What has the last 37 years bequeathed? As Zimbabweans, we are fast-approaching the biblical 40 years in the wilderness that the Israelites endured to reach Canaan. The attainment of independence in 1980 was only one of the stages of leaving the oppression of colonial government, yet the journey to our destiny has been long and winding.
By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
Moses was raised by God to lead His people from bondage. Bondage was a reality for all the Israelites until God decided to liberate them on His own. Should we wait for God to liberate us?
Like the Israelites, we find ourselves in the dire straits, but we do not know who to turn to for our liberation. We are quickly reminded that we are already liberated and should be eternally grateful.
We are all political animals, but in African politics, either you belong and you are safe or you don’t and you are vulnerable. You hear many an African leader bragging “losing an election is by choice when you are a ruling party.”
The politics of consensus has been thrown into the dustbin of history. This is why most African countries tried one-party-state soon after independence. When shall we come up with a home-grown system of African politics?
For lack of a proper home-grown system of governance which is user-friendly, we ended up copying foreign and unfriendly systems into our continent. The result is that Africa is not really stable. While in the west multi-party democracy might work, in Africa it is a luxury we can do without.
Some ask why we should go for elections when we can predict the result. The ordinary man and woman are held at ransom by African leaders for they are forced to either acquiesce or behave otherwise and face the consequences. When one is in the structures, they enjoy the benefits of joining the gravy train, or face the poverty song outside the system.
It seems the acceptance of a multi-party system was done begrudgingly. While at face value there seems to be tolerance of other parties other than the ruling party, there is a deep dislike for the former. This is more pronounced at election time.
These are times when Africa is at war with itself. If there were enough resources, people would rather go for long breaks outside the country to avoid the hatred and threats that is the order of our elections. Tolerance is a word not used by most African leaders.
Political rallies are arenas of displaying hatred by use of language like “pasi na . . .” (down with so and so or rather death upon so and so). Those who are neutral pray that elections never come. But fate has it that the most oppressive regimes religiously follow elections without fail and as legally scheduled. A few rogue ones postpone elections from time to time.
When Pharaoh intensified his stubbornness, God did not ignore him. It seems that God specialises in those leaders that treat subjects badly. They are given the long rope to hang themselves, as they raise the banner of oppression. God actually gives them resolve to want to retain power at all costs.
In the case of Pharaoh, after efforts to force him to release the oppressed by sending calamities, which were crowned by the death of the newly-born sons of Egyptians, God further hardened his heart not to release the children of Israel. (Exodus 14: 4) When the children of Israel were released, God again hardened the hearts of both Pharaoh and the Egyptians who followed the liberated Israelites (Exodus 14: 8), who were now on their journey to independence. The Egyptians were led by God to their demise.
The safest route Africans are forced to take is to declare that they are apolitical. Once one has been labelled opposition, they carry that to the grave.
For this reason, we witness communities and individuals being paraded to renounce their former parties while surrendering their party cards and regalia. This is done so that one declares their comeback— that they no longer belong with enemies. After this ritual, one can now sleep peacefully.
We have to remove hatred from our politics so as to enjoy democratic principles as practised in the west. People should be able to belong to different parties and still be friends, or at least not kill each other because of opposing views.
Artists, the clergy and any popular figures are in a quandary. While in the west these can publicly show their party affiliation, here they cannot do so. The best they can do is to play it safe by standing aloof. But what they do not realise is that being aloof is also being political.
Publicly they seem to support both sides, and when invited to perform or come up with a piece of art created as per request, they just deliver. It is only when they go into exile that they develop their talents politically. They can say their minds against the system from the safely of the diaspora.
Perhaps we will enjoy politics when this present generation of rulers is gone.
Israelites were in the bondage for too long — plus or minus 400 years with God’s acquiescence, one would say. No wonder we read towards the end of their captivity that God actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart in spite of having chosen Moses to liberate them. As if that was not enough, God hardened again the hearts of the Egyptian army that followed the Israelites to where they were camped as they waited to cross over.
We should not despair. Oliver Mtukudzi says in one of his songs, “We should not lose hope.” Such like him have soldiered on and not left the country because of love for their country. This article is not saying that those who have left the country do not like it. Africa needs to be liberated from foreign types of democracies and from its oppressive leaders. When are we going to have our own home-grown type of democracy governance?
We should never lose hope. We do not need any modern-day prophecy to tell us that we are destined for greater heights, for the Lord has already said, “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you hope and an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29: 11)
Let those with ears hear.
l Levee Kadenge is a theologian at United Theological College, Harare. He can be contacted at Leveekadenge@gmail.com.