Jackie Cahi (Kufunda Village)


Driving from Zimbabwe to South Africa last week made me think about some of the ways in which activism has/might change in the future.  The border post between the two countries is like stepping into the edge of a war zone – except that there are no guns hidden behind sandbags,  but there might as well be.  A pall of dust settles over the whole town.  The road to the border is continually under construction and the detour is pitted with craters from the heavy lorries that constantly rumble through the town.  People are littered everywhere.  Lines of ancient taxis waiting to carry pedestrians and their goods to and from the barbed wire border fence.  Where are we going?  To the land of freedom?  South Africa? From the land of freedom? Zimbabwe? A question of perception.


But although apartheid is no more – the structures in South Africa are still very much in place.  As we leave the border and stop in the first town I am overwhelmed by the consumerism.  We come from a land of shortages and no choice and these shops are packed with a range of goods and people frantically shopping.  We listen to a program on the radio where the Reserve Bank Governor is trying to stop people spending over the Christmas period.


So those activists of old did remove apartheid.  South Africa’s borders have opened and entrepreneurs can now fly the world to purchase all sorts of goods to bring home to feed the insatiable maw of shoppers.  But the underlying power and state structure remains the same.  NOW activism aims to shift those structures – not by reaction but by Action – living the life we want/need to lead in order to sustain our planet and its people.


It is quiet activisms that are needed now. When people get together in serious and meaningful conversation and focus on what can be achieved positively in families, in small groups in immediate communities – things start to shift. It is time for Action as opposed to Reaction.  It is very easy in today’s Zimbabwe to remain constantly and impotently angry.  Once we start ‘acting’ even in a small way – we retrieve some of our power.  Many things have been taken away from us – shelter, housing, jobs, education, health and it is easy to settle into victim mode and wait for rescue.  When we seize the chance ourselves to make an action we begin to reclaim ourselves and our power for transformation.


The examples emerging around the world reflect this ‘action’ – small everyday actions where people refuse to be victims. I think the key similarities are strengthening of self in relation to communities. 


Almost everyone who strives in any way to shift a situation is an ‘activist’. In Zimbabwe a lot of us hide – out of fear, out of despair, out of exhaustion.  Others throw themselves continually into the firing line. A few weeks ago Trade Unionists were arrested for demonstrating and badly beaten and tortured.  Those activists were prepared to be beaten – the cynical view is that the outside world only takes notice when there is visible violence.  The government was openly unapologetic in spite of international condemnation.  This seems like an old ‘activism’ and one no longer useful.


NOW activism is about operating in new ways.  It is about living the way of life that we want. It is about ignoring governments and power structures and living change on a daily basis.


Some questions to ask of ourselves:

- What is the future you want to live?

- How do we want to be with our communities? 

- With our environment? 

- With our children?

- Who do we want our children to be?

I have spent a lot of my life being a ‘reactive’ activist.   As a NOW activist, I want to live a new life.  I want to work concretely on new solutions – working, talking and sharing with people another dream   shifting perceptions through actions…