A Message from Zimbabwe – Sometimes Speech is Not Free

On November 2nd, in between getting off the train and going to the gym, I pulled up to my polling location, ran in, voted, and ran back to the car. 

All told, the entire process took less than four minutes – 240 seconds for Democracy. 

Imagine if instead, exercising the right to vote meant constant intimidation, harassment or threats.  Maybe a few tours in prison.  Throw in a little humiliation, torture and mutilation.  Top it off with murder. 

Welcome to Zimbabwe and the Mugabe regime; the land of free elections that have resulted in all of the above.

This past week, at a conference in France with my wife and great friends Julie Roginsky and Dennis Culnan, I had the opportunity to meet with the leadership of the Zimbabwe Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – true patriots, each of whom sacrificed an enormous amount individually for the right for Zimbabweans to have free election and democracy. 

Over the course of a few days, I watched  Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Minister of Agriculture Roy Bennett give very moving speeches, and spent a great deal of time with a fantastic  communicator, Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Nelson Chamisa (see video above).

 Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, is a hero, who speaks with eloquent wisdom and much optimism for a man who has survived countless assassination attempts, imprisonments, exile, and violence.

Roy Bennett is a very warm, affable man who speaks in a soft tone and is always smiling – one would never know that he and his pregnant wife were beaten; he was imprisoned, and has had to live in exile in the past – all for the fighting for the right for democracy in Zimbabwe.  Roy showed Nicole, Julie and I graphic images of tortured Zimbabwe citizens that are permanently implanted in my memory.

Nelson Chamisa is an eloquent statesman and an amazing person.  Nelson is in his early thirties, has been a leader in the fight for democracy his entire adult life, and has suffered greatly for it.  We often complain about the hassle of the new airport security regulations.  Preparing to board a plane to Belgium, Nelson was attacked in broad daylight in the middle of the airport by security, beaten with iron bars, and left for dead with a broken skull (see video above) – the details are much worse and I am not going to share them. 

We all know that dictators and despots remain throughout the world; however we don’t always get to meet the people who are challenging them.  The Prime Minister, Roy, Nelson, Minister of State Jamison Timba and Chief of Staff Ian Makone have had a profound impact on me.

There’s no shortage of commentary about how bad things are in the US.  One week after the midterm elections, let’s take a minute to reflect on how good things are instead.

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4 Responses to “A Message from Zimbabwe – Sometimes Speech is Not Free”

  1. Matt – Terrific article. Thanks for shining a light on a part of the world that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. Safe travels.

  2. Dear Mr. Eventoff,

    I commend you on your blog post. It’s an accurate description of that these men are all about.

    I want to invite you to review, sign and share an online petition in support of Hon. Bennett at

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/263/justice-for-Roy-Bennett/

    It will be posted until December 24, 2010 and the signature goal is 10.000. The dream? To surpass that goal. But we need many many more signatures, as we have collected 749 so far. Signatures can be anonymous by checking the ‘Don’t display my name’ box under the name fields.

    In the name of all who have contributed to this small effort in support on an extraordinary man, I thank you in advance for any support you can provide. Like one of the undersigned aptly wrote:

    “I know it takes a village. But ONE person can make a difference. One at a time!”

    Best regards.

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