Different rules for different folks – Zimbabwe’s continuing ethos

CAPE TOWN — We can all identify with the irritation, even outrage, when standing in a long bank queue facing half a dozen empty teller kiosks as one or two tellers chip away at the client impatience. Add another element to this mix and it becomes Orwellian with some animals being more equal than others. Cathy Buckle describes what Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa would probably describe as an isolated, sensationalised incident, but methinks reflective of a corrosive ethos that has become the norm in that country – and could easily re-emerge in South Africa. I’ll leave the actual description to the telling pen of Cathy herself, but it goes to the heart of money buying influence and brazenly ignoring rules that hold a civilized society together. Alienation between the ruling classes and the populace make for an unhappy, dissatisfied country. One can perhaps take comfort in Ghandi’s famous line; ““When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.” He merely helped liberate India and his indentured countrymen in South Africa. – Chris Bateman

By Cathy Buckle*

A few hours before the ruling of the constitutional court I stood in a long queue at a bank in my home town. Despite the large number of people in the queue and many scores more outside waiting to come in, only the enquiries desk and one counter were staffed. Five counters were unpopulated (yes, can’t help myself using that lovely term from the ConCourt submissions hearing) in others words they were empty. I tried my luck at one counter where an employee sat behind a ‘closed’ sign.

Cathy Buckle

“Are there any counters open to receive payments?” I asked.

“Just that one,” he replied, and we both looked at the long and winding line.

“Don’t you want our money?” I asked the teller who chuckled loudly.

It was an insane question in a country where real money is as elusive as a clean election and bank notes are more valuable than the gold and diamonds we dig out of our baked red earth.

I got into the bank queue. Behind me and in front of me people muttered about the poor service, about why there was only one counter functioning and about why it was taking so long to serve each customer. When I was four from the front a man with a large, loose gold watch dangling on his wrist, pointy tan shoes and smart trousers walked in the door and went straight to the front of the queue, completely ignoring all of us who were patiently waiting for our turn. Another man came from the other side of the bank with a big bundle of US dollar bank notes, handed them to Mr Gold Watch who then proceeded to pass them to the teller and do his business. The queue had fallen silent; everyone watched, no one did anything or said anything. I dragged my eyebrows back down when Mr Gold Watch left and whispered something to the young woman behind me about moving closer together so no one else could push in despite the colour and size of their watches and we both giggled.

Read also: Act on Zimbabwe’s lessons! – Maimane’s plea

This is exactly how life is in Zimbabwe; we have apparently just had a free and fair election but there’s nothing at all free and fair about most of the events in the daily lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

It was with a heavy heart that I listened to the Constitutional Court ruling a few hours later. At 4pm on the 24th August 2018 Chief Justice Malaba dismissed the MDC Alliance’s application challenging Zimbabwe’s Presidential Election Results. At 4.13 pm Zimbabwe’s Chief Justice declared Mr E D Mnangagwa as the President of Zimbabwe.

Read also: Zimbabwe is stuck in no man’s land as army turns on civilians – Cathy Buckle

As we digest the news and think of the next five years, we can only be extremely proud of the amazing bravery of hundreds of thousands who swallowed their fear, attended the rallies and gave their hearts and votes to the MDC who had only managed to form their Alliance just a few months before the 2018 election. It is these same ordinary Zimbabweans who have endured years of intimidation, threats, arson, brutality, physical and mental abuse for daring to support opposition parties. We can only be extremely proud of the amazing skills and professionalism of our very own lawyers who graduated from our very own schools and universities. We can only be extremely proud of our opposition leaders and candidates who have endured years of abuse, assault, torture, arrest and persecution, sacrificing their personal lives to bring hope to ours. Our hearts are heavy but as the sun set over the red spring colours of the Msasa trees this evening, I know that we cannot give up on our hopes and dreams for a New Zimbabwe where everyone is entitled to a chance at a decent life.

  • Cathy Buckle is the author of four children books. She has also written the non-fictional African Tears, the Zimbabwe Land Invasions, Beyond Tears: Zimbabwe’s tragedy, Innocent Victims: Rescuing the Stranded Animals of Zimbabwe’s Farm Invasions and Sleeping Like a Hare. The article was first published at www.cathybuckle.com.