Yesterday, thousands upon thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets to express their desire for Mugabe to step down. Invited by the war veterans to show support for the defence forces and their actions, this was not a typical invitation, and for many Zimbabweans, these are not our typical allies. Which is perhaps part of what makes it so exquisitely beautiful. We gathered, black, white, mixed race, indian, young, old, rich and poor, street kids, students, activists, war veterans, women, men, civil rights workers and military.
It was to ask Mugabe to resign after 37 years in power, and yet it was so very much more than that.
What was most remarkable was the absence of hatred and anger. The overwhelming feeling on the streets was joy. My being fills with tears as I touch back into it. I don’t know that I have ever experienced such a collective well-spring of joy. Joy and love and unity that transcended decades of fear, division and hatred.
We were dancing in the streets. We were connected. It was not so much a connection against Mugabe, as it was a connection for our country, for our freedom. It was a day of spontaneous meetings in exuberance. I would catch someone’s eyes, and we would smile, sometimes laugh, and then clasp hands, or high five. Over and over again, these moments of meeting in joy and celebration and coming together. This joy transmuting decades of fear and grief. How extraordinary that such darkness could result in such an outpouring of light and delight ;-).
We tasted something yesterday that is now a part of our story. Something released. Something shifted. Whatever comes next, there has been a fundamental shift in the field in which we live and breathe.
And it was made possible by the military, They held space for Zimbabweans to step out after fear – and a sense of futility – had held so many of us back for so long. The outpouring of gratitude for the military was extraordinary. Whatever lies in their past, yesterday they had an experience of the gratitude and love that can flow when they hold space for the free expression of their people. Whatever happens next this will have given an experience of what it feels like to be loved, which will hopefully mean something when this moment of opening begins to close down, as it undoubtedly will.
Because life is a process of breathing, expanding and contracting. We are in an expansion. Contraction will at some point follow. As we move on from this day, I hope we go with questions of how we can work with what yesterday made possible: How can we nourish the social field that we are a part of, to support the fertility of this moment? How might we continue to connect across our diversity?
Yesterday we joined in the march and celebrations with our children. To me this is testament to the deep faith Paul, my husband, and I both have in the fabric of this country. There was a deeper knowing that we would be safe. Yes a little jitter and wondering whether we were insane, but at a more fundamental level a knowing that this impulse is one of peace, not of violence. Service stations and shops were open to sell water, drinks and snacks to people joining the march, rather than shutting down in fear of looting. Women came carrying their babies on their backs. No violence erupted. The only property destroyed were the street signs for Robert Mugabe Road, and some posters with his face on it. It makes me proud of what is moving here. It makes me believe we can find a way. Our ability yesterday to reach out and clasp the hand of the military yesterday (by their tanks!) makes me believe that we have learnt something so vital that we must remember whatever happens.
I met and engaged with more Zimbabweans yesterday than I possibly ever have. I went home enriched with faces and souls. Beautiful old women who beamed like solar constellations; young men drunk with exuberance; the old man who walked behind us, seeing our children and repeating several times ‘they are safe here. Your children are safe here.” And I know he meant in this march, but I also felt him say in this place and country. The old white man with the enormous Boerbull dog who was so proud to be from Zimbabwe. So proud to be here now. The war veteran who was walking with his son, and who wanted a picture of our children together: “our future.” The street kid who looked like his heart was alight. The soldier who in response to my thanking him said “It is done now, it is over.” And my sense was he was speaking of the past that has been holding us back.
We returned home, and while we were uploading our photos we found that our children and their friends were spontaneously erecting a flagpole to hoist the Zimbabwe flag, which we bought in town today. And this morning when we were outside sitting beneath it, my daughter quietly said, “I love the Zimbabwean flag.”
I love Zimbabwe.
And her people.
And what these days is teaching me about the love and joy that lie deep in our collective.
I will end with the words of a friend, Amanda:
“Yesterday, after decades of living with fear, oppression and division, Zimbabweans, in one day, countered all that with love, freedom and unity. True UNITY – not a veneer of politically correct, well marketed, lets make it look good for the cameras crap but a deep sense of real oneness. We purged all that heavy negativity that we’ve been carrying around for far too long and replaced it with liberating, laughing, smiling Joy.
The most important thing for me yesterday wasn’t about getting rid of an old man or flipping the middle finger to SADC or showing support to the people that led us onto the streets. It was about each and everyone of us remembering that we really, fucking truly are all ONE. What an empowering realisation that is. Whatever tomorrow holds we will face it together and we will triumph because what happened yesterday has made us strong again.”