Zimbabwe: The dreams we lost to Mugabe

Zimbabwe: The dreams we lost to Mugabe

Date: November 21, 2017
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By Lucia Makamure

Johannesburg, 21 November: When I think of my former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, many things come to mind but for me what stands out is his legacy of violence. This is the man who for 37 years ruled Zimbabwe, according to his own words with a ‘firm’ hand. In 2008 he boldly and openly told a rally of his supporters that “we have degrees in violence”.

His infamous words would come to haunt him nine years later when in an unprecedented move ordinary Zimbabweans put aside their differences on 18 November 2017 and took to the streets calling for him to step down from power.

For many Zimbabweans back home being in the streets of Harare last Saturday and being able to openly shout ‘Mugabe must go’ was a surreal moment and a ‘new’ freedom that was taken from them more than 20 years ago.

Mugabe’s regime stole a lot of freedoms from the Zimbabwean people. The list of the freedoms is endless but for me and many others from the younger generation he stole our dreams.

A decade ago, I was an upcoming political journalist with a promising career ahead. Being appointed a political journalist at one of Zimbabwe’s most respectable business weekly, the Zimbabwe Independent was a dream come true and one of my proudest achievements. I remember sitting across the desk from my then Editor-in Chief, Vincent Kahiya when he shared the news of my promotion. I could not believe it as I never thought that as a young woman I would be worthy of such a position.

Mind you this was not because I was not qualified enough for job but because I was in an industry where the political and economic desks were a special preserve of male journalists. You would find most women on the so called “soft beats” on social issues.

I cannot put into words the joy I felt in that moment. My imagination went into overdrive. I could see myself becoming a household name in political journalism like my mentor at that time Dumisani Muleya. Just under a year after my new post Zimbabwe went to the polls for the Harmonised Elections.

As part of my work, I attended political rallies for both Zanu PF and the main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).Every time I looked at my notes after each rally it would strike me that Zanu Pf in their rallies had nothing new to sell to the younger generation. Their trump card was the support of the war veterans and speeches centering on safeguarding the gains of the country’s hard fought Independence.

In the meantime the economy was on a free fall. Basic commodities were not readily available in the shops. The health system was in a perpetual comatose. Unemployment was at an all-time high. Even for those of us who were working, there was not much to celebrate. My own salary was not even enough to meet my basic needs.

On the other hand MDC was selling a new dream to young Zimbabweans. A new Zimbabwe full of possibilities. So it is not surprising that many young people joined the MDC bandwagon. Who would not be desperate for change in such an environment?

Among those yearning for change were many young female and male youths who took it upon themselves to go around the country mobilising support for the MDC. Their efforts paid off when for the first time in 2008 Zanu Pf faced its fiercest opposition since Independence losing their majority in parliament.

A month after the polls, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced on 2 May that Tsvangirai won 47.9% of the vote and Mugabe 43.2%, necessitating a run-off.

What followed can only be termed a state sponsored bloodbath. Mugabe unleashed a reign of terror on Zimbabweans especially the rural folk who had for the first time overwhelmly voted for the opposition. According to a 2009 Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum report there were six politically- motivated rape cases, 107 murders, 137 abductions/kidnappings, 1 913 cases of assault, 19 cases of disappearance, 629 of displacement and 2 532 violations on freedom of association and expression.

Statistics will never tell the full story of Mugabe’s brutality. I remember the horrific stories I had to write after visiting politically motivated violence victims in hospitals. One woman had her backside slashed off with a machete and had to undergo a skin grafting operation. Her only crime was being MDC member. Another mother was forced to watch and sing along to liberation songs whilst Zanu PF youths killed her son.

I remember the now late Tonderai Ndira, an MDC youth. We had many conversations on the phone and in person. Each time he shared his dreams of a new Zimbabwe. A Zimbabwe where he would be able to give a better life to his wife and his kids.

A few days after one of our meetings he was abducted from his home by ten armed men early in the morning of 13 May 2008. His body was found later in the month: shot in the heart, with multiple stab wounds, his eyes gouged, his tongue cut out, and his neck, skull, jaw and knuckles broken.

While this shook me to the core, it strengthened my resolve to tell the story of those being purged for daring to dream of a better future. I wrote a hard hitting article on Mugabe’s legacy of violence. As I feared, I got a few anonymous calls, all a ploy to intimidate me.

While I continued with my career, my enthusiasm in pursuing a career in political journalism died with the suffering and brutality I witnessed in 2008. Life moved on with the formation of the Government of National Unity yet the scars of those who suffered at the hands of Mugabe’s violence remain fresh and their voices silenced forever.

As many Zimbabweans contemplate the country’s future, one thing is clear: we deserve a better President who will be able to restore our ability to dream again and realise our fullest potential.

(Lucia Makamure is the Advocacy and Networking Coordinator at Gender Links. This article is written in her personal capacity)

One thought on “Zimbabwe: The dreams we lost to Mugabe”

Tshaka Zulu says:

Unfortunately my sister those who purport to be liberators today are actual the very script writers of the 2008 violence. It’s a lion saving a thomsole gazelle being being lunch to a hyena to stock it as dinner for itself. The Chiwengas of this worlds are more evil and better economy Plunders than RGM. #Gukarahundi, Chiadzwa, Murambatawina etc..

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