School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces
No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks
Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all
School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely
Welcome to Zimbabwe, where even Alice Cooper becomes a prophet. The schools of Zimbabwe are closed. One more organ shuts down. Here’s a week in the death of a nation and a map of the borderlands.
Zimbabwe is not dying. No. Zimbabwe is being choked by killing off its health services. Zimbabwe is being violently kidnapped, disappeared, tortured, til death do us part. Zimbabwe is being negotiated to death, while schools stay closed. Do not confuse dying with murder.
The year ahead looks even bleaker, without seed or with reduced international aid. 10 out 13 million people live in abject poverty … in a land filled with natural riches. Zimbabwe has become a `factory for poverty’. Zimbabwe has entered the business of poverty production. Zimbabwe can give you a great deal on cholera and is willing to consider reasonable offers for hunger. It’s the sale to end all sales.
Have the people of Zimbabwe suffered enough yet? Suffered enough for what? As Zimbabwean Pastor Wilson Mugabe said last week, “We have become beggars … yesterday we were people who could feed the whole of Southern Africa. Hear us, we have suffered enough.” Who measures and weighs the suffering, who decides who lives, who dies, who suffers, who cries? Zimbabwe is a lesson, a curriculum. Zimbabwe closes schools, and thereby teaches the region and the world: “This is a lesson to our region. We came together to liberate ourselves, but now [we see] that power can pervert you to become precisely the opposite of what led you to become a freedom fighter. This is a lesson to other liberation movements in our region.” The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough.
Over the last five months, tens of thousands have fled Zimbabwe for South Africa. Zimbabwe inflation is at 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillian percent. Is that really a number? Zimbabwe cholera death soars past 2700. It will rise to 3000 by week’s. Just another day in the death of a nation. Life in Zimbabwe is `precarious’. The women of Zimbabwe have taken to the roads. Many, such as the members of the Kubatana Cooperative, sell goods by the side of the road. For women in Zimbabwe, life is not only precarious, it’s perilous. Jennie Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu are sort of released from prison; Jestina Mukoko and her comrades remain in Chikurubi Maximum Prison, and everyone wonders about those disappeared who are “still missing.” Then Chris Dhlamini and six others, abducted and then `revealed’ in Chikurubi, were reported as misplaced. Misplaced. In Zimbabwe today, reporting that the person you abducted and then smuggled into prison without any charges is now missing, that’s called transparency. We need a new Zimbabwe dictionary that will explain the words, transparency, currency, death, negotiation, hunger, hope. We need a new Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has been `misplaced.’
Desperate children and women flee Zimbabwe for the bleak horror show that is Musina, South Africa. For the children, life in Musina is precarious and perilous. For the women: “While the stories of the refugee children are troubling — with penury in Zimbabwe being exchanged for penury here — many of the more horrifying stories in the city involve the rapes of helpless women.” They are not helpless, they managed to cross the border. For Zimbabwean women, life is more than precarious and more than perilous.
The SADC talks on Zimbabwe fail. Joy Mabenge of the Institute for Democratic Alternatives for Zimbabwe, concludes, “”The pronouncement that the political talks are dead is likely to trigger mass protests. For now the masses are trapped and indeed arrested in false hopes of either an inclusive government or a transitional authority being consummated. The nation has reached a tipping point and what the ordinary people are waiting for is in historical terms the 28 June 1914 Sarajevo assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand to trigger some sort of coordinated civil disobedience.” Now that’s a democratic alternative. Meanwhile, the school system is in total collapse. Teachers can’t afford to teach and so sell goods on the street. Women teachers , women who were business owners, traders, accountants, secretaries and PAs, police, they cross the borders, into Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, and enter the sex work industry. Last year, 30,000 Zimbabwean teachers left the educational system; 10,000 now live in South Africa.
The killing of Zimbabwe includes the story of borders. It is a story of neighboring nation-states equating security with peace, and so closing their borders. It is a story of distant nation-states claiming that national sovereignty, borders, is the basis of the rule of law. The only crisis, the only emergency, that supersedes national sovereignty, the rule of borders, is military. So, SADC dithers. The UN dithers. All nation-states dither.
The world dithers, and Zimbabwe continues to be killed. Zimbabweans keep crossing the borders out. But who crosses in? Recently, people have started to question the sanctity of those borders, the logic of outflow. In the past week, with the launch of Save Zimbabwe Now, something new emerged. Save Zimbabwe Now has called on people of conscience to engage in a personal collective action, fasting and monitoring. Yesterday, Nomboniso Gasa of the South African Commission for Gender Equality and a member of Save Zimbabwe Now, put governments on notice that people of conscience, people who want Zimbabwe to be free today from hunger, oppression and poverty, would be monitors. The test for competency to become a monitor is trust. Not a blue helmet worn nor a civil service exam passed: “by sheer silence… they condone what is happening – so what basis do we have to trust them!” Trust.
As Graca Machel said at the launch of the Save Zimbabwe Now campaign, Zimbabwe is a lesson. Even when the schools are closed. Yvonne Vera knew this, the lesson that is Zimbabwe. Her last novel, The Stone Virgins, ends on a double note of education. On one hand, there’s Nonceba, who is remarkably educated: “there are not many people with a good high school certificate in the city. She has an advantage. Education for everyone is being constantly interrupted by the war. Schools close down. They remain closed. Especially, the mission schools located in rural areas. Nonceba has an astounding capacity for joy.”
And there’s her partner, Cephas: “His task is to learn to recreate the manner in which the tenderest branches bend, meet, and dry, the way grass folds smoothly over this frame and weaves a nest, the way it protects the cool livable place within; deliverance.”
The schools must be opened today, the hospitals and clinics as well. People must have access to their own and their shared capacity for joy. At the same time, the cool livable place within must be learned. The borders must be opened so that exile is not confused for deliverance. Save Zimbabwe now, not from itself but rather from those who are murdering it.
Dan Moshenberg, firstname.lastname@example.org