Early every winter a little tree squirrel arrives on my roof and goes into a frenzy of activity. He snacks voraciously on seeds put out for birds, attracting considerable feathered abuse in the process; he collects pieces of lichen, leaves and grass to make his winter nest and then he parades on the roof which seems to be his prime position for attracting a partner. He looks stunning in the early mornings as his fur shimmers golden as it catches the first rays of the sun. Once he’s warmed up, the squirrel is off on a frenzied, confusing circuit: strutting on the roof, flicking his tail seductively; bounding onto trees and running along the tops of walls. Up and down, round and round the little squirrel goes until you get dizzy watching him.
The confusion and dizziness that results from watching the antics of our fast dwindling suburban wildlife sums up the way of most things about life in Zimbabwe. It’s now nearly a year since the 2013 elections which left a nonagenarian and his party in charge again but we still have no clear path forward and seem to be going round in backward spirals. Companies continue to close, employees continue to be laid off while services and prices creep ever upwards making the lives of ordinary people more and more difficult. As tired as we are of living in the never ending decline, so our long time friends and supporters have grown tired of hearing about them.
“Struggle fatigue,” is the term Zimbabwean economist and writer Vince Musewe uses to describe the feeling in civil society after fourteen years of striving for change. Vince writes: “Unfortunately most adult Zimbabweans who have lived through terror and loss have run out of energy and motivation to fight.”
Confusion, resignation and weary head shaking are the most common responses to events in Zimbabwe. The front page of a leading daily newspaper this week carried a shocking photograph of an estimated one hundred Zanu PF youths (men in their 20’s) heading to an Apostolic shrine on the outskirts of Harare. “Zanu PF Youths burn Vapostori shrine,” read the headlines. Running with the pack of ‘youths’ was a policeman in uniform, smiling broadly. This mob of civilians, on the warpath and accompanied by a policeman, came as the result of incidents which had started with Apostolic sect members attacking police and journalists and later being arrested. Then came allegations that the arrested sect members had been tortured and denied food in custody. How or why Zanu PF ‘youths’ then got involved isn’t clear but Zimbabwe’s Lawyers for Human Rights immediately issued a press statement cautioning against what they describe as ‘mob justice.’
We saw this ‘mob justice’ in the years of farm takeovers and again throughout the years of opposition rallies and elections. They are as chilling now as they were then and the perpetrators get away with it now, just as they did then. The difference now is that the voices of condemnation, both at home and abroad have grown very quiet.