Pride that made Zimbabwe great lies in ruins

I had intended to vent my anger on the increasingly incorrigible behaviour of South Africa's teenagers, their apathetic parents, a paralysed Education Department and a misfiring government.

I had intended to vent my anger on the increasingly incorrigible behaviour of South Africa's teenagers, their apathetic parents, a paralysed Education Department and a misfiring government.

However, I am inclined instead to focus on an ill-informed reaction by a journalist and former colleague to Sowetan's current series of articles on Zimbabwe.

"Why do you say there is a crisis in Zimbabwe and why do you say crossing the border is fraught with danger for those fleeing their country," he charged just the other day.

I was still mouthing an answer when he continued with his bombardment: "There is no danger at the Beit Bridge border post. Actually, it is not all that bad in Zimbabwe."

The former colleague was disgusted by the very idea of running the series. He detested everything about it. In the series, readers are invited to vote "yes" or "no" to whether the government's strategy on Zimbabwe is right.

"What do you mean by that? Why do you ask such a question," he pressed.

I have said before in this column that I am the kind of fellow who looks at you very closely if you perplex me.

Only this time I could hear him but not see him. He was on the other end of the line, you see. But I know him and he is my friend, though it is a while since we last met.

So, I let him go on with his tirade. I have heard many like him before. I realised that he is one of the cynics who say that anyone who dares to opine on the suffering of the African people of Zimbabwe either has an agenda, is a hypocrite, or an apologist for Morgan Tsvangirai and whites, and is a President Robert Mugabe hater.

And as my former colleague went on, only one question he had asked earlier kept dancing inside my head. "Why do you say there is a crisis in Zimbabwe?"

It conjured up the image of a road-weary woman trying to cross illegally into the country caught by South African soldiers armed with R1 rifles. So did the face flashing before my eyes of a man who walked more than 500km, leaving behind a young wife and two little sons to escape hunger.

More images jumped in my mind of men and women braving the Limpopo River and its crocodiles only to be arrested and deported.

I pondered the former colleague's anger at me, at Sowetan . I tried to fathom why and came to a sad conclusion.

What is happening in Zimbabwe ought not to be.

Zimbabwe is a proud nation that gallantly fought for its liberation from British colonialists. President Mugabe is a hero, not only in his country but across the continent.

Now, to answer my former colleague: Yes, the great Zimbabwe is in a crisis.

If a man runs away from his country to another because he is hungry, that is a crisis.

It is a crisis when a free country cannot feed its people.

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