Of nationalism and the Zimbabwe we seek
The other part of the definition is to do with that loyalty and devotion being channelled towards the achievement of the independence of the nation state.
It is the former that is more relevant to us as a country today, because we have long achieved independence though we are still fighting for a national cause of a different kind. Zimbabweans today are fighting to restore fully functional democracy, economic prosperity and full social emancipation of the citizen.
For nationalism to bear fruit there needs to be unity of purpose and a general desire to engage fruitfully and responsibly. People need to rally around a common national nucleus and develop a national formula from that common nucleus.
The problem today in Zimbabwe is the lack of a common denominator or a common springboard, because people are aiming at the national cause from various different angles and the effect of that is a lot of shooting one another down, as opposed to shooting in unison at the common target. This will only have the undesired effect of prolonging rather than aiding, the process of restoring normalcy.
Zanu PF created the kind of environment of vilification, and alienation, as well as the "with us or against us" as opposed to "with us or along side us" culture.
It is either you are with the ruling party or you against them, and there is no way one can work alongside them contributing differently to achieve the same goals of national development. That kind of culture has not only spilled over to opposition parties but poses a very real threat of spilling over to the entire nation because the national cause is getting systematically decimated and fragmented because different groups are seeking to do things on their own with no due respect or regard of other players. The consequences of that kind of situation is that there is created a vicious circle of dissociation and counter-dissociation, with ripple effects to the progression of the national agenda.
For example Zanu PF may dissociate themselves from a process initiated by the MDC, and the MDC in turn counters on Zanu PF through pouring cold water on their initiative, and this goes on and on, and in the process, sucking in the civic society, the churches, and the trade unions. The ultimate sufferer is the ordinary citizen who looks up to these various bodies and organisations to further the national agenda.
We are a country seeking for a solution and solutions do present themselves in different formats. The formats may range from formative, defective, perfect to idealistic, but regardless of what format the solution may take, it is very important for a nation to have a good and critical look at any availed solution with a view to make it, or develop it, into one that is suitable to the scenario. The recent initiative by the churches to come up with a document that could form part of a national solution to our problem could be picked as a typical example of a nation militating against itself in the critical process of seeking an answer to its problems. The church in Zimbabwe has grown significantly into a very essential component of the societal fabric and the contributions of the church and the implications can never be underestimated.
The influence of the clergy must also never be underrated because they carry on their shoulders a very significant constituency of our population.
The document has some sense in it and if duly considered, and critically analysed with a view to perfect it so as to make a suitable nucleus, the road to a solution could hereby, be seriously marked. The reasons that have been given so far by critics to the document, its contents and intentions, play firmly into the hands of President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF.
Firstly, it is argued that the document was the culmination of an idea originated by the President and sold to the clergy so it could never be embraced as original and untainted by the typical Zanu PF rot. Secondly, it is argued that because President Mugabe has already dismissed parts of the document as not negotiable, then it will be difficult to make any use of it.
There is a contradiction here, and I am not sure whether the critics are already in the process of coming up with another document that will not be a coinage of President Mugabe while at the same it is acceptable in whole to him, and then intend to use such a document as the ultimate starting point. Why rush to comment on Mugabe's acceptance or none of it, why not wait for public opinion?
The important aspects to be drawn from such a scenario (of dismissive as opposed to constructive criticism) however, is the spectre earlier alluded to, that of alienation. The churches and Zanu PF will be alienated in the process of finding a solution to our problems, and the disturbing characteristic of such a situation is the significance of the respective Zanu PF and church constituencies in our country. Next time the other sections of the population come up with another version of a solution it would be simply countered by Zanu PF and the churches in more or less the same way.
What people are forgetting, courtesy of the earlier mentioned culture of alienation created by Zanu PF and sadly being fast embraced by the whole nation, is that regardless of how much the country has been run down all under the watch of the Zanu PF government, the ruling party and government are still a very essential component of the nation and any efforts to vainly brush them aside in the process of seeking a solution to our problems will not hasten but rather prolong that process. By supposedly "supping with Zanu PF" as some critics has sought to put it, the churches are actually presenting themselves as smarter than some of our self-serving critics and so-called political analysts. Them are we, and we are they, and we are one and this is how we need to start thinking as a nation.
During their interview with Violet Gonda of SW Radio one of the contributors to the document, Reverend Kadenge did make some interesting revelation that President Mugabe (rightly as President of the Republic), challenged the clergy to come up with something to be used in the process of finding a solution and that is why they came up with document.
It can be rightly argued that Mugabe may never invite the MDC (which ever camp) to State House and similarly challenge them unless we had a system of flawless democracy in which the government and the opposition parties appreciated each other as complimentary (rather than antagonistic) entities fighting the same cause alongside each other.
In fact, the opposition parties should never view this as an opportunity for them to wash their hands from playing their party in the process. They should analyse the document, criticise or praise it, and then proffer their own views on how it can be improved and made acceptable as well as workable. As for President Mugabe, well he has to be told loud and clear that it is not for him to say what is or not "negotiable" as he is said to have put it, but it is for the whole nation to decide. The document must therefore not be condemned because an overzealous President thinks it is upon himself to accept of reject it on our behalf.
Reverend Manhanga another panelist on the SW Radio interview, mentioned about the caliber and track record of some of those who inputted into the document such as Professor Walter Kamba and especially, Bulawayo Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube who had a last minute chance to discuss the document before it was adopted. It is reasonable to say that while these people may not necessarily have been in support of Zanu PF as it were by partaking in the process, but they were definitely in total support of a process that they viewed, as Archbishop Ncube is said to have commented, as something "giving us a way forward". It is not about supporting President Mugabe or Zanu PF, or the government for that matter, but it is about supporting a process that will benefit the entire population especially at a difficult time like now.
I met Archbishop Ncube last time he came to Scotland in May 2005 when he received the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award. After the award the Scotland-Zimbabwe Group of which I am former and founding Convener, later organised an open forum for the Archbishop to have an opportunity to address ordinary Zimbabweans and other friends of Zimbabwe at the Gillis Centre.
The award was just one of several honours that have been bestowed on Archbishop Ncube over the years, and the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, His Eminence Cardinal Keith O'Brien then summed up the award by saying, "I am delighted that this award has gone to Archbishop Ncube, his courage and determination in the fight for human rights in Zimbabwe have been an inspiring example. He has been described as 'a shining light in the fight for human rights. He has received awards for his human rights work before and will I am sure receive further awards in future."
Surely those words may have been said by a foreigner in a foreign country but they definitely resonate with national sentiment back home in Zimbabwe because Archbishop Ncube has been a very influential figure in this present cause, and the significance of this church inspired document is that someone like him has chosen to give it the benefit of the doubt and endorse it
The Archbishop has realised that we can not only claim to be fighting for the restoration of full democracy while we fail to appreciate the efforts of others who are also partaking in that same fight. Regardless of his own stature, and his own personal sacrifice and contribution, the Archbishop realises the need to appreciate one another and to respect the efforts of others who are trying to play their part.
Contributing to the same SW Radio interview panel, Dr John Makumbe said the document did not envisage regime change and went on to explain why he felt the document must have, or maybe should have, include regime change. Well, that could be pointed out as one of the aspects to be looked at during the process of refining the document so as to make it acceptable to us all.
It should be lauded that at least the document does include some of the thorniest issues such as constitutional reform, and the rule of law, lack of which has significantly contributed to the current state of laissez-faire whereby individuals in power have now become laws unto themselves. It is true that certain aspects that are at issue during the ongoing impasse in our country may have not been viewed in a certain way by the clergy, or they may propounded solutions that may not sound like the ideal ones to some of the issues, but they have done their part and it is left to others to take things from where they have left and see the process through.
Dismissing the document in its entirety may not itself be a solution because those who compiled it, who are also Zimbabweans and strongly feel they have a due part to play will simply be alienated. In future such people would find it difficult if not impossible to embrace the efforts and contributions of other fellow citizens. Zimbabweans as a nation we need to learn to accept the initiatives of some of our own and criticise constructively but contributively so as to ensure the progression of the national agenda.
Silence Chihuri is a regular New Zimbabwe.com opinion writer. He writes from Scotland
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