Despite widespread corruption, pestilence and death, sub-Saharan Africa has remained largely unaffected by the Arab Spring. So unaffected that you would be forgiven for thinking Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt were not rock and soil on the African continent.
That isn’t to say Zimbabweans didn’t dare to dream, think or talk about revolution – they did, albeit very briefly, before deciding it was a non-starter. The spirit of the Arab spring was viewed with envy as well as projected optimism by the diaspora who threw sideways glances at the absent rebellion back in the motherland. Where was our African Spring?
An Arab Spring-style rebellion in the south would have resulted in injury and death in a social landscape still in its post-colonial infancy, where state-sponsored violence is a well-established method of control and where many are either too powerless to fight or benefit from the ruling party modus operandi.
Make a plan
So, when the going gets tough there are normally three courses of action: fight, flight or surrender. Zimbabweans have perfected the art of combination, choosing the noncommittal but distinctly successful strategy of ‘make a plan’. Make a plan, which is southern African speak for We have to find a way around this obstacle or challenge, is not to be taken lightly. The phrase is used in the full spectrum of social situations, from arranging to meet friends for a drink in an upmarket bar on a Friday night after work, to walking 20km to the nearest source of clean water with a 10 gallon tank, barefoot and on an empty stomach. The sheer breadth of its usage reflects the resilience and ability to withstand both the most pleasant and stressful of situations, the ethos of which is survival.
And so Zimbabweans have been making a plan for as long as they can remember, from pre-independence through economic collapse and now political stagnation – adaptive and active resistance – using the fight, flight or surrender and fight/flight, fight/surrender combined strategies.
At first glance the combination of fight and surrender sounds counterintuitive or passive aggressive but it is a necessary and successful strategy for survival in an environment where social and economic normality has been recalibrated to the extremes: a complete collapse of the economy and emergence of a ‘formal’ black economy and the decimation of the working population by HIV/AIDS, both of which have resulted in an as yet not fully recognised paradigm shift in demographic and social issues and the vast and far reaching passage of the diaspora all over the globe.
Zimbabweans are no longer in crisis and the results of self-preservation strategies and the relative stability of the unity government have provided time for reflection. Failure of the opposition to alter successfully the political landscape, its assimilation into the politics of old, and resulting degradation into warring factions, have forced all to reconsider exactly how the status quo can be challenged.
Our yearnings for a charismatic and democratic saviour, a leader amongst men who will selflessly show us the way, putting the world to rights and lead us to prosperity, remain unfulfilled. The collective efforts of the liberation struggle have been neatly polished by time and tongue as the leadership and achievements of a few brains unleashing the collective brawn against the lone oppressor.
The diaspora see clearly the failure of the emperor to take adequate care of the plebs at the same time as the very public debasing of the ruling classes drunk on the spoils of war. A war fought by the children who cast their motherland as the enemy, and the people, Great Zimbabweans, as pawns and chattels. Perhaps now, all Great Zimbabweans are ready to think about the republic, and perhaps the revolution in Zimbabwe, a country traumatised by sociopolitical decay, will be fought not by the sword but the pen.
Who is Baba Jukwa?
Enter Baba Jukwa. A solitary figure standing ominously in the background, feeding a revolution of thought with words in an environment more suited to violent intimidation in order to condition submission. The now in/famous whistleblower and social activist allegedly nestled in the very heart of the ruling Zanu (PF) party.
Exposing the shady deals and corrupt transactions of those in or close to the ruling party leadership, publicising the private contact details of those concerned, and mobilising the masses, handing the activism and the action back to the people. Airing the views and injustices meted out against the resident masses and reuniting lost passports with their owners. All this via his Facebook updates.
So who is Baba Jukwa? In reality, this question no longer matters. The truth is Baba Jukwa means more to the opposition and diaspora as a masked vigilante than an outed and impotent former member of the circle of trust.
Perhaps he is our African Zorro, his work and words the metaphorical sword that strikes at the political and economic ties that bind the scatterlings of Great Zimbabwe.
Certainly a senate
Realistically, it is unlikely that Baba Jukwa is a lone Zorro figure. He is almost certainly a senate of those with the greater good in sight.
He shows us that they too see the inequality, the injustice, the decadence and they too are disgusted by the overt and shameless psychological and physical diminution of a people by the leaders they trusted.
They invite us to fight the cause with them, one text message, one phone call at a time. We are active; we are participating in the fight for justice. We are no longer waiting to be saved, we are not powerless and we can finally do something. Our votes may not be counted every four years but our voices will be heard today, tomorrow and every day that follows as Baba Jukwa shows us that even though the war is long and hard, together we can fight and win the little battles.
Let us hope that ‘he’ succeeds in his efforts to remain anonymous, keeping those lurking in the dark and close corridors of power on their toes and looking over their shoulders, one step ahead of the unethical and corrupt. Baba Jukwa is each and every Great Zimbabwean. A whisper can be heard rippling through the diaspora crowd, the suburban braais, the growth points and the city centre watering holes…. I am Spartacus. I am Baba Jukwa. Asijiki…
This article originally appeared in The Zimbabwean on 12 June 2014 via @thezimbabwean