ZIMBABWE: We Can't Give Up Our Dreams of Freedom
The babies were given names that marked them as children of war: Gift, Chipo, Talent, Hondo, Bazooka, Rusununguko, Nyikayedu.
We had been politicized enough. We were all hopeful, and shared a common vision. I was hopeful as a young girl to witness my family move from Njube township to occupy one of the aristocratic houses in Morningside. I was contented with my parents’ voting, and trusted their vote would bring change home. Were things better then than now? Obviously no, things were bad bad bad then as they are now.
I had so much hope in what Independence would bring, but did not realize that the freedom train would be too small to accommodate all of us, especially women—because “their places are with the kids in the kitchens and with the fowls in the fowl runs.” Independence came and gave my son free international television channels on Wiztech with the right hand, and with the left it slowly dispossessed him. Independence has allowed my son to transcend border barriers and identify with basketball stars like Kobe Bryant, but it has also snatched that privilege away from him overnight. As a result my son can’t trust the elders’ votes anymore, but fathoms a world where the young should be allowed to peacefully cast their vote and make ‘things change.’
I rarely discuss politics with my younger children at home because the politics of my country has for long bordered on betrayal and neglect of its populace, and as a result I have lost faith in current political leaders. Yet my son’s politics are very clear—he knows the truth from lies. No one can teach anyone consciousness.
When the women in Sembene Ousmane’s novel God's Bits of Wood took to the railway line and staged a demonstration that changed the politics of the whole country overnight, their husbands had not given them any lectures on capitalism and their material conditions; what they were suffering day-to-day determined their transformative politics.
Tahrir Square! No one taught people to revolt; their being determined their consciousness, and rightly so. When Zimbabwean women reach the lowest point but continue to remain silent, they are not silent and stupid; they are peacefully engaging in different modes of survival for their families. Their silences can be deafening in certain spaces.
Yes, let the mind sing
and let the pen dance
Let the mind sing
and the pen dance
Black ink against white paper
Let the mind sing
and the pen dance
Sing and dance of hopeful sons
and of resilient mothers
Of hopeful sons
and of resilient mothers, resilient mothers, resilient mothers!
While I am waiting in line at the MultiChoice shop, my citizen journalist demons get hold of me and before I know it, I am interviewing the women there, pen and journal in hand.
The story is the same: “Our children cannot watch ZTV oh! We want alternative voices, we want soap operas, we want world sports, we are tired of jingles and lies. We want so many things that we cannot get, but alternative voices we will get oh! We will send our money to South Africa because we don't care, as long as we get alternative information!”
Zimbabwe’s women are using their silences and peaceful engagement to navigate a political system that can overnight turn violent against them; grandmother, mother, and daughter—three generations of women raped in a single minute, and on the same floor.
Quietly, women are occupying the queue to get birth certificates for themselves and for their children; some are completing affidavits for the relatives, silently in the long and slow queues. These people were born here, but their documents were burnt during elections. Their parents were killed, and their records got lost when they were forcibly removed from the farms in which they grew up. This year they must vote, and the women will help them register.
When I asked Mbuya Diedricks (not her real name) why she looked so determined standing in the long line at a district office last week, she sadly and slowly formed words in her mouth, “We have learnt from our past mistakes my dear. We must definitely vote in numbers this year and put an end to this. Can you imagine an old woman my age getting raped by six young men at once? It’s hard to be a woman. I was pained, and I am still in pain. I wish we could all vote and put an end to all this.”