When will it be Zimbabwe's turn?

IT IS widely believed that the revolution that led to the changing political landscape in Tunisia was the spark that ignited similar events in Egypt earlier this year.

The intensive campaign of civil resistance that sent longtime president of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali packing, sent a message to Egyptians that they too can force Hosni Mubarak to take a walk into the sunset.

And now it is Libya’s turn. The fight against Muammar Gaddafi has intensified, but despite the intelligible writing on the wall, he is steadfastly holding on to power.

Regardless of the outcome of this showdown, the salient message is that the people of Libya have dared to challenge him. Whether or not they succeed will not eclipse the bravery of their actions.

In attempting to loosen the grip that Gaddafi has had on them for 42 years, they have earned the right to be called gallant.

This then begs the question: "When will it be Zimbabwe’s turn?"

I wondered whether events described above have had any effect on Zimbabweans who are unhappy with their president.

What kinds of conversations are Zimbabweans having with each other and are they closing their eyes, imagining that one day, they will experience the catharsis and fire that other African countries are now experiencing?

When Libyans are being brutally gunned down by the army in Benghazi and yet wake up the next day, ready to continue the battle, does this give the shackled people of Zimbabwe any ideas about the price that needs to be paid for freedom to reign again?

Of course, South Africans would not allow this conversation to take place between Zimbabweans alone and added their two cents’ worth. Some sympathised with the plight of displaced Zimbabweans and their kin whom they’ve left back home but others were less solicitous.

They accused Zimbabweans of being in a comfort zone, spoilt, cowardly and not prepared to sacrifice in the fight to reclaim their country. They argued that a revolution can never happen without personal and collective losses.

The responses from Zimbabweans were also varied and thought-provoking.

There were those who still blamed former South African president Thabo Mbeki for their woes while others argued that Mugabe is unbeatable and has spies everywhere.

The apartheid government was once monolithic and impenetrable. It too had infiltrated its spies, black and white, into the liberation movement, yet, eventually, the beast was vanquished.

There was a caller who pointed out that without a strong civil society and leadership, there will be no change in Zimbabwe.

One man’s candour took my breath away. He said: "Redi, I am afraid. Mugabe has educated us, we are scattered all over the world. Do I give up my profession, stop providing for my children and take up arms? Where do I start? I hate war."

For this man, the prospects of a full-on civil war or revolution, and the concomitant bloodshed are prices too high to pay. The lesser of the two evils, sadly for him, is Mugabe.

Other respondents pointed the finger at the West, crying that because of a lack of oil, they would never get the support that would help them overthrow Mugabe.

While it may be true that support from outside forces is crucial and that the US has not always been motivated by the milk of human kindness when entering a war, this on the part of Zimbabweans is a cop out.

Egyptians started their own revolution, regardless of the fact that Mubarak was a friend of the US and Britain.

If Mubarak’s Western allies had given him military support, he would still be in power. The protesters pushed him out at great risk to themselves.

One Zimbabwean man said: "We are cowards". This is not entirely true because there are brave Zimbabweans who are fighting this battle from all fronts. They can be found in the media and civil society but clearly, their efforts are not enough.

I do not know what I would do if I were Zimbabwean.

I do not know what it is like to have terror as an albatross around my neck. But change is always possible and often comes at a tremendous cost. – Sowetan