Growing up, we heard with tedious regularity the importance of getting an education. Education was going to set us free. Without education we were going to amount to nothing. That narrative sounded like a stuck record in every household one visited. We grew up, got an education, worked harder and smarter and planted the same narrative within the hearts and minds of our children. Hard-earned resources were not spared to give the best to our children who now feel alienated in a place they used to call home.
The sunday Maverick with GLORiA NDORO-MKOMBACHOTO
Today’s Zimbabwe is hostile to many of its sons and daughters who are in the diaspora. This is because the political establishment understands that once you have tasted “freedom” in all its facets and as it is practiced in other parts of the world, you will always demand it at home. So the political will to deliver uhuru is just non-existent.
A friend who lives overseas sent me a WhatsApp message last Thursday that read: “I was pained when my son told me that Zimbabwe will only be a holiday destination for him. He sees no hope there for his generation. He feels sorry for his mates from Zimbabwe that study abroad and have to go back to Zimbabwe after graduation.” She continued to ask a question:“What have we done to deserve this? Vana vedu vanoita senge vakasiya vapisa misha (It seems like our children burnt down their homes before they left.)”
I did not know how to respond because the question whilst rhetorical was open-ended and the sentiments expressed by her son were legitimate and a common feature to many sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who find themselves exiled from the only place they call home. I found my WhatsApp response to her simplistic, but after reflecting on it for the rest of the day, my thoughts on the matter evolved into a maelstrom of all sorts of thoughts.
The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies refers to freedom as something standing “for something greater than just the right to act however one chooses — it also stands for securing to everyone an equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The phrase, “an equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is key.
Without an opportunity, that is equal for everyone, to pursue a decent life and the provided for liberties, as enshrined in the constitution, the overarching law of any country, there is no freedom. If no opportunity is granted for the pursuit of happiness, whatever that might constitute for each individual, there is no freedom. It is not yet uhuru.
The United States of America Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and then edited by the Committee of Five and thereafter further edited and adopted by the Committee of the Whole, is a statement adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1776. According to Wikipedia, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. “The phrase gives three examples of the unalienable rights which the Declaration says have been given to all human beings by their Creator, and which governments are created to protect.” While Zimbabwe is not the US, it is the kinds of freedoms enjoyed by US citizens that persuades others to want to emulate them. In fact, this right is enshrined in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 3] as adopted by the United Nations in 1948
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Four essential human freedoms enshrined in the US constitution
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his State of the Union delivered on January 6, 1941 talked about the four achievable freedoms. These freedoms are a definite basis for a kind of world he wanted attainable in his lifetime and beyond.
Roosevelt persuasively articulated the four freedoms as follows:
“We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings that will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour — anywhere in the world.”
Freedom of speech and expression
Most activists in Zimbabwe have been arrested and assaulted by the police, time and time again for exercising their right of freedom of speech and expression. Section 61 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013 allows for freedom of expression and freedom of the media, yet for the last 27,4 years, it has been continuously violated by the state and many activists and journalists have been subject to arbitrary arrest, harassment, and intimidation when reporting on particularly on political issues. Since mid-November 2017, the situation improved somewhat and there is hope that going forward, freedom of speech and oppression will be upheld.
Freedom of worship
The Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees the religious freedom of every person to worship God in their own way. This means every person has a right to choose freely their position towards a religion, has the right to profess a desired religious view or not and to engage in religious ceremonies individually or collectively with other citizens. This is one fundamental human right that the government of Zimbabwe has not tampered with. It is also surprising that with almost 90% of practicing religious people being Christians, the citizenry needs urgent mass counselling.
Freedom from want
Freedom from want once allowed to be enjoyed, is the most liberating and empowering. Freedom from want is really about citizens who are being held down and denied access to basic needs. Zimbabwe at this point in time, is home to many without basic needs as described in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is freedom to have an adequate standard of living. It is refers to adequate well being not extravagant living. Is there sufficient food? You can yearn for a t-borne steak you cannot afford whilst you have cabbage in your garden to eat your rice with. That is sufficiency not inadequacy.
Many from amongst us who marched for a new dispensation in November 2017, were marching to have freedom from hunger. Zimbabweans are not eating enough. Poverty and disease are rife. Zimbabweans are hungry to a point where their facial and bodily features are genetically getting altered. To be denied freedom from want, through hunger, has to be the most humiliating condition anyone can endure.
Do you have decent lodgings? It does not have to be a mansion but if it is clean, safe, with four walls and a roof that does not leak and it is a place you call home, then it is satisfactory. In the event of ill health, do you have access to medical care? When six people were shot in Harare CBD last Wednesday, I quietly remarked to myself that Zimbabwe was not a place to get hurt at all because without medical aid and cash, you are doomed to die. There is no time like now, to deliver to Zimbabweans the basic government funded healthcare they so need.
Access to clean water has got to be one of the basic fundamentals of freedom from want. We can live in an informal settlement, eating one minute noodles everyday, dress shoddily but we will not survive without water. Contaminated or untreated water will lead to health problems and with a dysfunctional health care system, there will be a significant loss of life. This scenario has played out in Zimbabwe several times where incidences of water contaminated by typhoid and cholera led to deaths because government failed to guarantee this particular freedom from want.
The majority of the citizenry are in need of basic but adequate health care. The government’s performance in this area has been dismal for a some time now. Many sons and daughters, of ours, yearning to settle back in Zimbabwe have postponed to do so because of the shambolic health system.
It is important to note that special attention ought to be paid to the young and the old to insure they are free from want. Unfortunately in Zimbabwe, the government has failed in creating a enabling environment for people to be masters and mistresses of their own destinies, in particular for the young people and elderly.
For the fewer employed and employers, there is no freedom to access one’s money from the bank on demand due to the cash crisis. When you need to access your cash, held in a bank account, the bank cannot assist. The government through the Central Bank, is in essence, denying you the right of freedom from want.
Freedom from want also calls attention to issues of official corruption or certain groups being guaranteed more of their country’s resources than others. We have observed this scenario play out time and time again particularly during the last dispensation headed up by former President Mugabe.
Freedom from fear
Freedom from fear means that no one amongst the citizenry should be in fear of their government, its armed forces, police, any other persons in the security establishment, or even their neighbours. That said, what is certain is that, trust is like spilt milk, when it scatters, it is difficult to gather. When the other three freedoms are denied, fear amongst the citizenry sets in. Freedom from fear ought to be a fundamental human right in Zimbabwe. We are a fearsome lot, from years of intimidation and watching people disappear without a trace and so on.
When we hear guns blazing, watch a member of the army taking aim to shoot at an unarmed civilian, with live ammunition, then trust between the leadership and the citizenry will take years to cultivate and cement.
This means that for as long as there is no political will to deliver uhuru, Zimbabwe will remain closed for free and fair business, to its sons and daughters abroad and overseas.
Gloria Ndoro-Mkombachoto is an entrepreneur and regional enterprise development consultant. Her experience spans a period of over 25 years. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org