Fear grips Zimbabwe

A very strange characteristic of Zimbabweans is fear. We are united in fear, through fear and for fear.

FEAR – two Zimbabwean school teachers accused of supporting opposition hide their faces in fear (Photo Robin Hammond)

United in fear

There is a pervasive and unrelenting union forged through fear that cuts across all socio-economic divisions. The fear that the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority would engage in their sweeping activity known as load shedding. The length of load shedding would depend, naturally on which electrical grid you your home runs on, which person of influence (notorious or otherwise) lives in your neighbourhood and if you are a regular Zimbabwean, expect your fridges to soon be gracing your home with the stench of wasted products if your stint lasts beyond forty-eight straight hours. It is a thing of marvel, wherever one is, around Zimbabwe, to hear the groans and the cheering that is reserved specifically for electricity.

Fear of death on the roads

The poor workmanship of the roads has been exposed owing to the recent unrelenting rainfall. Even the weather elements have contrived to cleanse our country of the ills and dirt in positions of power. The tarred – previously tarred – roads leave many a driver feeling the strain on their vehicle, yet more tragedies have resulted. Recently, 16 lives were lost when a haulage truck struck a pothole before crashing into a mini bus carrying passengers. Between the uneven roads and roadside bridges that lack sufficient warning signs, there is a sense of impending danger for all road users. Yet, this is not something that can be discussed aloud. Road tolls are collected by Zinara, yet the roads disappear right before our eyes. The powers that be whose responsibility it is to ensure that this purse serves its purpose are less than concerned.

Fear of dying in hospital

The state of the health care and education sectors is an unraveled miasma of deliberate ruination. It is difficult to explain to a Zimbabwean child that not so long ago we had a publishing house, and authors who wrote our textbooks, as based on the national curriculum that progressive educationalists set. Today, textbooks are imported and, Zimra, the tax revenue authority actually attempted to impose an import tax on textbooks at one point. Clinics in semi-urban and rural areas are either shut down or mere places to gather sick people as the healthcare staff’s duties and wills are constrained by a lack of facilities to attend to the sick or just jaded attitudes borne out of frustration. It is now common place that one is more likely to contract an illness after being admitted into a hospital.

Fear of losing savings

Now the calculated return of the Zimbabwe dollar disguised as ‘bond notes’ has led to more uncertainty, reminiscent of loss of savings and property and  the fear of being fleeced by companies that we trust with our life’s savings. There is an unspoken fear of what the end game is – and how much more will we lose before we reach the finish line.

 United through fear

If one is not dodging potholes, or trying to navigate busy traffic intersections with faulty lights, one is in fear of the dreaded Zimbabwe Republic Police banditry that masquerades as police. Each time that the commissioner of police has come out on record denouncing the spot fines that motorists are subjected to, there are new police road blocks that mushroom overnight. Nowadays, they do not even bother with the appropriate signs and signals as in the days of yore. Instead of reflector triangles cautioning of a police road block, they use stones, or simply just come out of nowhere and flag motorists down. One can be fined for any and everything – a car that is too old, or too flashy, wearing sunglasses yes, I read about this one;  to the angle of fog lights placed on a vehicle by the manufacturer! This is a daily inconvenience at a time when we are struggling to get out money out of the bank, and of course, money that hardworking citizens would have set aside for the welfare of their families.

How to instill fear in citizens: Photo by NewsDay

Not only is ZRP notorious for being opportunists out on the road, we are now targets for imposters, as anyone with access to a police uniform can mount their own roadblocks to make a quick buck; the irony of the nation’s safety being compromised by the body whose constitutional responsibility is to protect the citizens.

 United for fear

A rather disheartening advert made the rounds recently. The ministry that deals with the ‘youth’ is calling for recruits for the national youth service. These recruits will be trained as the notorious militia that is the ruling party’s personal attack dogs. Their sole purpose is to wreak terror on communities to ensure that any opposition is wiped out. Election season is coming up, and the ruling party is notorious for the most violent assassination of dissent, and the wounds of 2000; 2002; 2005 and 2008 election seasons are raw. The ruling party’s crimes are evident in families who are still searching for missing loved ones, rebuilding homes after families were raped, beaten and burnt alive.

The three most feared in Zimbabwe: Happyton Bonyongwe (CIO), Commander General Constantine Chiwega & Robert Mugabe (from Nehanda Radio)

Besides the government sanctioned militia is another group – Big Brother style. The Central Intelligence Organisation operatives are everywhere like a bad smell. Their task is listening to the whispers and ear-marking those voices that rise up above others, rise up to lead people away from accepting despotic treatment, those voices that call for accountability of a failed, malicious despotic administration whose policies are based on divisiveness.

 It will get worse before it gets better

The road ahead promises more chaos, confusion – prolonged tumultuous time. Fueled by an insatiable greed for power for power’s sake, they feed on our fear, and that unifies us more.

Above all, the permeating fear is that our sons, daughters, mothers and fathers may never be able to come back ‘home’. That there are many who yearn the pride and safety of being home, and being Zimbabwean. We fear that the Zimbabwe we want may only be a distant memory, obliterated over nearly four decades. That the hope of ‘our Zimbabwe’ can be robbed of us. This is why I write.