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Kim Jong-il and Zimbabwe’s Future

21 December 2011, 15:07 lennonmhishi

 Whilst struggling with thinking of where to start writing, Kim Jong has gifted me, and of course the international media that was also a bit bereft of any major news to divert attention away from the world’s financial and economic  catastrophe, something to go on about. Not that his death is in any way a gift to me, or  am I as scared of the nuclear stuff and so forth. I am worried about tomorrow, about Zimbabwe. And the world. Kim Jong is dead.

Recent reportage on major issues in Africa, such as elections in the DRC, Tunisia, Egypt and the situation in Libya seem to have lost much of the currency they had. I understand news values, oddity, death,war, important people, name it what you will. What is bothering is how much sustained and critical engagement with any issue is almost impossible with the pace at which events are taking place. It makes me wonder if our concerns are as capricious, they ought to be swayed the moment a headline reads differently? What matters anymore, what the news says matters?

Anyway, I am sure you already have, or are asking, what are ‘the gays’, Kim Jong and Zimbabwe doing in the same line? Firstly, simply because they are issues being covered by the media and secondly, human rights come to mind at the mention of all three. Yes. Human Rights.

The late Kim Jong first. I expect the manner in which his death is to be covered by Zimbabwean media to depend on which extremity of the polarised Zimbabwean landscape one stands on. For some, it depicts the inevitable and natural demise any villain, or hero, will have to eventually face. For others it might represent a loss to the anti-imperialist camp, a blow ( nuclear-pun intended) to anti-American / anti-Western ,anti-interventionist  efforts.  But what does his death mean, if anything, for Zimbabweans? I have so little information about the current state of North Korea, gleaned from reports that are obviously not foolproof. The little suggests he governed with an iron hand, arbitrarily, although credited by some for bringing some sort of stability to the country. In short, he was viewed as a dictator. Seeing some North Koreans crying on national tv reminded me of many other instances I have witnessed of staged sympathy, or support. Not that they were not crying, but I just wondered, under a heavily militarised, iron-fisted regime, what are the consequences of not crying? On national tv! Frightening!! Sounds exaggerated!http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16241185. Or maybe he was truly loved!

Back to the lessons for Zimbabwe. I am not sure. One is definitely natural attrition, to which Kim Jong fell. It is the way for all of us. Nuclear weapons? A dynasty? Food for thought.

Now, the late Kim (not as good looking and sensational as the Kardashians, or maybe so?) is not well known for a remarkable report card when it comes to the issue of human rights. I think most North Koreans have an inalienable right to remain silent about that as well. Kim pressed the mute button constantly! That is what I have gathered from most media reports.

If so, Zimbabwe has little to envy or learn from an abusive human rights record. The country is in dire need of a transformed human rights culture, which is commensurate with the nature of human capital and economic development necessary for the much vaunted for local growth. Farewell Kim!

So little seems to be in the media about North Korea today, they may not have much chance to actually lie!! Are there gay people in North Korea? Kim seemed to serious to entertain rainbow flags. In Zimbabwe, I am aware that the issue of “the gays” has hogged the limelight in recent times. Madube has written well about it.http://madubesbrainpot.wordpress.com/.  Human Rights. Still the gargantuan elephant in the Zimbabwean room. Kim Jong, iron fist, nuclear, Zimbabwe, the gays? The issue of “the gays” in Zimbabwe is not as explosive as Kim Jong’s nuclear arsenal, but it has occupied media space as both Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and President Robert Mugabe have expressed their concerns on this matter.  Two people with different positions.On one end, an indecisive stance from outright dismissal, to tolerance, and on the other, total rejection of homosexuality, respectively.

My point, like Madube, is neither to establish a hierarchy of rights, nor trivialise sexual minority rights. I am more concerned about the place that events, and issues, such as Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, DRC, Kim Jong, “the gays “occupy in Zimbabwean media, as well as the political landscape. In asking questions around the kind of Zimbabwe we want to build, we are obviously not an island unto itself, and we cannot “go it alone” in the absolute sense. We learn and unlearn, and need allies for our fights to succeed, for us to fail forward, for failure is part of success.

What do Zimbabweans want? I cannot speak for all. In the past decade, the country has experienced political and economic problems that have also torn apart the country’s social fabric. Health, education, transport, electricity, food; basic social services have suffered. As political parties and individuals tussle for dominance, and try to influence the constitutional processes, are we saying “the gays” have been at the centre of the country’s problems that we need headlines about such, before we go back to basics?
I believe that the fundamentals for the respect of human rights, the foundations, are laid by first being capable of observing the inalienable rights to life and dignity. We are not yet talking of rights to a proper burial, if such are enshrined in law! We can only enjoy today what are called rights, if we are alive, and we also want future generations to be awarded such opportunities, or better. The “progressive” nature of human rights in my opinion means that what, for instance, Britain has said, about ceasing to assist countries that do not ratify gay rights, if I got it right, is misplaced.

In a country like Zimbabwe, the effects of economic and political demise and isolation are still felt. The health, physical, spiritual, psychological, of the population, is still in recovery mode. The trauma of dehumanisation lurks strongly amongst some of us. I still believe we need to go back to the basics first. Live and let live. Preach against violence as leaders of political parties have encouraged. Fight for sustainable engagement on how to make Zimbabwe the breadbasket it was, as we now own the land. Fight for health, education, clean water and other services. Revive the economy, create employment. Lessons from Kim Jong? I don’t know, but what I know is we need Zimbabwe working again.

It is easy to exogenously brand views barbaric, backward, and other tags without an adequate understanding of context. It is also easy to write, as I am doing, than to do, to make the moves to try and propel things forward. But that is no excuse for silence, or for diversion!

A golden thread on what we are going for as a country is constantly lost as we catch onto media fads, bandwagons of sensationalisation that carry nothing by way of reprieve to the people. We are at that stage where we need to take lessons, know what, and what not to follow, from what happens around us. Yesterday it was the cholera. Today it’s Gaddafi. Tomorrow Kim Jong, then back to the cholera. Let’s get back to the basics, give life to Zimbabweans, and fight for all manner of rights in line with what Zimbabweans really want, not what some claim they want!

I am still young and learning. I look to those who have gone before us for guidance. If what they write, what they report, sidelines the trials and tribulations we have gone through, what our country’s liberation stands for, then we will go in circles, in our polarised, parochial worlds. What are we learn? Are we to be appeased by statements of grandeur and possibility alone?

Maybe when we open up spaces for engagement, a “free”press, not so polarised media; when we start talking (not fighting) again as brothers and sisters, without fear, or favour, we may chart a common path, in our diverse ways. Maybe I should write of the need for a vibrant public sphere next!

“The gays”, Kim Jong, and Zimbabwe? What a mix of thoughts, the workings of a mind learning to write again. Rest in peace, dear dead leader, Kim Jong! Zimbabwe, the land of milk and honey, deserves better. “The gays”? In a country where it has been reported livestock theft carries a higher sentence than rape? Back to the basics.

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