of our governance, it is practical to generate action for change. Action can be directed at improving service delivery, against partisan distributi­on of food relief or agricultur­al inputs, or against corruption and abuse of office.

We need the major political blocs to engage with each other on a road map to the future. But we also need grassroots national solidarity, starting in communitie­s that will spread across our country. Elders need to discuss the future with the youth. We need to break down the gender barriers.

People in the Zimbabwean diaspora need to fully participat­e in the change. Their current location need not be an impediment, nor disqualify them from participat­ion in shaping the future of their country.


Regional and internatio­nal solidarity is important for the success of our national democratic struggle, just as it was in the success of our liberation struggle. Once a critical mass of national solidarity, convergenc­e and cohesion has been generated, it will not be difficult to mobilise regional and internatio­nal solidarity and support.

Change in our hands

I conclude by reaffirmin­g and emphasisin­g that change will not come of its own. People are the change agents. They define the nature of the change they want, the means for achieving such change, and the timing of such change. In other words, change is in our hands.

 ?? Picture: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo ?? TAKING IT LYING DOWN: Zimbabwean police carry away a protester during a march on government offices during a demonstrat­ion in Harare in 2019.
Picture: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo TAKING IT LYING DOWN: Zimbabwean police carry away a protester during a march on government offices during a demonstrat­ion in Harare in 2019.

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