One Year Later – Zimbabweans’ stories, experiences, thoughts and reflections from November 2017

With the November 2017 anniversary coming up, we asked our members:

Where were you on November 18th, 2017? / Did you take part in any of the solidarity marches? Why or why not? / How were you feeling on that day? / When you look back, one year on, how do you feel now? / Do you wish you had done anything different? / Would you do it again? / Is there anything you would change?

Pom pom to Sammy, Joachim, Melz, Malvern, Tadgemore, Bev, Tawonga, Sassy, Fidelis, Gordon, Sarah, Natasha, Liz, Florence, Theresi, Lizzie, Petronella, Themba, Glenys, Mitchell, Sandra, Peterson, Tom, Farai and everyone who took the time to respond to the challenge.

You can read all the stories here . . .

Yellow Dress Courage

I remember i had heart palpitations (the good kind) on the morning of November 18, 2017. My son, little new born baby girl, my pregnant little sister and i had colour coordinated our outfits the night before. I would wear my yellow mini dress because i was feeling daring. I was unseating a power-house after all.

The morning finally arrived with the sound of several households playing loud music in my location at the same time. I had had to move from my posh house in Hillside because the economy had finally strangled my ex-husband to near death. This day brought about new hope of not only living in a place i wanted to live in, but actually being able to buy or build my own house.

I was excited.

As we jostled into the kombi headed for Bulawayo City, i couldn’t help but notice how everywhere I looked, there was the colour of my beloved Zimbabwean flag. I was in love again, and I was taking it all in.

Just as soon as we arrived in town and dropped off by Hyper, an army truck full of soldiers passed through, and the loud cheering was intoxicating. We waved and cheered at the heroes who had finally given us a glimpse of a new Zimbabwe. I did not manage to partake of the ‘soldier-bae’ selfie craze that had gripped the nation, but I did manage to put the main ‘soldier-bae’ as my WhatsApp status.

Today was independence day.

Looking back on the euphoria of the day, I can’t help but feel a deep pit in my heart swell and fill with desperation. A year on, I feel like a new bride whose hopes for a perfect marriage were dashed right on the very night. I feel cheated. I wish I could have asked the ‘What’s next?’ question as these events were unfolding. Sadly, i was too excited and hopeful. My reality now has gone from bad to worse. I stand in a queue now to buy some milk for my 1 year old, hoping that the bond notes i am holding will be enough to buy her ration for today.

I still dare to hope, but do so quietly now, as once beaten, twice shy.

– Sammy

First and very symbolic step in a journey of many days, months, years. Dislodging a movement founded in the 50’s, which became a political party then a government, requires tremendous and sustained effort, applied intentionally and sacrificially. November 2017 came as a complete surprise; its outcome moreso. Marchers, I amongst them, were giddy with new-found freedom and unity. Victory in first battle; one in which many were pawns on the chess board, but that’s ok too. To dismantle an entrenched and pervasive system, more battles will ensue; will be no walk in the park. Aluta continua! Amandla!
– Farai

The Tales of our Generation

November 18 2017 turned into an extra-ordinary day. It took many by surprise. Yes, the likelihood had always been there but I had not fathomed that it would be November 18. I was filled with a mixture of trepidation and hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, they were sincere. Their diction was well calculated to placate our fears and rally us behind them. Everything now looks clearer in hindsight. We, the masses, were a means to an end.

Looking back at the day and the subsequent dissipating developments I realize that, like many, I also fell for the dummy that was expertly woven to entrap us. With so much zeal, I joined the great trek to Harare for the ‘solidarity’ march. How naïve I was? The excitement of thinking of a Zimbabwe without Robert Mugabe made me forget that the struggle for democracy was not a struggle against an individual, it was a struggle against a deeply entrenched system solely designed to protect the interests of the elite few. When I left home en route to the march I was ecstatic. I was joyful. I felt optimistic; rubbing shoulders and exchanging greetings, handshakes and hugs with thousands of Zimbabweans of different color, language and religious persuasion. It was the first time that I saw Zimbabweans transcend the limitations of partisan political ideologies and unite in common purpose. I nearly shed tears.

The atmosphere was super charged. It was electric. But by mid-day it became clear that something sinister, something diabolical, was afoot. Alongside pictures of the ‘victorious’ general began to appear pictures of the current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. I have never been inspired by the man. I look at the economic degeneration that is slowly becoming the order of the day and is equally becoming the tale of our generation, our lived reality and I feel betrayed. I feel betrayed by ZANU PF. I feel betrayed by the constitutional court president. All the sweat, the swollen feet and the hoarse voices were in vain. They said ‘Chinhu chedu.’ No change. No chance. Just stagnation. They are firmly entrenched, yet again. As much as I am wholly disappointed, I know that there is nothing I could have done differently. Even if I had abstained from the celebrations, from the march, from the jubilation, everything would still have proceeded without me.

Even if I had joined several eminent Zimbabweans who gave words of caution and advice, nothing would have changed. It was well calculated. It would have been akin to throwing pebbles at an armored vehicle; inconsequential. Never again will I join ‘zvinhu zvavo’ supposedly for the common good. They are pretentious vultures. The leaders lack basic human decency. If only I could change the way Zimbabweans view each other. We have allowed ourselves to be politically divided by a cancerous tsotsicracy which does not give a hoot about us. All they care about is power. Power at all and at any cost.

– Joachim

The march in Harare was fantastic – it showed us all that we are united in our desire for change, that we love Zimbabwe and want it to be the incredible little country that it has the potential to be. Nothing will change that. The people of Zimbabwe are very special. It’s the greedy cartels and leadership that have destroyed the hope.
– Lizzie

On November 18, 2017 I was in Harare for the solidarity march. I was in Goromonzi and I woke up early to get in town. I didn’t know that there were some buses that were going to ferry people to the capital city so I made my own travel arrangement. I took part in the solidarity march as I strongly believed that Robert Mugabe and his government had ruined our once beautiful country Zimbabwe. I was elated as thousands marched unison calling for the stepping down of Mugabe. It was wonderful to see people from all walks of life marching to overthrow the Head of State. I saw mothers with babies on their backs marching. A year later after the march I feel disgusted as the so called dispensation has not ushered any real change. We still have repressive laws such as POSA and AIPPA.The economy is in bad state. Prices of goods have gone up and people still earn low salaries. A lot of graduates still roam the streets as they are unemployed. I will march again provided our safety will be guaranteed.

– Anonymous, Darwendale

I received the news with enthusiasm. I took part in the demos that followed. But deep inside me something kept reminding me that the change that was coming wasn’t really change Zimbabwe was expecting. I knew it was a Zanu PF and Zimbabwe National Army Change. Just because l wanted to see the enemy camp becoming weaker l just dragged myself with others. Up to now l don’t know what l should have did. It’s still the same or even worse.
– Themba

My memory of the 18th of November 2017, is one I can describe as bitter or sweet. I remember there were a few days after my A’ Level exams, sadly I could not partake in the history changing event. My mom suggested I was ‘too young’ despite the fact I was already eighteen. The breeze of that day was almost pathetic fallacy for my nation, interrelated with what we were going through. For once in my life or perhaps in our post-colonial era, Zimbabweans were craving for the same thing ‘political and economic freedom’. Put aside were our tribal and racial differences and also social status. As young as I was my patriotic side got the best of me, pure and solid joy gripped my heart. I craved for a change but I was not sure it laid in the road we were taking. Silently I creeped into my room, to say a solid prayer for Zimbabwe the only place I have called home for the past eighteen years. The solidarity march was indeed our baby steps to evolve the Zimbabwe I had known. I knew a Zimbabwe where something gets something, nothing for nothing (a pure definition for corruption), where prophets and profits are two sided of the same coin and the rich get richer while the poor gets poorer. I had learnt that the poor are the ones who feed the rich, I wanted all that to change for the best that was my assumption. With the help of the military I was positive, it was a bumper harvest for Zimbabwe. Sadly looking back now a year later, I can barely look my fellow Zimbabweans in the eye. Unknowingly we imprisoned ourselves, now we are scrambling for the crumbs off their tables. My allowance can barely sustain me a fortnight. The children on the streets has gotten the worst of the ‘Pre-post-colonial era’ where their tongues dangle for the delicious foods.

– Melz

I marched got blisters under my feet and was sucked into the unified euphoria of the day – had mountains of hope – and now realize it was all for nothing.
– Glenys

Saturday 18 November 2017,at first i was in no mood of doing anything other than waiting for Chelsea FC game which was to be played later that day..whilst waiting i was watching news channel ANN7 seeing people in town cars hooting people celebrating. They were still few by that time many had gone to Zimbabwe grounds & at that moment Ii told myself I wanted to be part of history. Then I immediately got into town with my Zimbabwean flag to be part of the solidarity march.

At that moment I can’t explain the feeling. It was overwhelming and exciting taking part in a march against the untouchable Mugabe who used the army to squash any hint of any uprising. The feeling of being let loose from your captivity. I finally had a sense of purpose.

Now looking back one year on the feeling of being free has faded. I thought great things are done by a series of small things brought together. Making Mugabe resign I thought it’s one step towards removing the entire ruling party on the grip of power but I was wrong. During that time things were hard but comparing to now back then it was much better. For a moment I wish back then I would have marched not only for Mugabe but for the ruling party as a whole because it has failed us not only Mugabe

As for doing it again I would do it but after backing the right horse & marching with a purpose.

– Malvern

That was a fantastic example event for the future. People spoke and expected better future, better governance and let’s give support. Negatives can be said but truth always prevail. Leadership come and go but the country will remain hats off all people who participated, let’s suffer together for now and joy is certain.
– Mitchell

Hope carries me through

A family funeral brought us into town. With bereavement we watched the peaceful protests from the periphery right from Nyaradzo funeral parlor along Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Harare. The swelling numbers, the armored cars, the once fierce automatic guns slinging from the soldiers, the gunners embracing all who cared for a photo shoot, it all played like real fiction for a movie. A common cause, poverty, no health delivery, corruption stinking to heaven high and dictatorial tendencies, a highly educated unemployed citizenry and more scenes from the horror archives had brought citizens from across the political divide into one tiredly angry people marching to end it all. The young, yes the minors, the youths, the mid crisis generation, the senior citizens, even geriatrics and the destitute all walked with vigor as one big jigsaw ready to usher a brighter tomorrow. It marked The END of an ERA. Citizens were determined to march to the ‘Blue Roof’ in posh Borrowdale, Harare’s first family leafy hectared residence and tear the majestic glass and mortar monument down. Yes, they wanted to erase it and its occupants too. Only the word ‘NO’, from the highest gunner saved Gushungo. Had it not been so, Gaddafi’s crawling from the drain would have been kindergarten stuff. A relative from Glen View who arrived late as the funeral cortege was to leave for the final resting place at the family leafy anthill kumusha testified that the city hordes showing on global television were child’s play, the real marchers were on their way from Glen View, Glen Norah, Highfield and Mbare encroaching along Beatrice Rd. Thousands more were swelling from main feeder roads from all the suburbs into the once sunshine city. With social media on instant broadcast, Zimbabwe had rewritten history. A coup which was not a coup had changed the hard talking liners. The people had spoken. It was the voice of the people. No election removed the once revered President. A dark end enclosed the darling of the world who on 18 April, 1980 had citizens marching in celebration with cockerels swished in the air. The date was again an 18, this time in the month of November, no cockerel was abused, only placards reading: “Mugabe must go” and brand new T-shirts screened the same. Food was even served from generous chefs, water to soften the dehydrated throats was not on sale. It was handed from hand to hand. Real camaraderie was on display. Proudly 🇿🇼 flags told of a people who for 38 years had never been united. In our superstitious culture, November is a sacred month. The gods and ancestors had allowed this, so the citizens broke the code.

Today I look back, was it The End of an Era, or it was an Error.

Time will tell, but of today, the economy is screaming, everything is spiraling and the citizen is now in confusion mode, however, one freedom we got from the new old dispensation, citizens now speak with freedom: “Was it necessary? Was Gushungo not better?” It’s debatable, from me he wasn’t. He had overstayed his welcome.

I chose to remain hopeful, on November 18, 2017 we mourned a loved one, November 18, 2018 we are now mourning the events that ushered us yet another historical march to mourning.

– #IRemainHopeful

I really enjoyed being part of that march which of course was expected to bring about the much needed change. People united for one goal but the powers that be had other ideas which shattered people’s hopes and expectations. However all hope is not lost and should never be.
– Peterson 

Trying to describe my feelings which I hope many Zimbabweans shared with is like trying to describe the taste of water to some one who never tasted it before. Zimbabweans for the first time were united in trying to bring sanity in this country. Years of repression had anaesthesized us into believing that freedom was never for us. But events on November 18 reignited that hope that freedom was a reality. With the composition of ideologies that participated in the demonstration against the autocratic rule of Mugabe in me had one aspiration. The aspiration of seeing a transitional authority running the affairs of the country and bring normalcy to the state of affairs in the country. The economy was in a coma, human rights abuses were norm and to voice against the abuses assured one of a one way ticket to Chikurubi Maximum. Many would have prefered Chikurubi because the alternative was complete disappearance from this mother earth. Itai Dzamara, Rashiwe Guzha and many others are good examples. We all hoped that nothing is forever. Although the dream for a transitional authority was shattered when the regime obtaining opted to complete its term, we still had hope. Hope based on the opinion that they have realised their folly and would revisit their ways of governance. Were we mistaken? We were to discover that sure it is really difficult for a leopard to change its spots. To many Zimbabweans they prayed for true democratic tenets to make an appearance in our country but to those in the regime obtain, they had a different agenda. They were fighting for their chance to loot the country that was already in dire straits. Zimbabweans again were made fools. But our hopes were still premised on the inaugural address of the beneficiary of the November watered down coup d’etat nicknamed ‘Garwe’. In 100 days he was going to show Zimbabweans that we were in a New Dispensation. As usual Zimbabweans decided to give ‘Garwe’ a chance to prove his worth. However many were skeptical due to his involvement in the previous regime. The 100 days came and went and nothing tangible was evident besides the globe trotting singing the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra with ‘ED Pfee’ in tandem on the local scene. What followed up to election time even ED’s supporters were convinced that ED was a fake. Not only did he lack the charisma that characterised Mugabe but also clueless. It only needed 9 Constitutional Court judges to represent the vote of the 16 million Zimbabweans. And true to the word they condemned Zimbabweans 🇿🇼 to 5 years of continued poverty and suffering. Are we going to see another November curse only God knows.
– Tadgemore

November 2017 was a memorable month and year. I celebrated the removal of Robert Mugabe. He had overstayed his welcome and how can 1 man rule the Country for 37yrs. I never wanted Mnangagwa to replace him though, Morgan Tsvangirai was the man for the Job at least to just save for few months before his departure.The November Coup it was not for the betterment of the Country but a factional victory of the Lacoste brigade.It was not about us but for Mnangagwa, I never marched because I was smelling the Mnangagwa rule. Mugabe and Mnangagwa same heartless demons!
– Tawonga

18th November

I was part of the extraordinary experience that called us together that day.
When thousands of us danced the streets of Harare
and jointly celebrated our first taste of freedom.

Our hearts opened, and for a short time, we saw what our world could look like.
Free from the years of oppression and corruption, we celebrated together in love and joy.

We watched the crocodile lurking up stream
and let ourselves dream:
‘Maybe it’s just a log.
It looks like a log
What if we just pretend it is a log?
After all, it floats quite well.
Isn’t that what we want?

Let’s give it a chance’

And we watched the army on the streets
smiling,
welcomed by cheering crowds
and we dreamt:

‘Let’s pretend it’s ok to have the army and tanks on the streets
after all, they are smiling
letting us take selfies
they will protect our rights.

Let’s give them a chance’

But nothing happened.

The crocodile whispered sweet meaningless promises
– and things continued to get worse.

Then the elections came and the monster emerged.
The crocodile opened his mouth,
still whispering sweet meaningless lies,
– and began to bite
– taking what wasn’t his
Leaving us cheated once again

And the smiling soldiers
turned up with their guns
unafraid to show the lengths they would go
to hold on to power

We turned to the other parties,
Hoping to make heroes out of other ambitious men.
Went to their rallies in a desperate hope for redemption
Waiting for a new hero to emerge
To shine the light for us.

We went to the courts of the land
and to the countries out there who came to observe,
claiming to hold views
that are just and honourable.

But crocodiles grip was too tight
He would never let go

And the poison of distrust and fear spread between us once more
tearing us apart.

In these last months,
as the effects of our ‘economic reforms’ wreck havoc
and we find our families and communities once again
begin to lose hope, I wonder if all is lost.

For the last 3 months he has paced my life
– measuring my steps
– counting my breath
A lone honey guide calling out to his mate

‘Hey!
here, here, here, here, here, here………………..’

He has echoed the confusion and grief and inspiration:

‘Hey!
what, what, what, what, what, what??????????
NO
way, way, way, way, way, way, way
Oh!
shit, shit, shit, shit
So
sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sad
Just
breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe,

Today, as I look back over this last year,
and over the years before,
and watch the devastation being inflicted on our people
and the grey cloud of exhaustion,
I find myself asking

‘Can we remember who we are?
What we have learned?
Can we remember our truth?
and our courage?
and humour?
and our years of ‘making a plan’?
Can we remember that we are fire-walkers with years of experience.
How powerful we have become?

I have just been out to forage for petrol
and bread
and beer
and birdseed.

I am greeted by smiles and treated with inexplicable kindness and humour.

I will never understand this magic that holds us together
But I am profoundly glad to be here.

– Bev

If only that march brought us economic freedom
– Petronella

It all started in November, everything started in November

November is a significant month to many Zimbabweans. It is a sacred month, a month where the spirits of the dead are summoned back to the living to offer them protection. A month were wedding ceremonies and other marriage related events are a taboo. Only the brave ones do dare get married in November, even among the most Christian of folk the fear hovers above their heads. The month is called “mwedzi wembudzi” or “mwedzi webenzi” in Shona loosely translated “the month of the goat” or “the month of the insane” respectively.

My journey will not start with the events that transpired last year in Zimbabwe when the nonagenarian President Robert G. Mugabe was removed from office through a concealed coup, a “not a coup coup”. The year was 1997, whether I was preparing for my grade seven exams or I had finished writing them I do not know, but what I know is that I had already been initiated into politics at a young age, and my appetite for watching news and reading newspapers was growing. The hunger was consuming me. The eight o’clock news time was sacred while growing up. It was a time of silence, glued to our black and white television set, watching the likes of Joseph Madimba, Tsitsi Vera to mention only a few. My father would look intently onto the screen, and request one of us to increase the volume of the television set as remote controls still had ears and legs those days!

A peculiar day during the month of November was Friday the 14th, which is now popularly known as the “Black Friday”. I remember this day very well. During the evening of that day while I was watching the news just before my bedtime, as the news was being read I could feel the sombreness and the gloominess that the presenters portrayed. During that time obviously, my understanding of economics was still as shallow as a puddle, my mind was still without “form and void” in the appreciation of what was being said mostly. One thing I would understand in the next few days was that our currency had lost value against the United States Dollar. The causes, dynamics and the ramifications of this were very remote to me that time, only in later years I gained appreciation of what had happened and what had caused it.

On Black Friday the Zimbabwean dollar crashed in value, losing 72% of its value against the greenback, the stock market responded with shedding 46% of its value as investors scrambled out of the Zimbabwean dollar. The previous year GDP growth rate had averaged about 8%, and inflation was averaging two digits, around 25% in 1997. This was during a time when Zimbabwe was under the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) and the fruits of the program were not yet fully realised. A few months before that, the then “populist” president RG Mugabe had decided to give war veterans gratuitous payments in the sum of $50,000 Zimbabwean Dollars. Abandon economic reason over political expediency a trait that has been a feature of the ruling party politics in Zimbabwe. The IMF and the World Bank immediately stopped aid to Zimbabwe. The latter withholding funding of US$65 million of Balance of Payments (BOP) support demanding an answer of how Zimbabwe intended to raise money for these payments. This November was the beginning of catastrophe, Zimbabwe has never recovered from this.

My initiation into politics had been two years before the day of the Black Friday. In 1995 on the 10th of November Kenule Beeson “Ken” Saro-Wiwa, the outspoken environmental activist a member of the Ogoni Tribe of the Delta Region along with nine other colleagues were executed by hanging by the military dictatorship of Sani Abacha. This was a topical issue in our home, as my dad would provide his insight into the matter. Later in life I came to the realisation that as much as Ken Saro-Wiwa was murdered by the Sani Abacha regime, this was a manifestation of the coup that had transpired in 1966, which Nigeria has not yet, or is yet to fully recover from. To fulfil the Orwellian foresight that no one takes power to relinquish it, and that power is not a means but an end, the coup was not a precursor to democracy for Nigeria. From the days of the coup until now, the button was passed to those generals who were beneficiaries of the coup, and still continues up to now, save for Goodluck Jonathan obviously. Yes there were promises to return to civilian rule in the days of Babangida and other generals, but we all know the story, I will not waste ink, or maybe rather electricity, to expound further. This was surely a cursed November for Nigeria, maybe the curse of November?

The proclivity to quash all forms of human rights is the nature of all dictatorships and military governments. The self-serving egoistical nature of these governments is epitomised in the Ken Saro-Wiwa story. The blatant disregard to all forms of freedoms is evidenced and is rife throughout history. Military governments are predicated upon power as an end, the self-preservation inclination overrides all benefits that should or must redound to the ordinary citizen through the upholding of human rights and freedoms. What motivates the rulership of such is a quest to maintain the status quo. Like in the days of Babangida in Nigeria there were promises to return to civilian government, but as we know promises are promises, not even worth the mouth from which they emanate from. The recent threats on free speech, media and freedom to demonstrate by the Vice President and other top government officials is a subdued replica of the Nigerian story, a tip of the ice bag. Evidence of the repressed and bottled anger against all forms of freedoms. Inasmuch as restraint is being practiced, for personal aggrandisement and public relations, only a serious challenge on the abuse of rights will unleash this anger against the citizens.

Then one year later in Zimbabwe after the removal of the nonagenarian dictator, things seem to be deteriorating further and faster. As much as we have heard the rhetoric of the new Zimbabwe, and a new government it is difficult to reconcile the promises of the new Zimbabwe to what has happened on the ground. As much as respect of human rights was used as a campaign point the promises seem to be “beautiful from far, but far from beautiful”. Is Zimbabwe now stuck in the curse of history, the ancient adage that history repeats itself? Has Zimbabwe learnt from what has happened in other countries that have been through coups? Or maybe it is just difficult to replace yourself with yourself? Or maybe we can just resign to the fate that democracy is not for Africans? As E.W. Deming once put it, the issue is not about the individual, but about the system. “A bad system will beat a good person every time”, said this genius. It is not in replacing like with like that facilitates change but rather an installation of a new system. Which frankly we have not put in place. As much as we want things to improve, without strong institutions we are cursed to repeat the same mistakes of the past, as we are already doing.

Now that which we see which has befallen us as Zimbabweans, is it because of the November curse? Are the economic maladies proof of the curse? Maybe, surely November is a sacred month for Zimbabweans, and bad omens that befall the country in November hang for a long time around the Zimbabwean socio-economic neck like that albatross from Samuel T. Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”? Do we have an escape from this quagmire, maybe this quicksand is greater than anything we have been confronted with? Will it be a perpetual succession of military leadership? Or maybe we are just cursed? Or maybe it is befitting to say, “this kind cometh not out save by prayer and fasting”?

Then the song goes like, “It all started in November, everything started in November, it all started in November to be what we are.”

– Gordon

When I left home to join the march I imagined that our leadership was taking a new direction along with the army and police to serve the people, I thought I finally had a future and could one day be employed and live a decent life. Right now I see that we are going backwards it was all a game of thrones, people placing themselves in a good position to loot from the citizens,silence their cries for a better Zimbabwe with the use of the army. I have lost all hope in this country I’m at a point where if I find anything that can clothe and feed me outside this country i will take it because true change is very far from us.
– Sassy

I Felt Truly Zimbabwean

“Patriotism” is the word that springs to mind whenever I remember 18 November, 2017. For the first time in 20 years, I felt truly Zimbabwean. I felt loved and accepted by every single one of my fellow Zimbabweans. Under Robert Mugabe, the ZANU PF political party and government had, since 1980, ruled the country in a deliberately divisive, tribalistic and xenophobic manner. Regardless of one’s gender, race, political or religious affiliation; if you were not a member of or related to someone in ZANU PF’s hierarchy you were sidelined. And marginalised. Zimbabwe was not for you. Zimbabwe belonged to Robert Mugabe and his select hierarchy.

On 18 November, 2017, none of this mattered. We were united. We spilled out onto the streets to celebrate the beginning of change. For 37 years we had no choice but to watch as our country turned into a fiefdom, where virtually every single citizen had absolutely no rights. We watched helplessly as our “leaders” systematically set about seizing Zimbabwe, enriching themselves and their families and friends at the expense of destroying a beautiful, vibrant country.

“Hope” flared as we spilled onto the streets. The army, used as a tool by the government to suppress any hint of rebellion over 37 years, watched as we united. We chanted, danced and took photographs around the military vehicles under the bemused eyes of armed soldiers. Once feared for their brutal enforcement of the government’s laws, on that day they were our friends, our protectors and our liberators. Supporting Zimbabweans in our desire for change, they were behaving like an army in a truly democratic country.

I was excited. I relished the feeling of belonging to the country of my birth. Being able to express my love for Zimbabwe without fear was a heady feeling. Standing on the corner of Josiah Tongogara and Simon Muzenda Streets I felt part of history. We were doing something positive for our Zimbabwe, the country we love.

Hope began to dim after the elections. The discrepancies and the performance of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, following by the shootings of seven civilians in Harare on August 01, 2018 were the first indications that the new dispensation was not going to be much different from the old dispensation. The hope that we were going to get the change we marched for on 18 November, 2017 flared briefly when the new cabinet members were announced. It faded when some of the hierarchy of the old dispensation were given jobs working at the party’s headquarters. It became clear they were not being side lined; they would still be a major influence on the new dispensation’s operations.

The purchase of vehicles for party stalwarts when the country is suffering from a desperate shortage of medicines, fuel shortages and the introduction of a two percent tax on most money transactions has virtually extinguished that hope. In its place is a sadness with the realisation that “the more things change the more they remain the same.”

– Sarah

The nation coalesced into a united front and to some of us “born free(s)” a revolutionary mind was set and a war like atmosphere was gratefully experienced. It was the hope, that Zimbabwe could be better, that saw hundreds of millions of people, some from as far as Beit Bridge flooding into the dusty streets of Harare. The march to once ‘a no go area’, quickly became more of a regular visit to ‘a no man’s land’. Everyone was shouting ‘Mugabe must go’ regardless of political affiliation, The ZANU, MDC, ZANU NDONGA, and others joined hands for the national movement for the national cause. No one wanted the old man, even those who had been his disciples had now turned against him, THE CHINAMASAS, THE CHINOTIMBAS AND THE MATEMADANDAS had all become sick and tired of the old man. But did we achieved what we marched for, did things changed or got even worse? Did the will of the people prevailed as alluded by those who benefited from the march? Did the people march to endorse or march to remove? These remain billion dollar questions in the minds of the “born free’ who do not no how a payslip looks like even though with first class degrees. They live in a nation with a Reserve Bank but without currency, “the easy of doing business” is tough and no amount of investment is paying enough when the tax is left right and centre. Are we going to march again without a preferred outcome or we leave it as it is? CRY MY ZIMBABWE CRY
– Fidelis

She lay there in her golden casket, motionless, yet looked more beautiful than broken diamonds shining in the night time light. All dressed in white. I wish I could have held her.

It was the graceful morning of the 18th of November in the year of the Lord 2017. With flowers piled up in the worst way, we made our way to the graveyards. She had been meant to be laid to rest with the rest of the departed sons and daughters of the soil at a heroes’ acre. But as has been the norm of late, November is the month where my fellow citizens get busy ‘fixing this country’ in whatever capacity.

So, my mother, a daughter of the soil, a liberation war fighter, a heroine even in her death, was laid to rest at some common cemetery in this land that she shed blood for. She’s at peace regardless.

It therefore follows that I could not / and or did not take part in any of the solidarity marches on that fateful day, in the physical at least. My heart was very heavy with the loss and all, but my beloved Zimbabwe was going up in flames, we were making history. I followed closely on updates being put up on social media and seeing videos and pictures of my fellow citizens and friends marching, literally this was the ‘Impi yombangazwe’ – of our generation, our own liberation war. This was very exciting for me, it gave me hope, came with strength to move forward and altered unknown fears. So in spirit my soul partook in the solidarity marches.

It all seemed to me like the break of a brand new dawn that the whole country had long waited for. Too bad my heroine couldn’t witness this one. Maybe when she got to heaven she had opened floodgates for us. Surely when a son/daughter of the soil arrives home quite unexpectedly, the fattened sheep is captured and slaughtered and we feast. So on that day the flood gates of Heaven opened pretty wide for this land, or did they do so only to shut themselves up tighter than ever, forever maybe?

Today however, as I look back, Lord I feel so robbed, of a whole lot of things. Feels like we have been thrown into a pit of fire like the biblical Shadreck,Misheck and Abednego, but this time around the Saviour hasn’t hailed us as yet. And those that threw us into this fire, nothing has caught up with them, at least not yet. Though this fire burns, hope is our only wing and this hope cannot die. A lot depends on it.

They say once bitten twice shy, but equally, change is inevitable. So, would I do it again? Yes I would. If that’s what it takes to ensure the accessibility and availability of simple porridge laced with peanut butter for my little girl, yes I would. Hope is our only wing.

– Natasha

I gave birth to my daughter a few days before November 18 in 2017. I felt this was in a way significant to mean the rebirth of my country. My emotions were mixed and fluctuating – anxiety, joy, uncertainty, relief, happiness, expectancy and these made me go for over 24 hours with my breast milk not coming out. I had eaten all the roasted nuts I could. Just as was at the tip of getting frustrated and breaking as my newborn was crying, I quickly realized what I had to do. I took a deep breath and told myself to relax and calm down. Within an hour I was breast feeding well. A year later on with a birthday and November 18 anniversary loading, how do I feel? I feel dry as nothing is coming out of Zimbabwe. My small business can hardly survive in this environment, no job opportunities, so scared of falling sick and finding shopping for groceries is a nightmare. Our leaders should do a couple of things right. They know what they have been doing wrong these past decades that has gotten us to this place. And they need to act in sincerity. Maybe something can come out.
– Liz

In 1981, soon after Independence, I heeded government’s call for funding and in support, signed stop order forms for deductions from my hard earned salary to go to government coffers for 6 months.

Mid 1980s I began hearing of Gukurahundi. I wondered why government couldn’t talk to its people, or those guilty of whatever, could not be arrested and brought before the courts, instead of just sending soldiers to kill people.

In 2005, whilst in bed recovering from an operation, soldiers came in a convoy, with guns drawn, blocked the street, and with bulldozers razed my house to rubble. The house was well constructed and had regularization receipts from Council. Despite showing them the receipts and my pleas, they accomplished their mission and destroyed my beautiful house. They called it Murambatsvina. Yet, there was nothing dirty about my house. To this day, I wonder why; why destroy such a beautiful house? Why the soldiers and the guns? This was and still is very traumatic for me and my family.

When the long overdue call came at last to go out and remove the architects of our misery, I hesitated, just briefly; the reason being that I was recovering from breast cancer. However, I told myself this was a march I would not miss. So early on 18 November 2017, I joined others, first using a kombi to the City Centre, then all the way to Highfields, this time on foot because kombis were full. It was exciting to be one with so many people from all walks of life, for what, at the time, I genuinely thought would lead to a new beginning. After addresses by leaders from various organizations, we were told to march to the Blue Roof. I thought I would proceed to the Blue Roof with others, but half-way into town, I felt too tired to proceed and decided to go back home.

As if Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and other atrocities were not horrible enough, on 1st August, 2018, the soldiers were at it again, taking aim and shooting at the backs of fleeing unarmed civilians.

Although the outcome is not what I marched for, I am happy and proud that I was part of the history that ousted one cruel dictator.

– Florence

Yes it was wonderful to see the people come together to save this beautiful country again and I didn’t take part in the march. Time to reflect we should have stood back and said to the two factions it’s your fight you sort it out but the people were sucked in and now we are like a rudderless ship heading for our biggest test of resilience and our fate is in the lap of the gods.
– Sandra

Freedom is coming tomorrow

“Freedom is coming tomorrow,” the sound of the popular movie song Sarafina became an anthem on social media network, a must have song. It reverberated on the streets and across all race and culture on the polarised nation of Zimbabwe for a moment hope had a sound, a song which echoed across generations. The camouflage of togetherness as the spirit of unity grasped all Zimbabweans in a common cause to see a tyrant gone! The unity and marches were reminiscent of the Arab Spring likewise the winds of change blew across Dzimbadzemabwe on the sacred month of the goat.

“Ngaende!!! Ngaende!!!!” turned into a strong political sentiment and identified with all citizens who had to borne thirty seven years of autocratic rule. The streets lingo “ko apo madi?” was responded with “ngaende ngaende!!!” as citizens seemed to reclaim their voice for once and enjoy the liberties of freedom of speech. The events unfolded beyond every measure and comprehension in an unbelievable fall of the mighty from grace surpassed everyone’s thoughts. The long, winding “Asante Sana” speech muted the spirit of Zimbabweans like had been the norm, but alas the November ghosts had not been dampened.

Ordinarily Tuesday Cabinet day seemed like a normal day for the ruler who had held an iron fist on the country for close to four decades, in as much he had abhorred the voice of the people in the past years he had done the same and ignored the Voice. The writing was on the wall but in his sheer ignorance, pride, intellect and obstinance he failed to see the awe of the people and the sounds of freedom that were vibrating. He summoned his cabinet in what might have the last instruction to his Cabinet but the straw had been broken his executive failed to make a quorum as only three loyalists turned up for the religious meet.

As in unison with the people the November ghosts literally turned up the heat as the simmering heat transcended to the August House. The unbearable heat did not deter the determination of the people and the lawmakers as they moved to the sitting at the towers. The anticipation and the motion of impeachment stood resolute foes became friends and the buzz was impeachment. For the laymen not so much meaning had been attached to that word but the reading of the letter of resignation by the speaker is what was understood. The people celebrated and gathered on the streets in ululation and embraced in unity the tyrant was gone for real.

– Theresi

I didn’t take part in the march but in the evening I joined the rest of the world in the Harare CBD to celebrate a new era. It was great news and I’m sure the generality of Zimbabwe was just joyful. All I can say is that we are still expecting something different.
– Tichaona 

18 November 2017

I am on my own. It’s cold and starting to rain. I have woollen hat, scarf and waterproof coat on and I am walking as if a magnet is pulling me to the Zimbabwean Embassy in London. For as long as I have lived here (15 years) there has been a vigil every Saturday outside the Embassy by dedicated Zimbabweans seeking justice. My only thought is maybe when I’m there I won’t feel this overwhelming sense of loneliness and distance. I need to be with people who might understand. I am early of course, but I buy a fantastic wristband, which says, “Mugabe must go / has gone”. Slowly people arrive, I see my friends, their kids, and we are all singing. It is wonderful. People tell their incredible stories; I am humbled by their tales, and even allow myself to feel a sense of hope.

Flash back to two days prior, I am sitting in my office in London and I am receiving worrying WhatsApp reports of tanks heading towards Harare. At the same time, my mum and dad are sitting in a doctor’s surgery, and my mum is told she has Breast Cancer and she needs an operation urgently. I know this standing in the cold and wet with my friends on Saturday 18th November, the day of hope, but I cannot tell them, not today! It is getting colder and darker now, I am tired and some of my friends have taken shelter in a nearby pub but I can’t find them so I head home.

It is hard to put into words how I felt on that day as my emotions swung from high to low. From joy when my brother in-law sends me pictures and videos of everyone freely marching through town, an act previously so dangerous. To sadness, reflecting on a peace march I did in the early 2000s that ended with Zanu PF youths with stones and sticks. To knots in my stomach, my mum is ill and how will she get treatment! To finally thinking, ‘can I honestly know another president in my lifetime?’ A day rationally I knew had to come, after all he is in his 90s, but deep seeded propaganda still makes you doubt. A hard concept for anyone to grasp who has not lived through a dictatorship!

One year on and I am still anxious. My mum is recovering from her operation and chemotherapy, her treatment continues, and difficulties in getting drugs increase. My work allowed me to return home to be with my mum during a tough time, when she could barely keep awake, lost weight and her hair. Somehow, my family kept going and my mum even mustered up enough energy to go to visit her new little Granddaughter, a little ray of sunshine. I cannot help feel this is somewhat symbolic of Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans, who always seek to find a glimmer of hope in any way they can so they can face another day. If there is one thing I have learnt, living away from Zimbabwe for such and long-time, it is that it is a nation of hope. There, it is a way of life to always have a ray of hope, to smile, laugh and to ‘make a plan’. Even when you think there is no conceivable option, there is always one you never thought of.

– Diaspora in London

Yes I marched, but seems it was for nothing! Just hoped for a good change but all the same, if nothing it’s worse! Such a shame!
– Sandra

Hope

Hope is a beautiful thing.
Hope is a powerful thing.
Hope will take your heart through the wringer.

It hasn’t even been a week. It’s been six days. Six days since reports began spreading about army tanks seen heading into Harare. Six days since a text arrived from my parents: The army has taken over. Six days since a series of events which meant Zimbabwe was once more making headlines around the world. But try telling my weary heart it’s only been six days. It feels so much longer than that.

I have struggled to talk about this latest piece of Zim’s story with non-Zimbabweans. If you haven’t walked the journey with us, it doesn’t really make sense. How do you explain the heavy emotional and almost obsessive response to the past few days? On my part, it’s looked like unpredictable hot mess tears, sleepless nights (thank you time zones), constantly refreshing news-feeds, ongoing group texts and Skype calls, self-deprecating and self-preserving humour, and never-ending prayers for peace and safety. If you’re not Zimbabwean, there’s a good chance you won’t get it, because it’s not a calm and rational response to a political anomaly and the subsequent days of repercussions. No. It’s the weary response of people who have walked a long, long road of heartache and hope. It’s been decades of loss, sacrifice, and waiting. It’s been years of people getting on with their lives and carrying the weight of that loss with them. No one tells you how to mourn for a country. It’s a strange sort of grief. There isn’t a single cliché quote that helps you process the pain of witnessing your nation’s bright future destroyed by corruption and greed. That loss weighs heavy.

I’ve struggled to find adequate words to talk about it. All I know is, on Saturday I sat wide awake in the middle of the night watching the live-feeds from the citizens’ march and I cried my eyes out. Goosebumps, ugly tears, and all the feels. I have never been more proud of my country. Patriotism doesn’t come naturally to Zimbabweans if we’re honest. It’s not felt like we’ve had much to be proud of over the last couple of decades. But on Saturday, I felt proud. I felt proud of the dignity with which most of our people have carried themselves through so much turmoil. I felt proud that thousands of citizens could come together under such trying circumstances and march peacefully for change. Knowing the heartache present in so many lives and families, and seeing those people put action to their ever-present hope for our country’s future humbled me. That feeling was palpable through the screen of a phone on the other side of the world. I can’t imagine what it was like to be there.

Saturday’s march felt like healing steps. Like actual, physical steps of collective heartache, collective hope, and collective healing making their way through the streets of our country.

– Amy

Tyre smoke filled the air as the naughty ones skidded in tarmac amidst the encouraging cheers of the spectators. Metal gongs were deafening and car hooters bellowing in unison unsettling the bowels of the old and the new. Piercing shrills of mirth, laughter and jubilation reaching to the deepest part of one’s being. Like uncaged birds the populace rejoiced “he had signed” we remarked as we marched to the official residence of the president. Dawn of a new era we hoped. The people’s liberators we called them, general bae we hailed him, the saviour we awaited for his return. The criminals and the corrupt had been arrested we were told. The civilians and the army drank together. It was an unimaginable moment in the history of the country. The dream didn’t last long. I was jolted to reality by the smoke of gunfire, the sound of machine gun fire drummed in my ears. The thudding of the bullets as they penetrated the flesh of my countrymen robbing them of life horrified me. The beautiful city of my motherland was turned into a battlefield. 6 they said, civilians they called them, their names unsaid, cold in the hour of death they were, to have loved their country their only crime. And at 45 degrees the statisticians had argued the guns had pointed. But one thing was certain they had been killed and never will they see the new Zimbabwe they envisioned. The voice of the people had been silenced but the fire that burns in our souls shall continue to invoke the voice of God. As we pray for the repose of the dearly beloved souls of our countrymen who lost their lives in the moment of battle against tyranny.

Hard to believe that almost a year has passed since this historic day. The coup that wasn’t a coup.. How relevant the statement has become.

Harder to try and ground ourselves now after that foreign feeling of freedom burst and then cascaded through the streets in waves. Freedom so tangible in the smiles and dancing and song and blaring horns and disbelief from a generation that never known it, had even stopped daring to hope for it. I was there. I felt it. I got lost in it, heart bursting with happiness that I didn’t know was lurking there. I was there all right. Where the whole country celebrated without a single act of violence or vandalism. Except of course for the Robert Mugabe street sign which ended up becoming a temporary dancefloor.

This was a day that foreigners would never, could never understand. Except for the reporters walking with us, gathering stories that were previously only whispers. Except for the diaspora who also took to the streets of their new hometowns and sang and danced and dreamt of coming home, leaving the chill of the sleety Western roads, the grey drizzly commutes that they sacrificially put up with to feed distant extended families.

And I remember the euphoria that lingered for days, displacing for a while the chronic pain of my chronically ruined body. The prophetic predictions of my housekeeper and gardener, the happy debates and hilarious jokes on social media.

How long ago and distant it all feels now. The reality that the freedom of speech that still exists isn’t a hard currency, cannot be traded at pick and pay for 2 L of cooking oil and a bag of sugar. The reality that corruption is endemic; that the greed of a few always seems to dictate the lifestyle of the masses; that Zimbabwe is full of beautiful kind hoper’s with not enough doer’s who have reverted to praying for change to their greedy prophets and seemingly cruel God.

– Tom