…we’re here – and we aint gonna leave!

..standing our ground against Zimbabwe's sickening culture of 'ageism'

I feel patriotic these days. And before the feeling wanes and recedes into the indifference that often informs the limited involvement of young people in anything important in this country- I think I should speak up.

For in keeping silent I perpetuate a grave injustice to those of my kind – the youth of Zimbabwe.

Combined with these patriotic sentiments are the sentiments of Deborah Meier that I happened across the other day. She wrote, “There’s a radical – and wonderful – new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world. It’s an idea with revolutionary implications. If we take it seriously.”

I can trace my blossoming patriotic sentiment to the three weeks I spent cooped up at the University of Ghana with two and a half dozen young women from 21 African countries and to the fact that in nearly deliberation Zimbabwe was used as a reference point for one bad thing or another.

It is one thing to daily hear Zimbabweans speak negatively of their own country, to listen to them and join them in denigrating their own country but quite another to listen to outsiders take similar liberties.

Indeed it is the one thing that will make you defend your country without stopping to examine your reaction but simply because it is your country, your home and ultimately it is who you are – Zimbabwean. It is also what will force you to scrutinize the condition of your country and how other people have come to perceive you as a people.

By omission or by commission every Zimbabwean is responsible for the leadership we have and for the mess we’re in.

Whether through indifference, greed or fear – we’re all guilty of allowing this great land to sink to its knees.

I have joined on occasion, when I could muster the breathe, in the mud-slinging, bad-mouthing, finger-pointing and hurling of insults directed at those in power and those aspiring to be in power. I say on occasion because for the greater part, I simply have been too nonchalant to even care.

Perhaps, that is the real problem for me and the youth, we have believed that we are too weak, too young to be of any consequence and in believing this fallacy we have sought refuge in nonchalance.

...to fight or flee? To live or die? To watch or act?

It doesn’t help too that there is so much romanticising about the past that we always feel that our unavailability to be drafted into the liberation struggle automatically makes us less qualified to have a say in the running of our country.

I mean if there is one thing ZANU PF has perfected it is the art of using its formidable credentials as a revolutionary party to bring the Zimbabwean electorate and youth to heel with a cocktail of nostalgia, sentimentality and the incessant reminder of the insurmountable debt of gratitude owed to them by every citizen who lives in a free Zimbabwe.

The MDC, on the other hand; wisely discerning that they cannot do much to beat the revolutionary party card that ZANU PF loves to draw – have made it a point to totally ignore the liberation struggle and by doing so attempt to rule Zimbabwe and its people outside the contexts of our history rendering them rather superficial.

I will not strain self trying to untangle the relevance (or lack thereof) of the splinter factions that are now a ZAPU pulled out of ZANU and an MDC pulled out of an MDC-T; too much ink has been spilled de-bunking these political specimens.

However, if the youth hope their participation in the nation’s politics to be meaningful; this is the political menu of parties that is availed to them.

One that is stuck in the past and bogged down by its distrust of young people and new ideas then another with a vibrant youth visibility but suffering from the acute deficiency of denial and a tragic refusal to own Zimbabwe’s liberation history (without which they would not enjoy the very autonomy that allows them to aspire for political power).

I have opinions about Zimbabwe, I have thoughts about the conditions of Zimbabwe, I have theories and hypotheses about what is wrong with this country and about why we are where we are today.

I have no idea how long I have held these views but they must have been simmering in me, stewing for a long time because when I was in Ghana I said, for the very first time, in a lecture room full of strangers what I thought.

And I was surprised by the vehemence with which I leapt to defend my beloved country, astonished by the passion with which I narrated the course of events that had brought us to this present miserable condition and even more shocked by the utter convictions with which I spoke.

I was amazed that I cared that much about Zimbabwe; surprised that I cared at all for over the years the pretense of being indifferent has become second nature to me such that I began to believe that it was normal.

How dare we sit, fold our hands and watch the demise of our country as if we had another spare Zimbabwe stashed somewhere to live in as soon as this one folds up and inexorably crumbles?

...always thrust in the background and barely discernable; the youth have none but themselves

For in the years to come, many who hold the reins of power will succumb to the inevitability of death and we shall inherit nothing but the shell of what once was.

I believe that Zimbabwean youths have been sidelined for too long and that perhaps we must come to a definitive age-range of what it means to be a youth in this country.

It bothers me no end that a person on the wrong side of 30 should strut around as a youth leader or presume to speak on behalf of young people in this country.

Moreover it bugs me terribly that young people have been willing to be used as arse wipes by those who aspire for political office only to be discarded after the elections and flushed into oblivion.

But I want to believe that the tide is turning. That the youth will be reckoned with, that we will be ignored no more, sidelined no longer and never again patronized.

As we enter the UN International Year of Youth running under the theme “Promoting Dialogue and Mutual Understanding” – I fervently hope that the would-be election candidates of 2011 and beyond will get off their high horses and engage young people as equals because we are not going anywhere.

The International Year of Youth is our chance to declare categorically that as Zimbabwean youths, we are here and we are not going anywhere. This is our country of birth and we have as much right to live and prosper in it as anyone else.


11 thoughts on “…we’re here – and we aint gonna leave!

  1. Denny says:

    Your writing is inspiring! I for one enjoyed getting a Zimbabwean view of the country (especially as you are technically still ‘youth’) when discussing with you some of its issues. It helped to balance out some of the BBC hype I’d been fed for the past few years. I would argue that youth apathy is a universal ill. I just think that in Africa it debilitates all the more because the youth make up a large proportion of the population (in the UK, their numbers as well as their influence is waning). Thanks for your thoughts on the matter. And keep keeping us posted!

  2. mhlengi says:

    Excellent mindset you have Delta. The youth not just of Zimbabwe but indeed of the world have to begin to actively craft their future. It is no point singing the legacies of our fathers whose fruits are seemly unfit for our diet. Let us appreciate the legacies of Mandela , Nkwame Krumah and others not forgetting that they were not the last progressive people born of mankind and that they did what they had to do intheir time. Indeed the struggle for political freedom was what was relevant in their time. Lets us look with solving eyes at our own challenges and solve them. Let us create policies that will help us govern ourselves better in future, that will let our resources serve us better, and make our lives worth living. Let us plan and begin now. My children should not be singing Mandela and Nkrumah’s names only. They should talk of Mhlengi , of Delta of Mbulelo, of Nompilo and of Matshazi because the same way as our father curved our today we would have curved theirs. The youth of the world should up the game from fathers and mothers. Our parents solved problems, let us solve problems to and go the extra mile to prevent those that we can as Einstein had it right in saying ‘intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them’. Let us not find ourselves trying to defend defenseless situations. The world is my home and wherever in the world I find myself I will make sure that all corners feel uped in strength and in hope when my work is done.

  3. Mlevu says:

    Well, too deep Delta. I have to admit that the article left me pondering whether my contribution into the happenings in our country is of any significance or not. I was left convinced that as a youth there is nothing valuable that i am doing to salvage my beloved country. Beloved because i tell myself that i love my home country bt in essence one would deem it unbeloved. The onus is on the youth to stand and fight for their recognition, the youths that are guilty of not having been born before the revolution took place. As youths we have to acknowledge that those who fought did so because they could let their country sling to the doldrums. By such we as youth are not suppose to let the very same country sling to once it was salvaged from. I feel challenged!

  4. Mlevu says:

    Well, too deep Delta. I have to admit that the article left me pondering whether my contribution into the happenings in our country is of any significance or not. I was left convinced that as a youth there is nothing valuable that i am doing to salvage my beloved country. Beloved because i tell myself that i love my home country bt in essence one would deem it unbeloved. I feel challenged!

  5. Khanyile Joseph Mlotshwa says:

    I agree with you totally when you say young people in this country have been quite apathetic. What is worrying more is that this affects more university students and graduates than the rest. It is something that young people themselves have to address. they have to get involved in politics, they have to join political parties, they have to raise their voices, they simply have to do something. In an introduction to a collection of African women’s short stories that she edited, Zimbabwe’s finest writer ever, Yvonne Vera, notes that women not only banish and disregard gods that are ineffectual, gods that don’t serve them; but they go further and invent their own. As young people, we have to invent our own gods, if the gods of our history (both past and current history) are failing us. We should be aware that yesterday is history now and today will be history too, but we have to keep pushing, working hard and searching for our own gods. What our parents gave us is not enough for us to pass on to our children, we have to double it and pass it on that way.
    I, however, feel that by referring to ZAPU as a Zanu PF splinter faction, you risk being a historical revisionist, and that’s bad. I cannot see how one can arrive at such a conclusion, and write it as fact, unless if their historical memory can only extend three or so years backwards and never beyond. ZAPU was there in 1986. It went into a Unity Accord with ZANU PF on 22 December 1987. That was a political pact that involved politicians, but as me and you can testify, the supporters of ZAPU never went into that unity; that is why they always voted for the opposition. Three years ago, some of the ZAPU leaders in ZANU PF, especially in the Matabeleland provinces, announced their pulling out of the Unity Accord; and joined up with the lot of people who had remained out of the unity accord, people like Paul Siwela and Aggripa Madlela. What is called ZAPU is not a ZANU PF splinter faction, it is a revival of the people’s dreams, their striving towards people-hood, self determination and dignity. refering to ZAPU as a ZANU PF splinter faction is insulting. This is a party that was formed before 1963, when ZANU PF was formed. Delta, my question is: what historical narrative made you arrive at such a conclusion, that ZAPU is a ZANU PF splinter faction? What can you bring up as evidence to arrive at such a conclusion, I mean for you to writ something like that as FACT? Ever imagined that for children born after 1987, they will take what you have put down as a fact of history?
    My worry is that, as much as young people have to be politically active like you rightly pointed out in your article, they cannot be politically active anyhow. I believe this is a point that we agree upon, especially when you point out MDC’s attempts to ignore izimpi zenkululeko (1893, 1896, 1963-1980). Young people have to acknowledge history and the war of liberation was started by ZA:PU as the grandfather party of Zimbabwean politics. Again the war of liveration was ended by ZAPU (read ZIPRA)’s shooting down of a plane in Victoria Falls forcing the British and Rhodesians to a negotiating table at the Lancaster House.
    And I ask, is this ZAPU, that should be trivialized and be called a ZANU PF splinter faction? I mean all this history Delta, should it be thrown away just to be in good books with the historical revisionists whom we have seen appear in many forms – some of them calling themselves liberals and democrats and some of them calling themselves Pan-Africans (All sweet sounding names)?
    I agree with you on nearly everything, but disagree with you strongly on that simple error. This is simply because the implications of what you wrote there are that in Matabeleland we are young people without a history to stand on, that all along we have been ZANU PF people, and by extension that Ndebele young people should be politically active BUT their political career choices are limited to being deputies in ZANU PF or the MDC.
    With a sense of pride, that has been the hallmark of my people’s history through out all the time, I would rather take my degree and go and wash dishes in South Africa than bear the indignity of such a life….

  6. Nduduzo Tshuma says:

    For a long time i thought Zanu was actually a zapu splinter party given the events that led to its formation. when Zanu was formed, Zapu was already there and any historical record can prove that. While it is important for the youth to take part in the politics of this country, i think is is of greater importance that they know the history of this country. To say Zapu is a splinter faction of Zanu is not only a dangerous rewrittingof history but the vulgarisation of the efforts made by the likes of Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika and other revolutionaries who sacrificed their lives to fight the colonialist. I can not agree more on the need for the youth’s participation in politics but the starting point would to have your facts right because facts are very important. Imagine how many young girls and boys see you as their role model. imagine how much it would take for one to convince them that zapu was never and will never be a splinter party of zanu especially considering that this gross misrepresentation of facts came from someone tehy adore the most.It is important to always get your facts right

  7. Fred Matsheza says:

    You are very right in so many ways, as the youth in Zimbabwe, we have not been visible in national politics or rather in any issues which concern our future. Is it because we are busy trying to make ends meet? I dont know. Or maybe we are just fed up due to the realisation that Zimbabwe needs a political solution, of which as things stand we are just spectators, unable to influence political events, with the top political leadership not even taking us seriously. Many of us are running away from these harsh economic conditions and we can only be arm-chair critics, and still it doesnt work. Many of us are finding it difficult to find jobs after university, but then the environment does not allow you to air your views. I think as the youth we should do something. How? You can ask me that again and again, but I will tell you that I have not figured that out till now, things as they stand in Zimbabwe. Maybe we should make sure that our voices are also heard in this new constitution, so that these oppressive laws can be done away with, so that we get the freedom of expression we crave for.

  8. Hi there,

    Great thoughts and one thing that’s so wrong about Zim is that our politics is stuck in 1980! Young people can’t identify with things that happened before they were even born! We use the guilt trip to rationalise that some guy died for their liberation and really, try competing with Usher or Rihanna on that platform… You are sure to lose.

    I believe that the youth understand Zimbabwe in a different way to their predecessors – they understand the black market, queues and the Diaspora. The context is different and mixed up with the cultural imperialism that the West has so well imported.

    I love how South African youth interpret democracy and how they negotiate their own understanding of what apartheid signified – eg, through designing Steve Biko T-shirts or writing plays about the era. Who in Zim has thought of taking a spin on things in a way that would actually make young people interested? And don’t tell me that all those Heroes Day dirges get anyone fired up.

    Innovate. Innovate. Innovate!

  9. Liberty Bhebhe says:

    I must say I enjoy reading your articles. They are indeed both intellectually provocative and informative. I find this latest article as one of your attempts to both provoke and inform. it appeals to me as an attempt at providing a deeper, sober and honest explanation to the so called Zimbabwe Crises. I hope you are doing so not just as an intellectual exercise but as part of a realisation that there is need to reinterpret the Zimbabwe crises in order to avoid similar occurrences in future. If it is for the latter, I believe you will accept my views as adding to the debate rather than taking away from it.

    I would have wanted to say something about your description of ZAPU as a breakaway but i think Khanyile has attempted to do so.

    Unless the words commission and ommission, which are used in your article now include, in their definition, an event that takes places because people have no choice, or they have been forced into it then i will agree with you that the leadership crises we face in Zimbabwe is a result of both the sin of ommission or commission. However, I strongly believe that Zimbabweans in general or Zimbabwean youths in particular, neither deserve nor want the leadership they have. the greatest challenge we face as a nation has been exhausted nationalism which is reflected through the militarisation of the state and the politicisation of the military. to me this is the biggest problem. All others are a part of this. This problem has been with us for a very long time and dates as far back as the liberation struggle. the challenge of using guerillas as political commissars during the day and “soldiers” during the night has come to haunt the post colony. The army is political. ( Remember, most of the generals in the army served as both, ZANLA and ZIPRA, political leaders and army commanders)

    The Zimbabwe crises in my view is largely a result of the strong nationalist-military alliance and without such an alliance Zimbabweans would have started to enjoy or suffer living under a post nationalist dispensation 10years ago. This nationalist military alliance explains why the army is ready to move out of the barracks into politics each time when the nationalists grip on political power is threatened. So as we accuse the youth of inactivity we need to look at what has been the root cause of that. I strongly believe, the Zimbabwean youth have done most of what they can possibly do to influence change in a democracy. the question that confronts us then is “Is a civilian youth’s failure to confront a military Junta commission or Ommission. I think it is neither. I also think it is unfair to say that the youth have failed to act because they see themselves as weak because in reality they are weaker than an army. They are confronted by an institution with a monopoly over the use of instruments of violence, so how can they be stronger

    Secondly I believe your assessment of the MDC is unfair. It will be unfair to veterans of the liberation struggle that are a part of the MDC, to the leadership of the MDC and also to many Zimbabweans who have passionately followed the struggles for democracy by the MDC, to claim that they have ignored the liberation struggle. In most of its policy documents, election manifestos, leadership speeches, the MDC has reiterated that the struggle for democracy and a new zimbabwe, is part and parcel of the unfinished business of the liberation struggle. This unfinished business include the democratisation of the state, the completion of the nation building project among many others. the problem in Zimbabwe is that we have a political party that wants to control the way the history of this country is written and many intellectuals have been victims. This exclusion of other political formations from talking about or showing how they were a part of the liberation struggle can be traced back to the 1980s when ZANU PF did everything in its power to claim that, it alone, liberated this country. You might be aware that in the 1980s radio programmes such as Dzimbo dzechimurenga were used to project ZANLA as the only liberation movement that liberated Zimbabwe. ZiPRA was effectively excluded from the history of the liberation struggle. This exclusion was exported to the education system where every school was forced to use, as a manual of teaching the history of the liberation struggle, a book by DN Beach entittled the struggle for Zimbabwe. DN Beach’s book never mentioned the role that was played by ZIPRA in the liberation struggle. All this shows how people were excluded and included into the historical narrative. It did not stop there, people like Abel Muzorewa have been labbelled sellouts such that their true contibution to the liberation struggle might never be known. there are many others. What me and You delta should never do is to take comfort in intellectual laziness. let us be open minded and write the true history of this country.

    i am open for further discussions

  10. Mawuli says:

    I believe that like you- many young Zimbabweans are not only sick and tired of what is happening to their country- but are anxious to take action to save their beloved country and their own future. The youth of Zimbabwe need a leader- who can inspire and mobilize them to action. I see such a leader in Delta Law. Until such a leader emerges and until such leader responds to this urgent leadership call, the frustration and anxiousness of the Zimbabwean youth shall remain internalized and slowly but sure continue to kill their pride and hope in Zim. I for one believe the great Zimbabwe shall rise again- the question is whether the young people are willing and ready to start that process today- because that new Zimbabwe does not depend on and cannot come from Mugabe or Tsvangirai. If you do, just know that you have the support of the rest of Africa.

  11. […] this all is because a good friend of mine, Delta Milayo Ndou, recently posted a quite fascinating commentary on her blog about the role that Zimbabwe’s youth has to play in rebuilding our woeful […]

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