Voice of Protest (Part 1)

Today I found myself thinking about Itai Dzamara. We all have come to know him in the last few months as the journalist who went missing. He dared the system and sounded an alarm which was loud and clear enough for the powers that be. He dared to say what some of us whisper behind closed doors and what many of us say in combis, workplaces and during gatherings. You know how much we talk about it whenever anything has gone wrong in our personal lives. We say it with frustration when a child has graduated and 2 years down the line that child has no job, or when you work for ten years and you still can’t afford to buy a house let alone a 200 square meter stand. I have heard it often times when water does not come out of our tapes for days on end and when we can’t afford to take our beloved to hospital when they fall sick. We think about it all the time and have come to a moment of truth where we have realised that we can’t run away from the fact that our governance system has let us down, our leaders have let us down. Hell we can’t even join their fights when they expose corrupt leaders because we know it is just a case of a black kettle calling another kettle black. Tinotoseka zvedu nhamo kunga rugare (we laugh at adversity as if its nothing).

Itai speaks truth to power. Picture by Nehanda Radio

I can’t say I knew Itai although I had met him a few times over the years. Often times he was with someone I know and we would take time to debate on a few issues of national development. I now know that he has a family. He has a wife but I do not know the number of his children. Itai also has a brother and like all of us cousins, aunts and uncles who love him and miss him.

I also know that he was 35 at the time of his disappearance. Sad isn’t it. Such a young and courageous man. He had the courage to sit-in in Africa Unity Square park the whole day just to express words that most of us say in our personal spaces. Some of us thought that these actions were foolishness. Who in his/her right senses carries a placard demanding a sitting president to leave his post. But he did, didn’t he? He went to the park almost everyday with a small group of friends, not more than ten at any given time. Occasionally they would run down the street whistling, I guess the whistling was a form of alarm saying “Your time is up”. It was a shocking thing for anyone to do and I imagine whenever this whistling was done people in town would stop whatever they were doing just to catch a glimpse of these crazy young men. “Zvinoita kushaya zvekuita, vana vemazuvaono dai vaine basa mhoti waiwana nguva yekumhanya mhanya here” could have been the comments coming out of bystanders. But run they did and sit they did!!

I did not think such a young, almost insignificant man and his similarly insignificant friends would be heard in such a frightening way. Ko Itai amborianiko nhai (who is Itai), like I said I hardly knew him and most of us still do not know him. That is why we have forgotten that he is still somewhere out there, his body probably cold, lying in a drain that’s overgrown with weeds and littered with all form of garbage from our homes (since city council believes their responsibility to pick garbage is optional) and his soul hovering searching for someone to find him. Oops, I have said it out loud, hatisati taziva kuti aripi and we need to keep our hopes high… but it is the worst case scenario that those of us who knew him enough to remember have in our mind everyday.

Moving on what I do not understand is why him, I mean there are so many outspoken and well-known people out there who remain a threat. I know you would agree with me kuti why would anyone waste their energy on someone that insignificant. It was even more confusing for me this morning why they would need to take him out until I went back in time only to realise that it was young men and women like him who brought this country independence. Yes, the old men whom we see today on our national TV telling us tales of the struggles, those white-haired men and women who remind us of our ingratitude for expressing the difficulties of our poor lives, those pot-bellied men and women whose riches are enough to get this country out of its economic mayhem were once young and energetic too. Was Tongogara not 25 when he became politically active in 1963, was His Excellency not 36 when he joined active politics (the Joshua Nkomo Led National Democratic Party) in 1960, was Kumbirai Kangai not in his late 20s when he joined active politics, was it not in the 1940s that Joshua Nkomo became active in politics whilst in South Africa (he was in his late 20s at that time), were members of the Crocodile Gang of 1964 not young when the performed acts of sabotage as instructed by the ZANU commando.

My list could go on but my point here is that Itai was not just young and therefore insignificant. He was at that age where the young speak into their future and that of their children. It is an age when one speaks boldly to that future and I imagine that when the Joshuas’ and Kumbirais’ of the liberation time spoke, oppressive pillars of their time shook. Age is of great significance when seeking social transformation. Those of the grey hair generation understand the significance of age and they do not underestimate it. Moreso they understand the context in which the younger voices seek to be heard, the context of oppression and hopelessness. What I do not understand is their quickness to forget how their voices grew louder each time they were quitened.

There is a shaking when the voices of our generation demand transparency and accountability. That voice has been demanding of our leaders for such a long time and the candle that was lit more than a decade ago when democratic forces came together has refused to be extinguished. Even though the bushel of an oppressive system creates darkness and gloom for our aspirations; the will power of this generation to be free, to experience economic and political freedom can’t ever be extinguished. Even as one voice is killed many more are born through the pains of our hearts and as we turn 35 as a country I understand that Zimbabwe’s “age” demands what the young have always demanded- Political and economic freedom!!!

I woke up thinking about Itai this morning.

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