There is a tale that apparently emanates from the wisdom of a Zimbabwean Buddhist monk. It says that Zimbabwe’s Matopo hills are the heart chakra of the African continent. And that the legendary humane gentleness, respect and patience of the Zimbabwean people manifestly demonstrates that heart chakra. For those with a love for spiritualism and mystery, this tale provides a sense of security and meaning and being. Because it goes on to say that the bleeding heart chakra of Zimbabweans today is a kinda cleansing of the last remnants of all evil that resides in the heart of the African continent. Once the heart is bled clean in this, it’s final cleansing cycle, a kind of unimaginable nirvana, a heaven on earth, will return to bless and hold and care for all. So the tale goes.
But for now it’s a hard bleed of the heart. Brutally hard. What a young person described to me as simply “killing”. As in that the people are being killed. Systematically killed. Because today in Zimbabwe everyone on the ground agrees the country is worse off now, than under the Mugabe regime. The new (old) ruling elite is killing its citizens. It’s no longer even a matter of political choice between this or that logo and political mantra. There is no time or indeed will for that. It’s more critically a matter of what it takes to turn the clock from sunrise to sunset. What it takes to survive. What it takes to embrace the struggle of daily life and still rise up. Still sustain the inner resolve to rise again and again with each new dawn. At its very essence it’s a survival struggle for the basics: water, food, power, mobility.
Take power. A basic human need. It’s looks like this. State energy distribution comes and goes during the day. During the day, mostly there is absolutely nothing. Then some odd days it’s on for a few hours. No one knows as to when. And at night when everyone sleeps early, because the indiscriminate darkness smothers all, the power suddenly flips on. And stays on. Usually from 9pm till dawn. Then it’s gone again during the day. So anyone who can afford it and wants to be economically active outside of tilling a field with a hoe, has a fuel generator. The masses are at the mercy of the state power provider raw elements of nature. And that’s how people survive: self-imposed privatization for the upper classes for power certainty during the day and occasional state sponsored power for the rest at night mostly.
Take food and water. The first precondition for human survival. With the climate crisis has come cyclone Idai, followed by drought. Devastating drought. The Limpopo dried up for the first time in history. Victoria Falls dried up on the Zambian side of the Zambezi. We saw some of this with our own eyes. We drove across a wide sand pit which was once the Limpopo river. Now it is a digging ground for villagers. On foot or with donkeys villagers dig holes in the sand to seep water out. Like animals. In south eastern Zimbabwe the land was barren. I mean barren as in not a blade of grass of a single leaf on a tree. Just a brown wasteland, littered with trees that look like they have their roots in the air, like something out of the landscape of the movie Fury Road. People too are scarce. Barely present. And those that we saw had pain etched on their faces. Like they had felt something so painful that they were left permanently scarred. Scarred and barely alive.
Take truth. Another basic human need. In every conversation with ordinary Zimbabweans we heard how truth has died. The people say repeatedly and simply that the government lies. All the time. What they say on national radio broadcasts is just pure, unashamed lies. Even when the truth is on the ground before our very eyes. We heard that repeatedly. Even though the truth is concrete and visible, still they lie. In A common Chimanimani we hear about the peoples efforts to rebuild homes and infrastructure post the Idai cyclone. It been 8 long months since the cyclone hit the Chimanimani area. The NGO’s stepped in and provided disaster relief : tented shelter and emergency food and water. They are still doing that but now they are threatening to leave. The government has not yet allocated a single plot of land, let alone built the houses they claim on radio to have built already. They have not even fixed the roads or the power or anything yet. They simply created a detour and told people not to use the old roads. That’s it. And then announced that as some public interest achievement. And then lied about having housed the disaster victims. Everyone knows this, say ordinary people. It’s just lies. Lies that build deeper and deeper distrust amongst the people for all politicians.
So it rolls. If Zimbabwe is indeed the bleeding heart chakra of the continent in its final stages of cleansing, then it’s hard and brutal and deeply dehumanising. It degrades the dignity of this proud and gentle people it is supposed to honour and treasure. It bastardises them. Dismembers them. And, dare I say it, panel beats them into a submissive, desperate state. That’s how it feels when my outrage is met with the empty, sad, Basset hound like eyes of my Zimbabwean street talkers. It is what is. Harder than Mugabe. Killing. But certainly not the last act of cleansing of the bleeding heart chakra. Not now. Nor ever, maybe. As we cross over into Mozambique east of Mutare, the immigration official smiles and bids us a “safe journey”, in that deeply familiar and uniquely Zimbabwean way. No bleeding heart chakra here.