BULAWAYO used to be a vibrant city with lots of leisure and entertainment facilities. These facilities were supported by remarkable public amenities and efficient utilities.
The town centre boasted excellent cinema houses which for me were a must-go-to in the early eighties. During one of my excursions at the Rainbow Vistarama in 1984 I watched the movie Nineteen Eighty Four. This masterpiece of a movie was an adaptation of George Orwell’s book with a similar title.
During the film show I kept on wiping tears from my cheeks. Understandably, the movie aligned my emotions with what was happening in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was at war with some former Zipra elements who detested Zapu’s electoral loss to Zanu PF.
The movie was a visual exposition of the extent of the cruelty endured by ordinary people. Outside of the cinema I lived with people who were giving up in despair and acquiescing to a despot. In the cinema the abuse and the subjugation were replayed.
As I watched the movie, I got petrified by the way of life in the imaginary island called Oceania. Big Brother seemed to prescribe the people’s way of life. The condescending language, torture, people’s suppressed anger, misuse, abuse and use of young children as spies, vaporisation of enemies, fear within the masses, sick State propaganda, blatant lies and turning of people into zombies were sickening.
I felt at home, albeit uncomfortably so, as the pictures rolled on the screen. Oceania seemed to mimic our own Zimbabwe as she was around 1984. The imaginary State of Oceania and the real State of Zimbabwe both engaged in terrorism and maintained sadistic relationships with their peoples. Big Brother watched everyone everywhere.
Oceania had Giant telescreens which continuously spewed vile orders and self-gratifying propaganda while Zimbabwe had ZTV which propagated hatred. People of Oceania were held under a disabling spell of Big Brother’s watchful eye and could not stray from the narrow and the thorny path as defined by the State. The people of Matabeleland in particular were under Stalinist/Maoist-inspired curfews and were singing the blues.
Both the states of Oceania and Zimbabwe defined all aspects of people’s lives as a way of enforcing domination. What the states deemed right, the people had to accept even if that defied the rules of science and nature. The two states could decree that one and one is three and all the people had to accept that against the universally established truth.
Oceania had sadistic and satanic names for ministries. There was the Plenty ministry; the Love ministry and others so inappropriately named. The Love ministry was one sad ministry that spread terror. It traded torture on those persons who opposed the State.
The ministry spewed the worst propaganda and made people feel, think and behave like zombies. There was no love to talk about in the Love ministry. It was all pain, hatred, some more pain and less humanity.
The Plenty ministry was good at cooking figures on production. The ministry was on overdrive as it whipped the people to accept that there was plenty of everything good and all other things great. The ministry seemed to have plenty of State evil to launder. This ministry’s mandate was to panelbeat starving citizens into a false belief that they were well fed.
Ministry employees were meant to positively “sanitise” unmet production figures in the several Three-Year Plans! The lying was amazing. At one hungry time Zimbabweans were informed by an agent of Zimbabwe’s equivalent of the Plenty ministry that there was plenty food in empty granaries. The land of plenty had plenty of starving people.
Oceania’s Big Brother invented a process of eliminating persons perceived as political and ideological enemies of the State. This process of removing enemies was called vaporisation. Zimbabwe had the dreaded facets of the president’s office . . . covert operations. Many Zimbabweans disappeared from the face of the earth courtesy of the executive’s office.
Oceania had an emasculating hold on the young. They were groomed to become State spies. Children were used to spy on anyone, including their own parents. No one was safe in the presence of the little ones. The children were encouraged to watch live executions of state misfits as a way of calming their youthful nerves. It was common to find small children clamouring to get vantage seats during a State execution.
Zimbabwe had the youth brigades. One would recall how towns like Beitbridge, Gwanda, Esigodini, Plumtree and others fell to the wrath of the Zanu PF youths in the eighties. Zimbabwe’s children sired in happy moments of parenthood became the purveyors of Zanu PF-inspired hatred. Multitudes of elderly people were either admonished or molested by toy soldiers clad in tunics bearing the unmistakable evil mark of the party.
So many stones were thrown in anger towards the people by these toy soldiers. A number of deaths were attributed to these adventure-seeking youths whose tender bodies were poisoned by party dogma and illicit substances.
Zimbabwe had Zapu’s Joshua Nkomo who provided sufficient cover as Zanu PF’s arch-enemy. He was blamed for everything that went wrong. He too skipped the borders and went to live in exile to preserve what was left of his troubled life.
Pasi na Nkomo was the buzz phrase.
Being comfortable in parroting the phrase became a survivor’s guide to wade through Zimbabwe’s choppy political waters. Indeed Nineteen Eighty Four was a revelation. George Orwell seemed to have foreseen Zimbabwe’s fate at the precise date. Zimbabwe then and Zimbabwe now had and has striking likenesses to George Orwell’s 1984.