On 21st of November 2017, Zimbabweans came out in their hundreds of thousands to peacefully protest against a long standing and oppressive dictatorship. When the future historians analyse the events of this day, they will hopefully conclude two things. Firstly, that this was a day when the foundations of moving Zimbabwe towards being a truly democratic nation were laid down. This day will hopefully be known as a day that restored hope, joy, peace, prosperity and dignity to the nation.
The second and more profound conclusion I hope, is that this was the day that the simmering ethnic and racial division currently present in Zimbabwean society began to dissipate into a distant memory. I hope they write that this was the day that Zimbabweans peered through the illusions of race and ethnicity to see-saw the beauty of what could be when we are united as one.
For those that were there, the ambiance, euphoria, joy, bliss and happiness on November is a memory few could ever forget. The entire nation breathed collective sigh of relief. Relief from years of captivity. It was as if we were the Israelites, and after 37 years of wandering in the desert, we had finally arrived at the precipice of the Promised Land. The land of milk and honey long since promised in 1980 finally shone forth on the horizon. The last time a monumental event like this happened in Zimbabwe, Bob Marley provided the background music that underscored it all. This time it was a local lad that dominated the airwaves. A new era was being ushered in and Jah Prayzah’s Kutonga Kwaro lead the procession. Never has a song been played more times in one day. With flags waving high, car horns hooting, and “selfies” with the military, a “new dispensation” began.
However, something more profound occurred that day. As we liberated ourselves from the shackles of oppression, we were momentarily able to also free our minds from the blinkers of social conditioning. For a brief moment in time, the colonial and historical influences that have largely segregated our society on racial and ethnic lines ceased to determine our social interactions. The site of Africans, Caucasians, Asians, Shona’s and Ndebeles intermingling freely with absolutely no regards for skin colour or mother tongue was truly an awe inspiring moment.
Never before have Zimbabweans been so united, blissful and loving towards one another. For the first time in our nation’s history we saw the humanity in each other. We saw the similarities more than the differences. We stood shoulder to shoulder in the knowledge that when all is said and done, we have very simple and similar aspirations. Aspirations like freedom of speech, democratic governance, access to food, good medical care and pothole free roads.
As such, for our nation to truly prosper and position itself on the global scene as a peaceful and friendly nation, this momentary glimpse of what true unity could be like needs to be nurtured into a permanent day to day reality. Let us not let the significance of that day pass us by into becoming nothing more than a fond memory. Let us carry forth this moment of unity and actively enshrine it into the standard social interactions amongst Zimbabweans.
The historians speak of path dependence, which states that past historical events have a significant impact on how we can deal with current challenges. What has occurred has occurred and here we are. All 16 million of us within these teapot shaped boarders and all our perceived differences. With each day and each action we write new history and affect how the future will look. The hope is that we can be the generation that saw and understood the significance of November 21 and collectively decided to take actions that future historians will say lead to a truly peaceful and united Zimbabwe.