ZIMBABWE: We Can't Give Up Our Dreams of Freedom
As elections loom and the state tightens its grip on the media in Zimbabwe, Dudziro 'Chibairo' Nhengu takes a lesson from her 12-year-old son on the urgency of every vote.
7 am. Talkcity cyber cafe, Joina City mall, Harare. A long, winding queue forms from the Jullius Nyerere entrance, past the Edgars shop, across Jason Moyo, stopping right at the corner of the main post office in Nelson Mandela street. It’s mostly young people and middle aged women. They await the opening of the MultiChoice shop, where one can subscribe to Digital Satellite Television (DSTV).
As soon as my cell phone regained connectivity after a five day cross-border trip, the first message I saw on the WhatsApp text message service was from my 12-year-old son.
“Mummy, when are you coming? You have to subscribe for DSTV.” When I saw my son, the anxiety written on his face was disturbing. No time for hugs and greetings, straight to the point!
“Mummy, how can you help me register to vote?”
“Son, people of your age do not vote in national elections.”
“I know mummy but isn’t there a way I can cast my vote? It will count.”
“How will your vote count?” I ask, wanting to laugh. When I take a second look at him, I realize the seriousness. He is almost in tears, and my motherly instincts quickly hold me accountable. I need time with him, to talk about our beloved country.
I extend a hand to hug his tiny body and slowly bring him closer to me. Vus is slim and handsome, and according to his WhatsApp status he is “The sicker version of Kobe Bryant,” the American basketball star.
“Why do you want your vote to count Vus?”
“Things must change mummy. We can’t get the cheaper channels on Wiztech, and I know you cannot afford DSTV. I want to watch TV.”
South Africa’s broadcasting signal distributor Sentech recently scrambled Wiztech decoder satellite channels in accordance with a court order. The South African channels are popular among Zimbabweans, who have used decoders like Wiztech to gain free access. The majority of Zimbabweans cannot afford to subscribe to the expensive DSTV, meaning they now have no choice but to resort to Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
I feel sorry for the sicker version of Kobe Bryant, but I fight hard to hide my emotions.
“But what does this have to do with voting now?” I teasingly ask.
“We need to be connected to other countries mummy. We even get electricity and fuel from other countries. ZTV is all about a certain political party. I need good information. I want to shine in the quiz club mummy, and I can’t miss world sports and football. ZTV is bor….!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I stand looking at him, stupefied. I want to affirm what he is saying. I want to shout back, “And full of B.S… lies too!”
But I cannot do that. Not at this moment.
I want to scream and tell him DSTV is not all that we need, but my son has helped me see the light. The scrambling of the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s three TV channels ahead of elections will deprive the majority of voters of alternative sources of information. In a repressive and partisan state, the state-controlled media is the major foot soldier of patriarchy and militarism.
At the MultiChoice shop, I stand there stupefied, not knowing whether to join the queue or not. My son has boycotted dinner for three days now; he wants to watch alternative channels. And this morning, before I dropped him off for school, he touched me on a raw spot.
“Mummy, Tinashe’s dad has subscribed for DSTV. I told Tinashe my mum will too. I know you will mummy.”
I hear the words loud and clear, deliberately emphasized. This is enough for my feminist pride. The verdict is passed. I have been blackmailed and I find myself in the queue for DSTV. Dads are good but moms are better oh!
At my son’s age I never wished to vote. When I was 12, my country was slowly evolving out of colonialism, and I remember the queues as our parents, brothers, and sisters put pen to paper to overthrow the Smith regime. I was content with my parents voting—I trusted their vote. Our politics were common and shared. The white rulers had to go; we wanted our sovereignty back. I was tired of the bloody war, of seeing my elderly sisters giving birth to fatherless children every nine months back in the village. No one understood it as rape; they were war stories. . . .