For some weeks I've been trying to decide who it was that most changed the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans in the last year.
At first the choices seemed obvious. Morgan Tsvangirai, our Prime Minister who, despite winning the March 2008 elections and then living through two personal tragedies, did not give up on Zimbabwe. He stood firm in his determination to start bringing change to the country; he came in for much criticism and made many unpopular decisions but is still shoulder deep in the mess that is our country.
My next obvious choice was Finance Minister Tendai Biti. Mr Biti suspended the use of a completely worthless Zimbabwe currency and legalized trading in US dollars. This move eradicated the black market almost overnight, stopped super-hyper inflation instantly and put real money in people's pockets. But, more importantly to everyday life, Mr Biti's policy put food back in the shops.
Then I thought about all the individuals, groups and organizations that haven't stopped, even for a day, in exposing events and fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe. There are so many of them, both inside and outside the country: fighting for human rights; exposing violations; publicising abuses; holding protest marches; collecting petitions; raising money; fighting for women's rights, for people with HIV, for farmers, for animals and so many more. Many of these people who struggle on our behalf do it without pay, after hours, from their own homes and often at great personal risk. Many have given the last ten years of their life to this cause and that little word 'thanks' is never enough.
And then I thought about what has most changed in my life and that of the people around me. The answer was right there, in front of me, in my hand in fact: communication.
In 2009 Zimbabwe emerged from the darkness of state control of communication. Cell phone lines suddenly became available in February and now everywhere you look people have got cell phones: in their hands, in their pockets, on straps round their necks and (only in Africa) even stuffed down their bra's! From roadside tomato vendors to rural villagers and from prime ministers to peasants, we now have the ability to communicate. Cheap and widely available cell phone lines, a growth of over a million lines in one year and over 500 base stations around the country, and democracy becomes possible! Thanks to the insight, determination and vision of Strive Masiyiwa and his company, Zimbabwe is talking, listening, texting and photographing and because of this, nothing will never be the same again.
Cell phones and the availability of SIM cards really have sparked a revolution here. Its funny how quickly we take things for granted but in an instant this week the text messages were flying: meeting this afternoon with the MP; constitutional programme stopped; convicted rapist on constitutional outreach; Rusape farmer arrested; no rain!
Strive Masiyiwa's company , represented by Douglas Mboweni, is in my view the one thing that has most changed the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans in the last year. Everyone now has the ability to communicate, to expose the perpetrators of crimes that are still destroying our country and to take away their lies and leave them with no more hiding places.
We await internet broadband, with eager anticipation and with urgency. Until next weeks with thanks to all the people who sacrifice so much and work so tirelessly for our country.
©Copyright cathy buckle 19 December 2009.
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