We all know that Zimbabwe is a sports-crazy nation.
We love our sports with passion and reverence — the most popular being football, or soccer — with overwhelming support bordering on fanaticism, for both our local and foreign (particularly European) teams.
Of course, lately, this enthusiasm has also reached other so-called “minority sports” — witnessed by the phenomenal support shown to our national cricket team, the Chevrons, during their various missions and quests.
In spite of not being particularly a sporting person myself (although, I do enjoy a good game of cricket) — it is always interesting watching the jovial competitiveness and light-hearted rivalries exhibited by the various, predominantly soccer fans — as they feverishly back their favourite teams to win, while at the same time mocking rivals who would have lost.
This was most evident during the recently held Fifa World Cup — of course, the ongoing English Premier League — where sporting temperatures can easily reach fever pitch.
It is well and good when we are in heightened sporting spirits — supporting our favourite squads and players with unbridled passion and zeal — without time for giving any thought as to whether the other teams are actually better than ours.
When it comes to games, there is really no need to be overly analytical on the proficiency of rival teams or hinting the slightest idea of switching camp to another — simply because it plays better.
We stubbornly stick to our chosen teams, with unflinching loyalty, regardless of any other considerations — and wish our opponents are defeated under any circumstances.
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It is all fun at games — and, quite understandable — as this is the essence of all sporting activities.
Nonetheless, the situation becomes different when this is no longer a game — especially when lives of human beings are at stake.
It’s never about the “fun and games” when it comes to matters of life and death — whether people eat today or manage to send their children to school or access desperately-needed medical care, or are able to make ends meet.
This is where we have a huge problem in Zimbabwe.
We appear to have a nation that has completely failed to distinguish between what is pure “fun and games” and what is a matter of “life and death”.
My heart bleeds when I go through social media, and see what appears to me as the fanatical support for political parties — and rabid loathing and attack of opposing groupings — as if this were just another soccer contestation.
The manner in which Zimbabweans have become over-zealous and tunnel-visioned in the desire for one’s favoured political entity to vanquish the other always leaves me nauseated.
I always ask myself: “Do we even realise that these parties are not competing for some trophy, but this is a matter of choosing who may uplift or ruin our lives and livelihoods?”
With that in mind, why on earth would I hysterically (and, quite frankly, blindly) support any political party or leader to such an extent that I hate anyone who may seek to challenge them at the same time, stuffing plugs into my ears and shutting my eyes to what the “rival” may be offering even if it is actually good for the nation.
Zimbabweans have suffered long enough and it would be foolhardy for anyone to choose not to carefully study and scrutinise all the political players in order to meticulously ascertain who is offering what maybe the best solution to the myriad of challenges that have dogged us for the past two decades.
There is absolutely no reasonable and justifiable cause for us not to take some time to dig deeper in the hope of understanding the policies and programmes proffered by those offering themselves for election.
I want to know what ruling Zanu PF has to offer.
I need to understand what the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change, MDC Alliance, Democratic Union of Zimbabwe, the National Consultative Assembly, or others that will be on the ballot paper have in their manifestos, and are promising the people of Zimbabwe.
In so doing, there is no way I can dismiss offhand any candidate — especially just because the political party or leader is not my favoured one.
Surely, having suffered the way we have under the unimaginable economic destruction authored by the Zanu PF regime, why would we not want to choose critically who we want to be our next leaders?
What would make us not want to hear anything other parties, besides those we have selected, have to say — let alone, spew vitriolic and wild accusations, at them merely because they dared challenge our parties and pose a threat to their chances of winning elections?
In fact, why should anyone even have something called “my party”?
There should never be any group that should be regarded as “my party” as if its a soccer team that is supported no matter what — because, when it comes to issues that determine the citizenry’s standard and way of living, it is a matter of who is offering the best policies at that particular time.
Today, if Party A is the best in terms of its manifesto (and, track record), then that will be the one to vote for.
Nevertheless, if tomorrow, along comes Party B — and it has even better policies and programmes, and/or maybe Party A has failed to deliver — the choice should automatically change.
We should never stubbornly stick to any particular party and wish the death of another, just because it is a “rival”.
This is not a game of soccer.
As such, that is why I find the toxicity engulfing the country’s political landscape terrifying and sickening.
What is more disturbing is that those attacking others or each other are not even bothering to dwell on matters of policy differences — which are centred on what is offered in respective party manifestos.
No, not at all.
These arguments, which my late beloved father referred to as “nharo dzemubhawa”, literally “bar quarrels”; in other words, mindless — are simply based on fanatical support for particular groups and rabid loathing of any contenders.
How does that show that we are a people who are fed up with the untold poverty and suffering endured under decades of Zanu PF misrule — when we are not even prepared to listen and study what other parties have to offer?
Should our choice not purely be based on who is offering the best at any given time?
We are not exhibiting any signs of a people who desperately want their lives and livelihoods to improve.
We are simply behaving like soccer fans, and regarding impending crucial elections as some word cup tournament — where we want “our teams” to win, and our “rivals” to lose no matter what!
However, people’s lives and livelihoods are not a game — and, the choice of a political party to back, and vote for should never be a matter of fanaticism.
We need to be open-minded as we listen to each and every candidate — hearing intently what they have to offer — in order for us to make informed decisions.
For this to happen, there is no room for blind support for any particular party or even shutting out others. We actually need to encourage those wishing to be elected to present their plans freely, thereby reaching every Zimbabwean.
Quite frankly, my choice of who to vote for may be made a few days before elections since I have to be absolutely sure that this is the right party and person for my country and constituency.
There should never be any blinkers on our eyes if we genuinely desire a better Zimbabwe.