Focus on the important things

I have been wondering about the ‘sorrow’ and ‘disappointment’ being felt in certain quarters over the recent Constitutional Court’s ruling to uphold the July 31st election date. Leaders of the different MDC formations had filed an application seeking an extension of the poll date only last month, following the Maputo SADC summit. Among other things, the MDCs argued that Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa had presented a ‘weak’ argument at the Concourt. But what did the MDCs expect, and whose side exactly do they reckon Chinamasa is on? Of course, he was instructed by SADC to undertake a process he personally did not subscribe to, so enough with the whining already. It is time to face the facts and re-strategize.

 At the same time, it has been interesting to try and make sense of what the ‘urgent’ court application to extend the poll date would have accomplished. Picture this; had the Concourt allowed for polls to take place on either August 12 or August 25: what exactly were the MDC formations hoping to achieve in those two or so weeks? Certainly not to facilitate implementation of all outstanding reforms set out in the Global Political Agreement! All the parties had what, how many years, and more than sufficient time to ensure the implementation of necessary reforms. Why scurry now? In any case, the recent official dissolve of Parliament would have made it next to impossible to implement any reforms no? Or perhaps it was a case of them just not being ready and trying to buy time, like being caught unawares kunge varoyi vaedzerwa, my grandfather would say. Even the Concourt rightly questioned why the parties failed to approach the court immediately after its May 29 ruling. Some people have perfected and normalized the culture of doing things last minute in this country.

More than anything, the argument against the early election date should probably have been less selfish and considered issues like the limited and frustrating voter registration process, which unfortunately terminated quite prematurely yesterday. The long queues that could still be seen snaking out of different registration centers yesterday were indicative of how the early poll date only grossly disenfranchises the electorate.

The women’s movement recently took to the RG’s office with a raft of sensible demands that included among other things, a more gender sensitive voter registration exercise that would take into account the need for more time and shorter walking distances, separate queues for men and women, special attention to the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women and women with children. Add to this, requisite nationwide voter education – which has been made clear to be the preserve of ZEC – has hardly started. A lot of people will go to the polls, without actually understanding what they have to do. Perhaps the Concourt would have been more sympathetic had the parties put the interests of people first rather than demonstrate a desperate desire to hold on a little longer onto their political careers.

Today’s papers claim that the political parties are questioning ZEC over the ‘sudden, suspicious ballooning’ of police officers in the election period. If there is any truth in this, it must be said now that these people must stop being preoccupied with the little things and concentrate on their game plan. We have three weeks for crying out loud. Heavy police and army presence are never a shock in Zimbabwe, particularly during silly season.

While many people are desperate for change, the behaviors of these parties do nothing to elicit confidence. We need serious people, who have their eyes on the ball and are willing to sacrifice, even for a little bit, their political interests and put the people first.

 

A new attitude

As the New Year settles in, many at this point are or have been preoccupied with making New Year resolutions. For me, this is more of a time of reflection, while I leave resolution making to my birthday. So I still have four good months to go on that one! However, in the process of reflecting back on 2012, I recently dug up one of my favorite inspirational books – A Life Worth Living, by Nicky Gumbel. It is one of those books that you read and can keep re-reading from time to time because each time you manage to glean something ‘new’ or some message you can really do with at a particular point in time. I have about four of such books, including Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, and Rabison Shumba’s Greatness Manual. In Gumbel’s A Life Worth Living, I came across something I marked in pencil a few years back. The paragraphs I marked describe an ideal kind of life with the ‘right attitudes’ with which one can never go wrong. The paragraphs also make reference to ‘wrong attitudes’ one should aim to desist from, whenever turning over a new leaf. You will find that these lessons are actually nothing new, but in our humanness; we often forget and can do with reminders. Below I have highlighted some of the key lessons that may be of interest to reflect on in this New Year. They are paraphrased in most places for easier reading:

Wrong Attitude 1: Self Importance

Or vain conceit, which can be described as the desire for personal prestige. This is the type of prestige, which for many people is even greater than wealth. To be respected and admired, to have a platform seat, to have one’s opinion sought, to be known by name and appearance, even to be flattered, are for many people most desirable things. However self-importance can be very unattractive, and there is a certain public relief in seeing such people deflated. Good attitude strives for the opposite of pomposity and pride, which is humility. If you aim to be humble, no matter how important you think you are, you go much further in having a more fulfilling life.

Wrong Attitude 2: Self-Centredness

Self-centredness is about being concerned only with ourselves and our own interests. Many consider self-centredness to be at the heart of the human problem. Martin Luther described fallen humanity as ‘man curved in on himself’.  Malcom Muggeridge describes the same as the ‘tiny dark dungeon of the ego’.  Most Poignant however are the words of William Temple:

I am the centre of the world I see; where the horizon is depends on where I stand… Education may make my self-centeredness less disastrous by widening my horizon of interest; so far it is like the climbing of a tower, which widens the horizon for physical vision while leaving one still the centre and standard of reference…

 

We are encouraged to look to the interests of others, which basically calls for an attitude of love in big and little things, not only in the whole direction of our lives, but also in the everyday actions. It is about how we treat others as encapsulated in the golden rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. This is more fulfilling.

Wrong Attitude 3: Selfish Ambition

Ambition is the desire to succeed. There is nothing inherently wrong with ambition in itself, particularly if it is genuinely subordinated to the glory of God. Selfish ambition is the one that’s problematic in that it brings unhappiness and to some extent disunity. Life is more valuable when in our endeavors to succeed, we seek to uplift others and give credit where it is due.

Wrong Attitude 4: Unkindness

Though Gumbel makes reference to unkindness as a generally wrong attitude, I would like to discuss it from a perspective rendered in reference to the question of love by my good friend Delta Ndou in a recent blog titled: What will be will be. Delta writes:

…people matter, and how you relate with them has a bearing on the quality of life you will enjoy… if someone loves you, treat them kindly especially if you do not reciprocate.

I thought to end on this note following some harsh experiences of unrequited love, which have recently affected some people I care about. It is a reality that people sometimes fall madly in love with other people who do not return the sentiment. A fact of life is that you cannot control whom you fall in love with or who falls in love with you. And very often, people that know they are loved wield a certain invisible power that makes them inconsiderate and capable of leading others on.  Considering the rules of karma and life in general, it is far much kinder to be straight than to mislead. What goes around often has a way of coming round.

Let 2013 be the year where you are not self-important, self-centered or unkind to those who love you. Happy New Year.

 

No hurry in Zim

I never once imagined that when I eventually resumed blogging, I would start by griping about what I think has become a badly pervasive culture in Zimbabwe. To the loyal fans who have visited this blog only to find naught, I’ll have you know that I have been quite snowed under with the pressures of school, work and recently a Master thesis that literally just killed my social life. Just this Wednesday I handed in a 118 page thick thesis to the National University of Science & Technology (NUST). Good riddance never felt so good. But I digress.

Will somebody tell me, what is it with events, functions and the like always starting an hour or more behind schedule in Zim? Every public function I have attended in the last quarter, things start an hour or so late. You know what’s even more interesting? People just seem to be ok with it. I used to take for granted the popular quip that ‘there is no hurry in Africa’, but it’s all coming to me now. Just yesterday, I was at the Book Café by 1730hrs (scheduled start time) on the dot for a book launch. One hour and thirty minutes later, nothing had started. I asked the author, what it is we were still waiting for, and she told me squarely that we were waiting for ‘a few more people’. Reflex gag. And what were the 30+ strong crowds of early comers sitting around tables expectantly and sipping on the cheap wine, zombies? I’m sorry, but I find it utterly disrespectful and inconsiderate to keep punctual people waiting for more than an hour, especially without proffering some kind of apology. I think what irked me the most was realization of the fact that for this author, the measure of starting the event was not time but rather, crowd size. Frankly, I think that if people are so crazy about your event, they would not be over an hour late but rather, at least 5 minutes early ahead of schedule. Just saying.

And to think, we were waiting for people we didn’t even know were coming or not, people who probably were already in bed in their homes? No, lets not promote this kind of behavior any further. I believe this is whats partially killing our country – having a lackadaisical approach to things we should take really seriously. As can be imagined, I left in protest. Probably my loss, but I was not about to give two more seconds of my time to discourteous hosts and time wasters. Perhaps I was supposed to understand, since this was, after all, a book launch wherein more numbers of people could translate into more book sales. But I honestly think that sometimes in trying to get more, we lose some in the process. A fine balance is always critical. Exercising the law of two feet is something I have resolved to do now, and I am always courteous enough to check with the host before I leave. Well, except in very special circumstances where either my life or career depends on it..

I opted rather to attend the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) meeting at Crowne Plaza discussing this interesting new concept of election running mates. Unfortunately I failed to make that too because thanks to Harare City council, the section of Park Street leading to the hotel was cordoned off and inaccessible; there seemed to be a lot of digging going on around there too. As to be expected, there was traffic chaos, the kind that just motivates one to just go home and forget whatever it is you wanted to do. What a waste of a perfectly cool evening to be outdoors. Summer is nigh and welcome.

$tash

Zimbabwean police get away with breaking traffic law

breakdown

Police breakdown! - click image to enlarge

Police breakdown

No number plates, no red triangle police vehicle

This police truck was broken down on the busy Enterprise Road filter from Samora Machel. The policeman ‘guarding’ the vehicle was not very amused at seeing me snap away and nearly chased me.

What pisses me off is that, the police here can get away with driving unroadworthy vehicles such as this, and cannot afford to buy those little ‘break-down’ red triangles they are always harassing motorists for. I daresay they also didnt have the $3 reflector vest, $15 fire extinguisher, or working brakes in this vehicle!

This is Zim.