Now what I am about to express may sound harsh and it’s definitely not my intent to come off that way, but the attacks on Evan’s choice have been somewhat unwarranted, unfair and to a degree, hypocritical. And so I felt I had to respond with the same sharpness people have ridiculed him with, people who, in the same position he was in, would have made the same choice.
The problem with us Zimbabweans is that we follow people, not the movement. Part of why Zimbabwe is in the predicament it is in relates to the simple fact that we put people on pedestals and begin to follow them and not what they stand for. Hence why some people are more loyal to Mugabe than to the Zimbabwe he made us dream of shortly after independence. Hence why some people will follow their pastors and preachers so blindly even though the same gospel some charlatans preach warns us not to follow false prophets. Perhaps it’s a cultural impulse that implores us to follow blindly: we are so wired and conditioned to follow one man, figurehead or mambo.
One thing a lot of us Zimbabweans have to understand is that some leaders change, flee, or die but their ideas and movements don’t have to change, flee, or die with them. The problem with our people is that we can’t separate the two. Did the civil rights movement die simply because Martin Luther King Jr got assassinated? No. Did the Chimurenga struggle for liberation stop simply because Mugabe lived in exile? No. These movements did not end because those involved understood that it was bigger than one man or woman. These movements did not end because everyone involved understood that everyone has a role to play and in their absence, others have to step up to the plate to continue the cause.
We are a people that love to follow but never lead. We want people to sacrifice themselves for us. We want people to speak out and make themselves a target so that we don’t have to. We want the benefits without the risk or sacrifice because we can just crawl back into the shadows if the going gets tough.
We are a predictable people: if someone wants to end a Zimbabwean citizens’ movement, they just have to remove the person at the top through scandal, intimidation or violence. So, good for Evan, he almost fell into the same trap Itai Dzamara fell into. People were cheering Itai on until he disappeared then everyone went back to their lives. This moment is good for Zimbabweans because it is a moment of truth. If the #thisflag movement continues despite its “leader” living in exile then our citizenry has evolved for the better and it will achieve more than any other post-2000 movement before it has. However, if the movement dies simply because one bullied, intimidated and targetted person made the choice to leave then we deserve Mugabe and the status quo.
Sincerely, Kwapi Vengesayi