Most countries on this planet had to fight grueling and devastating revolutionary wars, or liberation struggles, in order to secure their national independence from some form of colonial occupation, or another.
As to be understandable, victories were always met with much jubilation and excitement – since the advent of this long-fought-for hard-won ‘freedom’ from the constricting yoke of foreign subjugation, ushered in renewed hope for democracy, and respect for inalienable human rights.
History is flooded with such incidents – from Africa and Asia, to Europe and the Americas – all having fought brutal and savage wars for what they perceived as their God-given right of self-determination.
Indeed, our own Zimbabwe is by no means an exception – as we waged over a decade of a bruising and grueling liberation struggle, against ninety years of colonial rule.
Yet, within all the immense joy and high expectations of this national independence – most people made the major mistake of assuming that democracy would automatically be part of the package.
Tragically, very little did they know that this was seldom the case.
In fact, how many people knew that even when the US (United States) attained its national independence from England on July 4, 1776, with the subsequent signing of their first constitution (during the Constitutional Convention of 1787) – there were never any guarantees of citizens’ rights.
Such an unfortunate stance was strongly resisted by such founding fathers as George Mason IV, Edmund Randolph, and Elbridge Gerry – who adamantly refused to append their signatures to the new supreme law, unless these rights were included.
Of course, the other founding fathers threw out these demands – resulting in a constitution that was deafeningly quiet on the fundamental rights of US citizens, yet this was the same country that had just emerged from a bloody revolutionary war of independence.
The stubborn unwillingness and uninterested attitude of the founding fathers in guaranteeing the rights of their own people, is the main reason very few Americans have ever heard of such names as Mason, Randolph, and Gerry – who were, largely, cast into the dustbin of history.
Nonetheless, Americans themselves did not falter or weaken (under a false sense of freedom, and illusion of independence equalling democracy) in their demands for their God-given dignity and rights – as they relentlessly pushed until twelve amendments were finally made to their constitution, resulting in Articles III to XII being ratified on December 15, 1791, in what was to be called, the ‘Bill of Rights’.
Sadly, the people of Zimbabwe appear lost to this glaringly obvious fact – in our delusion that the national independence we gained on April 18, 1980 has something to do with the ushering in of a new democratic dispensation.
For the information of those who may not have known this fact – there was hardly much democracy to talk about that came with independence from Britain.
In fact, besides a few legislative changes as the Legal Age of Majority Act (LOMA), removal of racial segregation, and others – what real changes were made to the colonial system?
The answer is a troubling – NONE!
Just as the case with the US of 1776 to 1791 – the Zimbabwe of 1980 to date, is primarily a mere continuation of the colonial system, under different faces.
However, unlike Americans who swiftly stood up for the guaranteeing of their rights within a relatively short space of time – although, history will tell us that these ‘rights’ did not include those people outside the white race – Zimbabweans have remained mainly docile and inert.
Admittedly, some may point to the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013 – which has an entire Chapter 4 ‘Declaration of Rights’ – but, the question still remains…have these rights ever been institutionalized, and systemically entrenched?
It is one thing having some token rights written in a document – yet, completely a different matter overhauling a system founded on oppression and the subjugation of the majority.
That is why – even today, eight years after the enacting of the current constitution – citizens can not peaceful demonstrate (especially, against the ruling elite), nor can they freely assemble and associate, nor is the right to life respected (witnessed by the callous cold-blooded fatal shooting of unarmed protestors in 2018 and 2019).
We still have those (predominantly opposition, labour, and human rights activists) being arrested on spurious charges (without any significant resultant convictions), and some reportedly subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The opposition and civil society organizations have repeatedly been denied their labour, political, and freedom of conscience and expression rights – with the MDC Alliance leadership being subjected to intense brutality, and gatherings heavy-handedly descended upon under the pretext of COVID-19 restrictions, yet the ruling ZANU PF freely gathers hundreds and thousands of supporters.
Provisions regulating the conduct of elections (Chapter 7), as well as the independence of ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) in Chapter 12 – have hardly been aligned to the country’s laws – with the electoral playing field largely regarded as uneven and unfair, whilst the electoral body being perceived as a puppet of the ruling establishment.
Yet, we hear the country’s ruling elite embarrassing themselves in public, by alleging that they did not understand what the whole fuss over electoral reforms was all about, and what exactly these reforms entailed.
Oh, please! Just read the constitution, already!
Are our traditional leaders abiding by the provisions of Chapter 15 – which prohibits them from any political alignments (as opposed to the blatant and flagrant violations we have been witnessing, with chiefs operating as ruling party political commissars in their rural areas)?
How about the security sector and judiciary – are they honestly being faithful to Chapters 11, and 8 of the country’s sacred law, by being impartial and disinterested in the delivery of their mandates?
I could go on and on – but, what I can give at this moment are questions, and leave the rest to the people of Zimbabwe to answer – as they read the country’s constitution on their own, and deduct for themselves what these are.
However, one thing is for sure – Zimbabweans should not continue deluding themselves into believing that national independence brought with it democracy.
No, it did not!
As a matter of fact, in any country that has fought hard for its national sovereignty – there had been a need for the citizenry to fight even harder for their democracy and rights from their ‘liberators’.
Most ‘liberators’ came, not as saviors of the ordinary citizens – but, as mere replacements of the former colonizers.
The struggle for freedom is still needed in Zimbabwe!
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org