Please Do Not Call Me Strong

Please do not call me strong…

I don’t want people to ignore my pain

I don’t want to be afraid to talk about my pain

I don’t want to shy away from all that is going wrong

I don’t want to force myself to be strong

Please do not call me strong…

Because you are glorifying my suffering

You blind me to the shortcomings of the system

Your words and actions leave me wondering

You make me think the system cares for me

Please do not call me strong…

My mother and grandmother probably liked being called strong

You made them think it was a good thing

But I don’t want to be called strong

You use it as a weapon to make me keep me quiet about things

Please do not call me strong…

I need to find the words to describe my pain

I need to find my voice

I need to understand my loss and gain

I need to understand my choice

Please do not call me strong…

Mr. Government Man won’t provide me with shelter

Mr. Tax Man will take away even more of my meagre earnings

Mr. Postman won’t deliver my love letter

Mr. Education Man will take away my children’s access to learning

SO PLEASE. I BEG YOU. DO NOT CALL ME STRONG…

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Tuku: Friend. Teacher. Performer.

 

The Friend…

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi was many things to many people but to me he was a friend, teacher and performer more than anything else. How else do you explain the fact that he celebrated with me (Totutuma), cried with me (Seiko) became nostalgic with me (Mutserendende) and even asked God the tough questions on my behalf (Pindurai Mambo)? Only a true friend knows what you are going through and knows what to say and is with you through the good, the bad and ugly in your life.

Friends have come and gone in my life but Tuku was always there for me right to the end. He provided the much-needed relief from the stresses of adulting. Many a weekend a phone call would be made and the conclusion was “Girls we need to de-stress, handei kwaTuku.”  Sometimes I went by myself to dance the night away as it were. Like a true friend, he never disappointed. He made the hassle of looking for parking worth it.

The day before Tuku died I was going through a lot and I cried myself to sleep. The last song I played was Hear me Lord. It was one of those days when it felt like it was me against the world and I was going to lose the fight. But Tuku’s song gave me hope that Thixo (God) would come through for me somehow. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what a friend does. He gives you hope even after he has cried with you.

Tuku’s friendship has come a long way from the days of Chimsoro played on our Supersonic Super 60 in Mpopoma to date; every one of his songs brings memories. I remember listening to Shanda on a Blue Arrow bus on a trip from Harare to Bulawayo on the 25th of October 2000, five days after giving birth to my first son. I remember how the hostess checked on us so many times because she was worried about this young baby on a long trip. I was still married then and my husband carried the baby most of the way and he came to me to breastfeed. That one song takes me to a place in my life when I thought I had it all figured out and I was happy.

Like all of Tuku’s songs, Shanda has a special message for me. In this song he is talking about respecting each other’s profession. He argues that when he gets to people’s places of work he does not belittle, anyone; he respects them. He goes on to say
“Basa rangu kufara, basa rangu kutamba varume, basa rangu kuimba, basa rangu kufadza iwewe…”  (My job is to be happy, my job is to dance, my job is to sing, my job is to make you happy) and boy did he make me happy. By the way, I am happiest when I am dancing so Tuku was that friend that fully understood that and wanted to keep me happy.

Judging by the scores of people who attended his funeral service at Pakare Paye, the send-off concert at the National Sports Stadium and the burial at his rural home in Madziwa, I would imagine there are others who also thought of Tuku as their friend; a friend who brought people from across the political, religious and tribal divide. If you are Zimbabwean you will understand how significant this is. The atmosphere at all these places was testimony of what a great human being he was. I am not sure whether he fully understood that himself.

But there was more to the man. To me, Tuku was not only a friend but a great teacher.

The Teacher…

He was a great teacher in the classroom of life. The theme of respect and humility seems to have been important to him. He shared this with us the best way he knew how, through song. In Shanda he urges respect for people’s professions and in Gudo guru he is encouraging an elder to humble himself so that the young ones can respect him: “Sahwira rega kuzvitatanyadza, rega kukanyaira kudada sewakasika nyika vapwere vanokuvhiringa ava…”

Tuku literally gave a free crash course to prepare me for adulting. In Gondo he warns “Kutambura ungatambure hako sei, usaite segondo rinokumba chero marara” (No matter how difficult life gets, do not be like the eagle that [gets so angry] after it fails to catch the chick that it ends up digging for trash instead.”) I do not know how many times I have played and sang along to this song when I am at a crossroad. Should I do this? Is it worth it? At times I’m tempted to be the gondo that has missed the nhiyo then I remember Tuku’s words and I dzora myself. He is always there to remind me never to put myself in a position where I am desperate like the gondo. If I cannot get the nhiyo today, I will wait for another day.

I am occasionally reminded that I should not shy away from my problems by scratching on the surface as if they will go away. In Handiro Dambudziko Tuku says I should examine the cause and not the symptoms of those problems. I think our leadership would do well to heed that call too.

A lot of life lessons can be learnt from listening to Tuku’s songs. The thing is his teaching is so effortless I don’t even feel like I’m being taught about life and that is the best thing for me. He had a teaching method that actually worked for me: learning whilst you are singing and dancing. This made his live performances extra special.

The Performer…

I am glad that I attended many of Tuku’s live shows. He was a performer in a class of his own. I could tell that he took his trade very seriously and wanted me to have my money’s worth. There is no single Tuku gig that I can fault. From the 2000 show at Stars when I was heavily pregnant to the last one at the Jacaranda Music Festival in September last year I was part of something magical. Sometimes we would sing along and almost drown him and his backing vocalists but we enjoyed it.

His performances were extra special for me being someone who likes to dance. I’m happiest when I’m dancing so his gigs created the right atmosphere for me to be truly happy, even if it was for a couple of hours. The gigs were an experience on their own. I am proud to have been part of that experience many times.

Music and dancing are part of my coping mechanism and a huge part of that mechanism is gone. Adulting can be so tough I need something to retreat to. The gigs were my therapy of choice. Tuku’s carefully choreographed moves with Picky Kasamba were a marvel to watch, no matter how many times I saw them. By the way, I told Picky at Pakare Paye that as far as I am concerned, him and Tuku were brothers. That’s what I believed throughout my childhood and I am not about to destroy something else from that time. Enough has been destroyed already. That made him smile through tears for a man I believe was more than a brother to him.

I will still play Tuku’s music of course, but it will not be the same. I will not see him svetuka on stage again. I will not hear him shout “Ya, ya, ya, ya, ya” ever again. I won’t. It really sucks. The one person that helped me cope with adulting has left me just like that. I’m heartbroken. I am hurting. His death was very personal to me. It felt like a friend I thought would always be there for me has decided to abandon me to face life on my own. It’s like he sang “Ndakuenda, ndatoenda, ndatoenda, ndaenda ini” for the last time with the knowledge he played his part as he sang “pangu pese ndasakura ndazunza.” His was a life well lived.

My friend and teacher has gone. The performer will perform for the angels in heaven. What a great time they will have. I envy them…

Our hearts, they are sore…

Our hearts, they are sore…

We have been here before.

But it feels different.

We have had our hearts broken numerous times before.

But this time it feels different.

Our hearts, they are sore…

For long we have been hoping against hope.

For long we have prayed day and night.

For long we have been here.

For long we asked whether we stay or we go.

Our hearts, they are sore…

But where do we go from here?

But do we know how to go from here?

But can’t we just stay a little bit longer?

But doesn’t this place need us?

Our hearts, they are sore…

We are eternal optimists but now we feel defeated and drained.

We are the generation that carried the hopes of our parents.

We would lift our parents from poverty and give them a good life.

We would be an example to those others.

Our hearts, they are sore…

We have been told we are resilient.

We have been told we are Zimbo like that.

We have been told we will get through this.

We have been told we are cowards.

Our hearts, they are sore…

Who are we really?

Who do we want to be?

Who do we think we should be?

Who do we think we should not be?

Our hearts, they are sore…

It feels like we have been here before.

It feels like we should be used to it by now.

It feels like we have been here before.

It feels like we should get used to it.

Our hearts, they are sore…

In our childhood, we endured pain.

In our adulthood we endure pain.

Our hearts, they are sore…

We carry pain in our hearts.

We carry anger in our hearts.

We carry hate in our hearts.

We carry love in our hearts.

Our hearts, they are sore…

How much pain can our hearts hold?

How much anger can our hearts hold?

How much hate can our hearts hold?

How much more can our hearts take?

Our hearts, they are sore…

Who determines how we should feel?

Who decides how we should not feel?

Who cares how we feel?

Who should care how we feel?

Our hearts, they are sore…

We have dreams. 

We have hopes.

We have fears.

We have longings.

Our hearts, they are sore…

We have been here before.

But it feels different.

We don’t know how but it is different.

But we know for sure that it hurts.

Our hearts, they are sore…

 

Smiles. Laughs. Dances.


“My 2019 is going to be about Smiles. Laughs. Dances,” I declared to myself on the 6th of January. The declaration was part of the #BuhleAt44 countdown.

So today I turned 44. A whole four decades and four years. I’m excited.

I’ll try to reflect on my life and the things I love. It’s not every day that I get to do this but my birthday is extra special to me. It is one day of the year where I am super excited about the gift of life. By the way, I don’t know anyone else who takes her birthday as seriously as I do. I am a January baby. I was born in the one month of the year where people are recovering from the festive season and trying to find their feet. It’s certainly not a popular month but it is my special month and the14th is my very, very special day.

What better way to celebrate my special day than to do the things I love?

I love camera-photo-pictures. They are my way of making memories. They are a reminder of one thing, person, event or other. Growing up our family tradition was to have photo sessions during the August holidays. I looked forward to wearing my Sunday best dresses with my white socks that had dolls on the side. I enjoyed dressing up. In my next life I am going to work in the fashion business. One holiday the film developed a problem (“Ifilimu itshile”, the cameraman said) and we lost all the photographs. Needless to say, I was devastated after all those poses where I was holding my waist. I felt like I had invested a lot of time in preparing for the shoot.

I have decided to carry on my family tradition by having birthday photo shoots. My 44th birthday shoot was in Bulawayo. The talented @kbmpofu created magic with his magic lens. The shoot made me happy. Just like dancing does.

I love dancing. I am happiest when I am dancing.

I keep saying I will dance whenever I have the chance because some day my feet won’t let me. Now that I’m well on the other side of 40 I am all too aware of this possibility. As far as I am concerned, I am a good dancer because my mother says so. I believe her. I mean she has no reason to lie…

Dancing is a significant part of my #HappinessCorner. This is my personal space, which I go to when I need a break from it all. Just the other day there was a fuel price increase and I immediately said to myself we are on our way back to 2008. The thought stressed me out because 2008 signified hyper- inflation and shortage of basic commodities. I do not want to go back there. So my #HappinessCorner helps me to escape, even for a moment. It allows to come up for air when I feel like I am about to drown in life’s numerous ups and downs.

As I turn 44 I have made a conscious decision to celebrate and be happy. I’ll be in my #HappinessCorner the whole day and I’ll only leave on the 15th or the next day. Why should I rush to face the realities of Government policies that appear to be designed to make my life even more difficult than it already is? Or deal with the life lessons that I am not always willing to learn? I have the rest of the year to do that. Today I will smile, laugh and dance.

Any words of wisdom from this 44 year old?

Not quite, but I would like to share a few things with younger women (it feels really good to say younger women, by the way. I’m one of the adults).

  • You deserve to be happy.
  • You are the main actress in the story of your life. Act like one.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself/ Be kinder to yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith sometimes.
  • Don’t have a pity party that lasts more than two days.
  • Learn to forgive yourself.
  • Learn to put yourself first sometimes. It’s worth it.
  • Sometimes your best is just not good enough. That’s ok.
  • People change and so do you. Live with it.
  • Always tell your truth. Own it.

I am excited to be at the crease with 44 not out and still going. I’m ready to face whatever life bowls at me. I am ready to face both fast and spin bowlers. I don’t want to be run out just yet.

I am grateful to God for my life. It is not perfect by any standards but I do have some good days. I pray for more good days in 2019. I pray for more smiles than frowns.

When I die, may they say “Here lies a woman who smiled, laughed and danced.”

Where is the Gender Agenda in the Elections Agenda?

So we are going to have elections this year. We don’t have the date yet but if we go by the Constitution, we should have exercised our right to vote no later than August 21.

Predictably, there are a lot of discussions on electoral reforms. These are very important discussions because elections matter. They matter to all citizens. Or maybe they should? But do they? When people ask me why I vote, I always say at the end of the day, it matters how we are governed. Elections form the basis of a social contract between the governing and the governed. How do we want to be governed? What do we expect the governing to do in carrying out their duties?

I also have an interest in elections, the media and women. So the discussion on electoral and media reforms is close to my heart. Between 2009 and 2010 I was the Project Coordinator of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), a grouping of media advocacy organisations: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ). The major campaign of the Alliance at that time was reforming the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) from a party broadcaster to a public broadcaster. Obviously, this was a mammoth task, but we said we have to start somewhere. We lobbied different stakeholders, including Government to put across our case. We impressed upon them that ZBC is a public broadcaster; it should behave like one and adhere to basic principles and standards of a broadcaster of that nature.

I can tell you nothing much has changed at ZBC. There is no effort to provide balanced coverage of political parties. The news bulletins may as well be ZANU PF Public Relations bulletins and notice boards. I don’t want to believe that the ruling party does not have other communication channels to announce its Politburo meetings. I do not see any difference between this ZBC and the one that aired 18 ZANU PF rallies and none of the MDC-T in its 8pm bulletin the night before the 2008 elections, clearly going against one of the basic principles of Public Service Broadcasting of reflecting the diversity within a society. Never mind that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had clear guidelines on media coverage of political parties during the election period.

Sadly, this complete disregard of principles and guidelines is not peculiar to ZBC. It also exists in Government and other governance structures. I have always maintained that governance structures are very unresponsive and rigid. Frankly speaking, I wish I could be proved wrong one of these days, but for now all I see is the “We have been doing it this way since 1980; we shall continue doing it this way” mode. More so when it comes to Gender Equality; it is a nightmare. When I mention Gender Equality in certain circles, it is not uncommon to be told “Watanga;” as if to say I am talking about some strange idea from Mars or Venus. But it is not strange at all.

Gender Equality is entrenched in Section 3(g) of the Constitution as one of the country’s founding values and principles. In addition, Section 56(2) states unambiguously “Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.”

Let me talk about equal treatment in the political sphere. I will look at the economic, cultural and social spheres another day. Women in political parties are certainly not treated on the basis of equality with the men. They are largely relegated to the Women’s Wings and hardly progress to the Main Wings where crucial party decisions are made. I contend that the party systems are designed to exclude the women, and this starts at the candidate selection stage. I have interacted with women in political parties long enough to know that more often than not they really have no control over the final party candidate lists. Men are in control of the candidate selection; they determine who represents their parties. It is a “jobs for boys” affair. This is where the exclusion starts. So as long as parties select more men than women it follows that there will be more men than women in Councils or Parliament.

I find it hard to believe that the country’s main political parties, ZANU (PF) and MDC-T, for example, do not have enough capable women to challenge men in primary elections. I deliberately use capable here because the argument about capacity, competence and whatever else always comes up when I discuss women’s political participation: “It’s not about gender; it’s about competence” and so on. I always ask what competence is being referred to. What exactly does it take to represent a Ward or a Constituency? What special skills do men have that women do not have?

I strongly believe that the parties have no desire to increase women’s political participation. Well, at least not in any meaningful manner. The parties may throw in “Gender Equality” here and a little “Women’s Economic Empowerment” there, in attempts to pacify the women. But they are not doing anything tangible to ensure that women rise to the decision making positions. In other words, there is no political will to open up the political sphere to more women.

Here is the point: It is one thing to be a card-carrying member of a political party. It is quite another to be part of a decision making structure. These structures are important for obvious reasons. These are the spaces I would like to see more women occupying because they pretty much determine, or at least significantly influence what happens in the party.

By the way, why have these political parties not aligned their Constitutions to the national Constitution’s 50/50 requirement, yet they were telling us to “Vote Yes” in the 2013 Referendum?

The way I see it, for women’s political participation to be meaningful, it has to be in all structures of the parties; not just some. It also means fully participating in decision-making processes and not to always be on the periphery. At the moment, women’s participation in the political parties is characterised by donkey work like door to door campaigns. The women campaign with little or no support from their parties, with no rewards. The parties side-line women and do not provide a conducive environment for them to rise to the high offices. Perhaps this explains why there are a number of female independent candidates in this year’s elections?

Women deserve better.
Political parties can do better.
They have to do better.

Let me turn my attention to the State, seeing as it is the Duty Bearer with the obligation to respect, promote and fulfill human rights. Section 17 of the Constitution is unequivocal on the State’s duty to promote Gender Equality. “The State must [not may] promote full gender balance in Zimbabwean society…” [my emphasis]. Subsection (2) states: “the State must take positive measures to rectify gender discrimination and imbalances resulting from past practices and policies.”

Furthermore, the National Gender Policy (2013-2017) pledges Government’s commitment to facilitating the “designing and implementation of policies that redress gender imbalances in all spheres and levels of life as part of fulfilling its regional and international commitments.”

In addition, Zimbabwe is a signatory to Regional and International conventions and protocols that promote gender equality and equity, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, the Convention on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) as well as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979). CEDAW has been described as an “International Bill of Rights for women.”

Interestingly, the country ratified this Convention in 1991. So it is not as if the Government was not aware of its responsibilities in as far as Gender Equality is concerned all along. It has been aware for ages.

Sadly, despite these Local, Regional and International commitments, the Government has not taken any concrete steps towards achieving Gender Equality, even within its structures. Of course, policies have been enacted but implementation is woefully lacking. Once again, just like within parties, lack of political will is a major factor.

In my opinion, there is no urgency whatsoever to address this non-implementation. Even where one thinks a sizeable number of women can be appointed to certain positions, Government is found wanting. After the 2013 elections, former President Robert Mugabe appointed only three women to the Cabinet of 26 ministers; a mere 11.5%. This falls far short of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development’s target of 50% representation of women in public and private spheres by 2015. See “Outrage over cabinet gender bias” in the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper of September 20, 2013.

The trend is continuing as President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed only four (4) women to the 22-member Cabinet, which translates to 18%, a slight improvement but it is still a long way from the 50%. This is despite the commitment he made in his inauguration speech to “do things differently.”

To his credit though, President Mnangagwa appointed Ms Faith Mazani as Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) and Justice Priscilla Chigumba as Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

However, a lot more still needs to be done. “At least some women have been appointed” is just not good enough. We are not about to be grateful for crumbs; we want the loaf. Government must show that it is serious about its commitment to “empowering women.” Who are these women? Where are they?

Women should be treated like citizens of Zimbabwe, not like children of a lesser god. To borrow a phrase I heard from Takura Zhangazha many moons ago, Zimbabwe is our country too: OC₂

We need to see the numbers of women in all spheres increasing significantly. The time for rhetoric is over.

Women deserve better.
Government can do better.
It has to do better.

 

We don’t deserve Winky D…

I have to acknowledge that this post has been a long time coming. But things that matter take quite a bit of time don’t they? You see, with this one, the #SolidarityMarch got in the way. #ArmyBae stole the limelight for a minute there.

This is a special post because I pay tribute to Winky D, one of the greatest artistes to ever come out of Zimbabwe. What makes the post extra special is that I am doing it while he is still alive. I paid tribute to Andy Brown after his death. I am not making that mistake again. I have said to myself I should appreciate people while they are still in the land of the living so that they understand that what they do matters to me. They should understand that they matter and they are truly appreciated. 

For a long time, I had no interest in Zimbabwean Dancehall music. The songs all seemed to denigrate women. Not surprisingly, they were popular with kombi drivers. I could not be bothered to find out the names of the musicians or the titles of the songs. So the emergence of Winky D was a breath of fresh air, to put it mildly. I first saw him perform at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA). I am not sure which year it was but I did not see much of his performance because my slave master was panicking about something or the other. So I lost a chance to fully appreciate what an amazing performer the Gafa is.

Fast forward to 2017 and I heard Beenie Man was coming to Harare for a concert. I would not have considered going to that gig if it was not for the fact that Winky D, Jah Prayzah (my ex-crush) and Souljah Love were billed to perform. I could already picture myself shouting “Televizhan, High Definition” and “Gafa kusvika ndafa.” Of course, there was also the issue of a certain Ben10 who was obsessed with Beenie Man’s music. In the end though, I went to the concert by myself. But that is a story for another day. To be told over lots of Amarula.

Anyway, back to Winky D. There was something about his performance at the Beenie Man gig. To be quite honest, Beenie was like a very poor supporting act. His performance was such an anti-climax. I felt it even more because he came after Winky D. The Gafa’s performance was top drawer from the moment he got onto the stage until he left. He made every minute count. He interacted with the crowd and made us feel we were part of his act. Like we mattered. Like it mattered to him that we had paid our hard-earned money to see him perform. To me that said he respects the fans and more importantly, he respects himself. That somehow reminded me of the late Simon “Chopper” Chimbetu. Chopper would perform until morning and everyone was literally worn out. I remember many years ago he performed from 7pm to 3am at Green Haven just outside Bulawayo. By that time, there were only a few of us left and we were no longer dancing.

Winky D is a social commentator of note. His songs tell the story of mostly young Zimbabweans whose dreams have been put on hold or forgotten. 25 is about a guy who thought he would put food on the table with ease and drive a Jaguar; both signs of a comfortable life. The reality though is that he is struggling to do any of these things. I would imagine that this is the story of many in Zimbabwe, and not just the young. It is also my story. I imagined that I would have big houses and fancy cars by the time I was 30. I am almost 43. Well, I bought a house once upon a time but I had to sell it. Will I buy another one? Maybe. Maybe not. I drive a very basic car. I would also like to drive a (Range) Rover. Ndoda kudriver wo Rover.

This is what Buffalo Souljah says in Rugare; his song with Winky D. Rugare is my daily prayer. It is an appeal to God for a good or better life. It is also my way of asking God for a break. Lord knows I need one now and again. Sometimes I am overwhelmed. Sometimes I feel like it’s me against the world, and I cannot win.
Rugare is my go-to song. It is an appeal to God. Why can’t I just catch a break, even a smallinyana one? This is part of my #ConversationsWithGod.

Rugare is my song. It is about me. It captures my life for the past few years. Winky D and Buffalo Souljah may as well have sung that song after listening to the story of my life: Always on the move. Always hustling and praying that it pays off. Always hoping for the best, sometimes hoping against hope.

Rugare huya kuno ndoda kurarama kamwe ka-life, rugare huya kuno, masango matema fanike nighty. Ndakutsvaga kwese ndaenda, hapana kwandisati ndaenda. Ishe Tenzi dai mavheneka, pandinofamba dai kwaendeka.

The song is an appeal and a prayer to God to shine light on one’s path and bless one’s hustle. Sometimes that is all I can do.

This has been an attempt to pay tribute to a social commentator and a lyrical genius; an artiste whose talent is unmatched. It is obviously not enough. There is no way I can ever fully describe the brilliant artiste that is Winky D. It is not humanly possible.

At the end of it all, Chi Extra Terrestrial chakazvipengera. Hats off to you Gafa. I bow down in awe and respect.

We don’t deserve Winky D. We don’t deserve the #Gafa.

We are not worthy…

 

I was at the Solidarity March (and I am not naïve)

I was at the Solidarity March in Harare yesterday, the 18th of November, 2017. And I am not naïve.

 

As soon as I heard that the army and police would not beat up anyone I decided I would go. You have to understand that Zimbabwe is a country where the security forces are characterised by heavy-handedness. In the late 1990s while at a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) demonstration against a proposal to scrap students’ pay-outs I was beaten up by riot police. My leg was so swollen I could not walk for four days. So I associate the security forces with force, heavy-handedness, violence and intolerance. To be quite honest, if there had been no reassurance on protection I would not have even dreamed of leaving my house.

Over the years there have been a number of demonstrations or meetings of the opposition parties or Civil Society that have been blocked or violently broken up by the police. The process of seeking police clearance is always controversial: are you supposed to inform the police of your event or you are supposed to ask for permission to hold the event? My understanding is that one needs to inform the police but the police have other ideas. The interpretation of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) obviously differs depending on who you are. The police have largely used it against dissenting voices. I can tell you that the police and army are guilty of selective application of the law in my country. They will break up an opposition rally whilst that of the ruling ZANU PF will go ahead. This is an all too familiar script.

So you will understand why it was a big deal for me that I could march freely without any threat of violence from the army or the police. These institutions have not been known to protect civilians. In fact, they have been an integral part of the State Machinery used to oppress ordinary Zimbabweans with impunity. I was not going to miss the chance to exercise my freedom of movement and expression. Perhaps the more important reason to join the march is rooted in my childhood.

I was born and bred in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. This is the part of Zimbabwe which experienced what became known as the Gukurahundi massacres. I remember hearing that the army was looking for dissidents Gayigusu and Gwesela. I personally experienced the Entumbane disturbances. There was a curfew so no one was allowed to be on the streets after 6pm. The helicopter would fly very low and a voice from a loudspeaker would announce “Seligonjolozelwe. Lingaphumi ezindlini.” This means “You are now surrounded. Do not leave your houses.” That is where my fear of helicopters started. Sadly, even now my reaction to helicopters is the same: my heart beats very fast and I get a headache.

I remember an incident that happened in Mpopoma where I grew up. One of the guys whose name was Muneyinazvo was on the streets during the day and the police asked him what his name was. His reply was “Muneyinazvo” and they beat him up so bad because his response was “what do you have to do with it.” They thought he was being insolent. But that was his name. In the end, he showed them his identity document but he had already been beaten up. So you see, from an earIy age I have associated the army and helicopters with fear and terror.

I fully understand that the army is part of a system that has done all it can to deliberately exclude and oppress those that are not part of it. I am under no illusion that the army did what it did for ordinary Zimbabweans like me. Not even. This is part of ZANU PF internal struggles. But the thing is ZANU PF is the ruling party and what it does will eventually affect me, directly or indirectly.

The army obviously knew that we were tired of a system that it has protected for the longest time (therefore, it was clear citizens would rally behind them on this particular issue). I also fully understand that Robert Gabriel Mugabe presided over that system. He cannot be the only one to account for what the system did. Unfortunately for him, he was the face of that system. The buck stops with him. However, I think that whatever process has been started should continue.

Let me share what I said on Twitter this morning: “Here’s the thing. There’s a whole system. A whole structure that is designed to benefit just a few. To dismantle it will take a long, long time. Lots of time, energy and effort. But we have to start somewhere. That’s all.”

As far as I am concerned, the Solidarity March was that start. And what a start it was. Ordinary Zimbabweans came together for a cause. We stood together to express ourselves. When was the last time we did that? I am 42 years old and I have never been part of anything like this before. I am proud I was part of that moment. This was a moment where I took a picture with a soldier, and in front of a tanker. That is such a big deal for the young girl from Mpopoma. Thanks to Twitter, I saw many other pictures of citizens with soldiers. I would never have imagined this happening under any circumstances.

I am convinced the engagement between soldiers and citizens achieved the following:
• It reminded us that the soldiers are people like us. Yes, they are part of a system that does not have our interests at heart, but under the right conditions, they can be one with us. We can count on them for protection. Now we have to work hard to create the right conditions.
• It said to the soldiers that they can still be one with us. They appreciated the interaction and love from the citizens. I am sure they realised that despite what they have come to symbolise, they are still part of us.
Hopefully, both the soldiers and the citizens will invest whatever resources they have at their disposal to create the right conditions for all to co-exist peacefully, to have a system that goes beyond personalities.

Phew, this must be my longest post ever.

I rest my case. I was at the Solidarity March and I am not naïve. I fully understand what is going on. I was not coerced to join the march. I did not do so under duress. I have no issues with those who did not join the march. Everyone has a right to choose what they want to do. Freedom of choice is important. But I just do not want to be viewed as naïve for my choice to join the march.

I understand that I am a Ndebele woman who is, for all intents and purposes, at the bottom of the “political food chain”, as it were. But Zimbabwe is still my home. I know no other home. It is also the only home my children know. This is why I joined the Solidarity March. I did it for posterity.

And of course, the camera-photo-picture with #SoldierBae did not hurt either.

This is my own truth. Indaba Yam’istraight. Ayifun’iruler.