guest column Grace Chirenje

LAST week I had two encounters with two individuals I highly love, admire and respect. People whose wisdom I treasure and find useful. The first conversation was with a comrade brother who was explaining to me that in order to survive in peace in this world, there is need to understand the concept of a ship in water.

He went on to explain that as we live through life, we are like a ship cruising on water.

The ship sails smoothly on water and never lets the water get into it, otherwise it will sink. The trick, he said, is to keep the water out. The how is what I still am exploring. The
other conversation was with a feminist sister who told me that the world does not work on ideals, but that we need to be comfortable with our contradictions and work with them, so we are able to live through life with peace. I appreciated both streams of wisdom. It also got me thinking of my experiences with civil society in Zimbabwe and just the broad context of being Zimbabwean.


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Once upon a time, I was actively involved in leading civil society and at that time, you were either a supporter of MDC or Zanu PF. This meant everything one did or did not do was defined by these parameters.

There was no grey, things were either black or white. This meant even if you thought the land reform was a brilliant idea because you well understood the politics of land tenure, you still couldn’t support the land distribution programme because it was a Zanu PF-led programme.

The same when one thought that the MDC was not leading well and that there should be a better way of being, any speaking against the MDC status quo meant you were either an agent of the State or just a traitor of the struggle for democracy. Now, not only am I slightly matured and more experienced, I have learnt that, indeed, life is so full of contradictions.

So, let me give you an example. One can be a member of civil society and have a lover occupying the high echelons of power in a political party — any political party.

The fusion of ideologies and meeting of minds can be so integrated and yet clarity of boundaries is also very much defined. However, boundaries may also be fluid and clear at the same time as one tows the line of being in the CSO sector and yet also very aware of their boundary with their family ties of having a lover in a certain political party.

Does this mean a person is compromised? Not at all and in some respects they could be because we chose to be myopic in the way we want to box people. Sad.

The idea is to unlearn being polarised in Zimbabwe. We tend to look at life with a black and white lens which does not serve us at all.

In the book. 48 Laws of Power, Law 2 speaks about bringing enemies closer. It could be strategic to get to where one wants, hence they bed the so-called enemy.

At times it is just being who someone chooses to be. The point is, life is, indeed, full of many contradictions. It is in finding our peace in those contradictions that we get to experience our growth, power and continue to explore our truth.

Our lives are not packed into some neat little boxes that are always clear. Sometimes, we might not know and that too is alright. I guess the leadership and character is in admitting our lack of clarity, and that gains us respect and activates the universe to deliver the clarity that we seek. So, yes, my sister, living comfortably with our contradictions is a healthy space to be, and not keep living in strife.

She was right in saying let us find our peace with those contradictions because life is, indeed, never black or white — there are very many fifty shades of grey that lie in between. Can you, dear reader, explore your contradictions and find peace with them, especially in this political party polarised Zimbabwe?

Being the ship on water

When one is processing their contradictions or exploring the world and life to find their truth, the process is often messy. Any form of change is never linear, it is quite complicated and messy — that too is very much okay. However, many times human beings face resistance and that stirs up emotions they do not know how best to handle. We cannot pretend that we live life isolated, no. Life is full of interactions and some of these when we are exploring possibilities, in Zimbabwe for example, when our views differ, we begin to point fingers at each other. This often results in strife and turmoil. We curse, we fight and we strife in ways that more often than not damage not only us, but those we interact with. We want to show people who we truly are and what we are made of. Just look at our roads, our interactions and the way we are choosing to show up as a people at many levels. We are fragmented, hurting and this shows in the way we choose to just be as human beings. Our work culture and family lives have become so toxic it is almost like a script playing out from a thriller movie. It is just crazy.

However, that comrade brother of mine spoke of being a ship sailing on water. Well, unless you are the Titanic and hit an iceberg, the trick is to keep the water out. The water a ship sails on is a means to an end. It is what the ship uses to get to where it ought to go. The water stays outside the ship. Once the water gets into the ship, then we do know that we will have a similar situation to the Titanic; the ship will eventually sink. The same applies to life. Unless we keep the water out of the ship, we will sink. Those negative vibes we experience daily in life should not become our source of frustration, strife and define how we show up in life.

Like the ship, we chart the unexplored waters of emotions, contradictions and remain afloat.

This does not mean we just let people trample over us or that we fail to define our boundaries. Not at all. We do speak out. In Zimbabwe, for example, many things are going wrong and have been for a while. The truth is that the socio-economic and political context will not shift in the blink of an eye, no. As responsible citizens, we point out what is not going right as things ought to; we express ourselves and if it means we peacefully protest, so be it. After all, it is constitutional. Hoping that the system will not unleash its ugly head of atrocities, and unarmed citizens end up shot at.

We do have that responsibility to know and understand our rights and a collective bargaining of what needs to be achieved is always worthwhile. However, what we cannot afford to do is to let the current rotten systems defined by corruption, lethargic workers and all sorts of negative vibes get to us. Hard as it may, we choose to stay sane and hopefully get to a point where we will, one day witness a transformation of the status quo. For the sake of our sanity and progress, we keep sailing and do the very best we can to contribute to the greater good of society in whatever form we can. That is who as human beings; hold hands so that we make the world work for each of us. We keep sailing.


Life is a matter of choices, daily choices. Honestly speaking, in this tech craze era, what we see on social media is not the life people are living; there is an in-between reality we may never, ever be aware of. Sometimes we discover things we do not know how to handle, and we still need to process them, that is life. We do learn to live with our contradictions, so we find peace and not become eruptive humans. As we live this life with the contradictions, we also choose to be like a ship; we keep sailing so we get to where we plan to be.

Zimbabwe is a very beautiful country with amazing human beings, with great potential and skill. In order to keep transforming this country for the better, we choose to become progressive and hold hands to make life work. Now is the time we get up and do something within our means despite our contractions and the status quo. We each are a ship on water, we keep sailing. Let’s do this!