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The Gathering - A Reflection: Is it really a new day in...

South Africa

South Africa

The Gathering – A Reflection: Is it really a new day in Zimbabwe?

Listening to former Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti address The Gathering on Thursday, NKATEKO MABASA realised the immense mental strain that Zimbabweans have been living under during Robert Mugabe's iron-fisted rule.

It is difficult to understand what Zimbabweans must have felt when they received the news that President Robert Mugabe was resigning. Some say it was not much of a change. He was 93 and already out of the door. Is it really a victory to force a 93-year-old man to retire? And his successor might not be so different anyway. He might be even worse than the tyrant Zimbabweans were so excited to depose.

But to have lived under the rule of 40 years must give someone a unique perspective. To be born and grow up and have kids while only knowing one president.

To look at your kids and not have an answer to the question, “mommy, who was the former president of Zimbabwe?” To live in a state where corruption and patronage are the order of the day. Or as Tendai Biti, former finance minister of Zimbabwe, put it at the Gathering in Sandton on Thursday: “Unless you fought in the war, then you’re not legitimate.”

To feel suffocated by a ruler who is hell-bent on getting his way regardless of the struggle of his people. This must put a mental strain on a person so unimaginable that any chance for a change is heaven-sent.

To the rest of the world this “change” is unimpressive and might seem to be the same the old corrupt rot in Zanu-PF politics. And that may very well be true. And our distance to the situation robs us of the bliss Zimbabweans feel at this time in their country’s history. We can never know the bliss, the unspeakable joy of a taste of freedom, no matter how minor or temporal.

The baton stick” said Biti, “ isn’t that the challenge for Africa. We don’t do well with passing the baton stick”.

Biti says that Zimbabweans are in search of a new contract. And by this significant event it shows that there is some kind of accountability. There are forces at play to keep the check and balances. The process has started. It has opened up a door to something the party, the politicians and the army might not be able to control: People’s ability to demand change. To go out into the streets and hold leaders accountable. To be agents of change.

It truly is a dawn of a different day in Zimbabwe. And yet history does not favour such deviations from dictatorial or colonial rule in Africa. The people of Zimbabwe have an opportunity to redefine democracy – a rule of the people, by the people and for the people. DM

Photo: Moderator Stephen Grootes introduces former Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti at The Gathering.  Biti tells the audience:  ‘We don’t do well with passing the baton stick.’ Photo: Daniel Born

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