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Courage doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid

Inspiring words from an advocate recently incarcerated in Zimbabwe.
‘I will never stop imagining that Zimbabwe will one day be free' – Advocate Fadzayi Mahere. Image: Darrin Zammit Lupi, Reuters

After 21 years of writing this ‘Letter from Zimbabwe’, at first every week and then every fortnight, I find the words come harder and harder as the heart grows weak at describing our decades of pain, injustice and suffering and, when writing about it, self-censorship is always uppermost.

Despite freedom of speech and expression being enshrined in our 2013 Constitution, they are far from being guaranteed in the reality of our daily lives.

A fortnight ago freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, advocate Fadzayi Mahere and lawyer Job Sikhala were arrested in connection with a tweet that falsely reported the death of a child after an assault by police.

Charged with publishing or communicating falsehoods, Chin’ono and Sikhala remain in prison two weeks later while Mahere has been released on bail. All three have been arrested before, incarcerated before and continue to find the courage to stand up, speak out and expose injustice, corruption and oppression.

Publisher Trevor Ncube said the incarceration of the three was an attack on freedom of expression by the state. “That the three have been charged under a law that was struck down by the Constitutional Court in 2014 makes the violation of their rights to free speech even more pernicious …

“Muzzling those who call for state accountability is a cynical abuse of power.”

On her release on bail, Mahere wrote about her experience, words that filled us with shame and sadness and made us laugh and cry; here are some extracts which so beautifully portray the real spirit of the Zimbabwe that awaits:

“Courage does not mean you aren’t afraid, it means you act in spite of your fear …

“I was thrown into the all familiar lice-infested police cell with a drop toilet. The proverbial puddle of urine from last time and all the times before greeted me. Rather, it slapped my face. I was barefoot, having signed my shoes in upon entry as per procedure. There was no sanitiser, no facility to flush the loo, no sink and tap, no toilet paper and no sanitary bin. The blankets smelt of old urine. …

“The events of the previous two days had frozen my legal brain as I watched constitutional rights bludgeoned and the Supreme Law rendered a lifeless museum piece … I resolved that the only way to make it through this ordeal was to embrace it, follow all orders including the illegal ones and then just make the most of it.

“’Behave with beauty and dignity at all times’ is the best advice I received that week.

“We knelt before the prison wardens whom we called ‘Mbuya’. We had to kneel when talking to them. That was the rule. … The concrete floor was our mattress. We had to make our beds out of old, dirty, torn, smelly blankets stamped ‘Parirenyatwa Hospital’.

“We went round the room sharing the charges that had brought us in. Curious, I saved my story till last. Murder, murder, murder, murder, armed robbery, theft, armed robbery, lockdown, curfew, lockdown, then ‘tweeting’. They laughed. So did I. … I made many friends because humanity is wired towards positivity. People in distress tend to make the most of tough situations.

“Every day at lock-up time, I sat at my window and watched the skyline change from blue to a beautiful golden-peachy hue. The quiet beauty of the setting sun descending below the horizon was a peaceful reminder that the whole thing would eventually end. At least I hoped. … I also remain hopeful that one day, the sun will set on injustice and repression. Until then, I will always choose courage over inaction. I will never stop imagining that Zimbabwe will one day be free.

“Ours must always be a story of hope. Of citizens who, knowing how ruthless and repressive this regime is, chose courage over inaction.”

Advocate Fadzayi Mahere, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and lawyer Job Sikhala consistently show us the Zimbabwe that we can be.

Cathy Buckle is a Zimbabwean writer and blogger living in Marondera, Zimbabwe.

Copyright © Cathy Buckle

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These terribly sad Letters constantly amaze me that the Zimbabwean people have decided not to die in a revolution. but rather to eventually die from starvation, poverty, disease, and abuse.

Please don’t tell me about the hopeful spirit …

The psychology of the human creature is a source of constant bewilderment to me.

Exactly, the same sad stories from Zim over and over again. When will the people rise?

Fear not, the South African regime will assit Zimbabwe on its path to self destruction for the innocent majority and then it will join hands to celebrate its own arrival in the mire of the pit of self destruction for the innocent majority.

Over forty years ago, as a national serviceman in the Rhodesian army, I used to lie down at night in the operational areas on the uncomfortable terrain and stare into the quiet night skies. Occasionally the silence would be broken by a jet aircraft flying high overhead taking people to exotic places. It didn’t do my morale any good to imagine the seen in those planes with all the smiling people being served nice drinks by the friendly and good looking hostesses.

I have since been in one of those planes on numerous occasions and every time I’d wonder with a wry smile about the many soldiers below who might be watching and imagining as I did all those years ago. I guess this article will make me spare a thought for all those unfortunate people incarcerated who might also be staring into the still night sky and wondering about the lucky people in the plane so far out of reach from their detractors on the ground.
Let’s spare a thought for them.

End of comments.

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