We should celebrate being Zimbabwean

I WOULD have easily written about the Constitutional Court’s decision to uphold its previous decision.

The Last Straw with Lenox Lizwi Mhlanga

No matter how funny that sounds, the fact is that we should have seen it coming. The question will always be: Was it worth all the money, noise and fury?

I will instead take the opportunity to celebrate the personality of a Zimbabwean. I do so intentionally because the very people who have brought misery to the country and all who are in it are asking us to give them another chance.

It is a reminder of the kind of person they are approaching for votes.

It is said that you can’t get anything past a Zimbabwean. We have seen and done it all.

If you have been to hell and back, there is hardly a scheme one has not attempted to join or a venture one has not been involved in. You name it, we have been there. In fact, it rings true that we can beat the Nigerians at their own game though we still have one handicap in the stakes. We are too educated; at least we believe we are.

Years of colonial education — for all its faults and the much-lauded post-independence experience with its purported pluses — turned us subservient. A Zimbabwean will not revolt because he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty.

That is the job for the uneducated, we think. Civilised people sit down and talk things over, if you get my point. In West Africa, for instance, one bad move and the machetes are out. The wars there are so bloody it’s scary. No wonder those places are in a sorry state, in a violent sort of way.

If you talked about Africa, it would be about hunger, famine, wars and disease and Zimbabwe happened to be outside that equation. At least until the time of the big freeze, we never imagined that we would join the rest of Africa in the tubes. We used to scoff at Zambians for instance.

A trip across to Livingstone in 1985 was a shock for me then. There were potholes and vendors all over the place. “Wait until you really experience this thing called independence,” was the ominous warning I got from a Zambian friend. Now we know!

Zimbabweans have for decades imitated the European to the extent that we have outdone them in some respects. This is why it is not difficult for us to adjust to that culture when we go there.
Our attachment to European culture must have lulled us into a sense of false security. The inertia of the foundation built by the previous regime was bound to give in sooner or later. Then the inevitable collapse began, the signs being subtle at first, the momentum picking up in the ’90s.

Some, who had a hunch about what was coming, like the “Rhodies” before them, saw it coming and bailed ship. The resilient and (how I hate the word) patriotic among us stuck it out with much regret. My friends remember me for the expression: “I will be the last man to get out after turning off the lights and locking the gates at the border.”

The more cynical said that the country had deteriorated so much the best that could be done to it was to turn it into one big game reserve. But the experience of the spectacular collapse of the Zimbabwean economy beats that of any university on the globe. I bet there are publishers out there who are eager to get accounts of the Zimbabwean experience into print. The world wants to know how we survived the worst economy in living memory.

The experience was indeed unforgettable, but it has produced a peculiar breed of Zimbabwean. After a decade of being unwittingly turned into a tribe of hunter-gatherers, we have realised that one cannot take anything for granted.

Unlike other societies, there is very little that the government can provide in any quantity except grief. We have taken the meaning of the expression self-reliance to another level. No opportunity goes to waste and there is nothing one can do to keep one’s head above the water that is seen as embarrassing.

I have sold tomatoes, milk, ice cream, pirated music CDs and at one time contemplated narcotics! I was nearly taken in for dealing in foreign currency and I can proudly announce to the world that I participated in the purely Zimbabwean phenomenon called “burning” money. Everyone and his mother were doing it! It was one good way of laundering our totally useless currency without using it as ballast or an alternative for firewood. Those with cheque books did a roaring trade and bank tellers became tycoons overnight.

As with dubious schemes that involved money in Zimbabwe, some chef was smiling all the way to a Swiss bank at the top of the pyramid. Who does not know that the so called “world bank” was fuelled by some very big fish?

The women we saw on the street were victims as the rest of us were.

They tell a very sad story nowadays as they regret not having invested the easy pickings they were blowing away at all the night parties that became in vogue in Bulawayo in 2007 and 2008. Some even slunk back to the communal areas to lick their wounds.

We leant our lesson very well.

Scattered at all four corners of the globe, Zimbabweans are performing miracles wherever they are. Everywhere you go you find Zimbabweans excelling in whatever they are doing from rocket science to mowing the lawn. What we touch turns to sold, though we also have opened ourselves to the most insidious forms of exploitation. Because we work harder than everyone else and commendably too, we are victims of xenophobia and petty jealousy.

The reality is that if God wills Zimbabwe’s troubles to go away, and those who skipped borders were able to come back home to family and friends, some economies I know would surely collapse. I dare pray for that day not so much to cause a global economic catastrophe, but to get all Zimbabweans where they all belong . . . back home. Oh how I wish my dream would come true!

But then, it could only be a dream. l Lenox Mhlanga is a social commentator

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