There is an old saying that goes “When elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” This couldn’t be truer of post-election Zimbabwe. Allegations of vote rigging, voter intimidation and claims of blatant disregard for the will of the people, all culminating in a call for mass protests by the losing party. Zimbabweans have known little more than being in ‘election mode’ for the greater part of the last 5 years and while political parties engage in cheap politics, the economy continues to contract, companies continue to downsize, incomes continue to be uncertain and people continue to suffer. Growing up, I was taught certain truths and values that were deemed to be self evident at the time, such as obedience and respect towards my elders. Although older generations could not claim to be perfect, they still commanded respect because of their word and deed. It is unfortunate that the woman I am today struggles to reconcile the lessons of my youth with the words and actions of the leaders I see in positions of power in Zimbabwe.
Across the political divide, rarely do I see the things I once admired in our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers; self restrained tongues releasing well thought out words, elders making tough decisions for the good of the collective, selfish ambition being tossed aside for the advancement of the whole. I mourn for Africa because we are losing the quality that for time immemorial has defined her and what most love about her: the ubiquitous spirit of respect for one another, of unity, that causes us, while respecting our differences, to work united for the prosperity of all. I sometimes wonder what our ancestors would think if they roamed the nation today and saw the divisions and wretched self-centeredness that have become the norm in our society.
Leadership in Zimbabwe is now about politicking and the pursuance of selfish interests, with international forces adding their two cents to fuel tensions further. It seems there’s no end to the leadership battle. No longer are leaders in their respective domains, inspired to push Zimbabwe forward and let her stand proud on the world stage, instead using their positions to advance blind ambition, no matter the cost. For me, it’s not a question about ZANU-PF vs. MDC, or aligning with the West or East, it’s a question about whether or not those in positions of power in Zimbabwe will choose service-based leadership that will catalyze the growth of the nation, for the benefit of its citizens regardless of the political party, business sector, or civic organisation they belong to.
Regardless of the result of these endless election feuds, one thing remains true: the true leaders will be determined by their actions in restoring the hope, faith and dignity of the people; in rebuilding the nation to abundance. The true leaders will be recognizable through their acts of service and their spirit of engagement and it’s those leaders that will be honored as the mothers and fathers of our nation. The leadership that will rebuild Zimbabwe may not be sitting in posh international conference rooms deliberating on complex issues centered on money and power. Instead true leadership may emerge from the unlikely places, from the vendors selling tomatoes on the street corner, to earn that extra dollar so as to help their widowed neighbor support her children. From the young people, showing initiative by cleaning up their neighborhoods in the aftermath of the election. From the entrepreneur, designing solutions for the perennial water and electricity problems. Because the way I see it, the leadership that stems from ordinary people, this is the leadership that remembers the true spirit of Africa and will have the vision to push her forward, and it’s that leadership that needs to rise.
Image credit: Zimbabwe Independent