SUNDAY DIGEST: Building the Zimbabwe we all want

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By Conrad Mwanza

No man is an island and we all need one another; and the past week has proven that now more than ever Zimbabweans need oneness above everything else.

The past week has been difficult for everyone after the tropical Cyclone Idai hit the eastern parts of the country leaving a trail of destruction that included loss of human life, others missing as well as infrastructure worth millions left ravaged.

Hundreds of families lost their loved ones, homes and livestock with plenty more left with nothing but the clothes on their back.

In the midst of all the ruin caused by the forces of nature, Zimbabweans did not fold hands and cry foul or run around with a begging bowl beyond borders. Whilst the SOS went out, people stepped up to the plight of their fellow countrymen, mobilising each other to come up with donations in a show of co-operation barely seen in recent times.

The response was overwhelming as people from all walks of life came forward with what they could offer be it money, food, blankets and many more. One elderly woman from Mbare struck a chord in the hearts of multitudes when she walked all the way from Mbare to a donation drop off centre In Highlands.

The grandmother with a mighty heart walked to the other side of town carrying her donation of pots that she sells, on her head. She was moved by the misfortune that had befallen her countrymen.

She chose to forgo a profit and instead offer support to those in need, even though she is by no means a wealthy person. This became one of the most enduring examples of a people united in love and brought together by a common suffering. The response came from far and wide as the diaspora as well as international organisations also came to the aid of those affected.

The noble gestures and apparent success of the efforts and above all the willingness to be proactive and take charge of our fellow Zimbabweans’ destiny rather than leave everything to fate reminded me of a conversation we recently had with African colleagues at The African Diaspora Awards.

We were honouring Africans who are helping to rebuild the continent and I was particularly inspired by points raised by my South African sister Pumela Salela who shared ideas on how we can unite to build the Africa we want and that we have to be willing to do it for ourselves. This got me thinking about the Zimbabwe I want, the Zimbabwe our people say they want and the image of Zimbabweans uniting in the cyclone aftermath gave me a clear picture of just how far we can go in dealing with the economic crisis we have.

It is quite unfortunate that we needed a natural disaster to remind us that we are one people despite our common differences on religion, culture, politics and so on.

Whilst we understand that empathy can be evoked by events that remind us of the fleeting nature of life, we can always be on a better footing if we show the same oneness on, matters pertaining to our daily lives. I started to envision a Zimbabwe that rises as one every day of the year in rebuilding the ruins of our country the same way we are doing with Cyclone Idai.

Natural disasters are always bound to happen despite our best efforts to prepare but we have also been cohabitating with another disaster in our midst; the economic disaster that has shattered many lives, dreams and destroyed industry.

The situation has been ongoing for so longer such that even on the brink of a breakthrough people become involuntarily nervous, adopting a cautiously optimistic approach lest we raise our hopes too high.

It is an open secret that the Zimbabwean economy could do with all help it can get in order to function at full potential. So many of our brothers and sisters are faced with challenges daily and some have even lost lives after failing to access medication because of the dire economic situation we find ourselves in.

A struggling economy spells disaster for the people and whilst we await the policy makers and powers that be to find solutions that deal with the situation we can make steady progress if we treat the economic disaster with the seriousness and oneness we displayed in combating Cyclone Idai.

Despite various church and political leaders taking centre stage in the Cyclone Idai disaster, the people made the grandest gesture of all which is uniting in love and not discriminating along political lines as is often the case.

Such a spirit is what Zimbabwe needs as we try to shake off the shackles of poverty that affect the masses. It is my sincere hope that leaders lead the way in uniting people for a common cause than divide. Cyclone Idai showed us that only love can fully thrive where policy has failed and unity can mend all broken bridges.

We saw an old woman making a selfless labour of love, politicians pulling in the same direction for once despite other agendas, rivals came together to work on one goal and ensured that the victims and survivors were not alone at their time of need.

Such dedication is truly admirable among Zimbabweans and together we can do it for our economy as well in making sure we make the best of what we have at our disposal. Innovation can find a breeding ground in our youths if we make the space for them. The collective effort of the people is not limited only to natural disasters but our daily lives.

If our political leaders stepped out like they did in the disaster and continue to be ambassadors of the country in attracting investors, calling for the removal of sanctions that are harming the common man more than anyone and allow for plurality and diversity of opinion despite political affiliation we can make it. Oneness, tolerance and love are the ties that bind not politics.

In the same manner, we shared food and clothes with those affected may we also share ideas and give each other platforms to perform. May we also recognize that the state of our economy is a disaster and requires our collective effort and sacrifice in whatever small or big way we can in making this great country of ours work again.

The same way our help was colour-blind and did not discriminate on ethnic, political or religious grounds may we also be welcome to diversity and innovation.

It takes a massive effort to rebuild and our present trials should be motivation enough for us to come together and build. You and me can build the Zimbabwe we want #zimbabwewewant.

Conrad Mwanza is Founder of Zimbabwe Achievers Awards and Publisher of Zim Abroad Magazine, he writes in his personal capacity