Monday, 15 July 2013

Where do I stand?

Picture courtesy of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
My heart is bleeding. But that’s an understatement. The truth is my heart has been savagely ripped out of my chest.  

I’m an emotional wreck right now, consumed by pain, anger and dejection.

It’s 16 days before a decisive national election in my motherland, Zimbabwe and I’m confronted by the brutal reality that my dream of determining the future of my country and exercising my right to self determination is just that - a mere dream.

I was reading a contribution to the Feya Feya blog from a very good friend on her hopes for a ‘feya feya’ election in Zimbabwe. The article, together with constant questions from my other friends on whether I’m travelling back home to vote, triggered the emotional roller coaster.

Not that I’m anxious over the possibility of Zimbabwe witnessing an un-feya feya election but because I’m unable to participate in a very crucial national process.

Crucial in that elections play a key role in reaffirming the right of the people to self- determination and provide an opportunity for the people to decide who governs them - a decision which will impact on their lived realities.

Together with hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans in the so called ‘diaspora’, I am  forced to be a hapless spectator. I’m forced to ponder on the question: “Where do I stand in shaping my country’s future?”  
I am 100 percent Zimbabwean, a Manyika from Tanda in Rusape.

Honourable Elton Mangoma is my outgoing Member of Parliament while Chief Makoni is my traditional leader.

My totem is Shumba (lion) ‘maSibanda’.  I was born and bred in the capital of the Midlands Province, Gweru, educated at Cecil John Rhodes Primary School then St Dominics Chishawasha then Thornhill High School and finally the Midlands State University.

I’m fluent in Shona and speak a bit of Ndebele.

I am Zimbabwean - fully fledged.

Fortunately or unfortunately (it depends on how you look at it), I am betrothed to an Angolan. I find myself attempting to fit into a society which is so different from mine. They drive on the right side of the road, use left hand cars, speak Portuguese, consider lunch their main meal, eat cassava meal instead of maize meal (sadza in my mother language) and have no problem buying meat from what we call flea markets back home.
The differences are so many. I am called ‘estrangeira’ (foreigner in Portuguese).

Yet, for some reason my government chooses to ignore these facts labelling me an ‘enemy’ and virtually excluding me from any electoral processes.

Anyone living outside Zimbabwe will tell you that it is not easy assimilating into a new culture but the lure of money and escape from poverty drive one to accept the painful transition. I have met Zimbabwean men and women who travel from Zambia in open trucks, through the rain and sunny weather and once in Angola, move along the streets with large bags of wares. They do not receive much, but they get enough for subsistence and to send back home. On any given day, these people will trade anything to return home because life in these foreign lands gets so lonely and sometimes so difficult to bear.

The only reason why they continue slaving away, earning minimum wages is because there are very few opportunities back home mainly due to a man-made economic disaster. But does this make them less Zimbabwean?

It’s simple.

Regardless of where one stays - Angola, South Africa, the United Kingdom, China or with Santa Claus in the North Pole, they remain citizens of our beloved country.

Am I not Zimbabwean?
Regardless of where I am domiciled I still carry a green passport engraved with the court of arms and boldly inscribed ZIMBABWE.

I still have to renew my residency every year and I still can’t vote in Angola. Bottom line is, national identity is something which no one can decide to take away at the snap of their fingers (although it seems the current establishment has tried so hard to do so).

Not everyone is privileged enough to travel back home in order to participate in the election. It is my belief that a government’s job is not to make life difficult for its citizens but rather to facilitate unrestricted citizen involvement and engagement in key processes regardless of where they are.

What is the role of Zimbabwe’s foreign missions?

Participating in an election is a RIGHT and not a privilege which can only be enjoyed by a select few. The notion that those who work at embassies are the only ones entitled to vote is erroneous and is a reinforcement of the segregation and deprivation of rights which our forefathers fought against.

A government is tasked with putting in place economic, social and political policies which have an effect on every citizen regardless of their place of residence.

Most Zimbabweans abroad have economic interests in the country and have persistently supported the economy since 2008, the era of hyperinflation and empty supermarket shelves. Some are business owners, others own assets and whichever government gets into power can either protect or destroy their investments.
In addition, lessons learnt from the past when the government changed the citizenship laws show how much policies affect the ‘diaspora’. So why not allow them to vote?

At this juncture, there is nothing, I or any other person can do or say to give me back the right which the government has brutally taken away from me but I hope that whichever government assumes power, in August or September or even October (with ZEC you never know when the results will come out), will address the challenges faced by Zimbabweans living outside the country.

My prayer is that the government will rethink the decision to treat the ‘Diaspora’ as enemies but as ‘vana vevhu’ (children of the soil).

As for now, like a foreigner, I find myself watching the progress (or lack of it) of the electoral process on ENews, Al Jazeera and any other news channel I can access.

I’m forced to cross my fingers and hope that the decisions my family and friends make regarding the leader of our country will reflect my views and positively influence my future and the future of my children.

Can my family and friends vote on my behalf?
From a distance, I continue to watch, to wait and to hope. At the same time I continuously find myself asking - Do I really have the right to parade my green passport and claim that I am Zimbabwean?
Where do I stand?

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