I know that Zimbabweans have resigned themselves into expecting anything from their leaders – no matter how horrendous and disgraceful – as that has been the shameful hallmark of the regime ever since taking power in 1980.
From the cold-blooded massacring of over 20,000 innocent men, women, and children purely based on their ethnicity, and butchering hundreds more for supporting the opposition – to maiming, abducting, torturing, beating up, and arresting perceived political opponents on spurious charges (as well as burning down their homes to the ground).
One would have thought we had seen it all in Zimbabwe – yet, what I read in the media yesterday was even more shocking.
Of course, it was not as heinous and sadistic as the usual cutting off the limbs of those critical to the ruling establishment, or gang raping female opposition activists, or gouging out unborn babies from their mothers’ wombs using gun bayonets – but, it was still shocking, none the less.
Apparently, during a tour of exhibition stands at the ongoing Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) by president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, it was reported that an unidentified man was ‘tackled and taken away’ by state security agents for ostensibly shouting, “Huya pano iwewe!” (you, come here!), presumably towards Mnangagwa.
It was alleged that, a uniformed police officer grabbed the man and slapped him once, and then the president’s plain clothes close protection officers led him away.
We have heard of numerous people being repeatedly arrested under a dubious law that criminalizes insulting and denigrating the name of the president – despite, being declared unconstitutional several years ago.
Nonetheless, yesterday’s event just took on a whole new sickening level – which made my mind ponder over a question that has puzzled me for decades.
Why is it that – in this day and age, when the human species has significantly evolved from the medieval mindset, and become more civilized and mature in terms of our reasoning capabilities, as well as our understanding of human relations and democracy – we still have national leaders who consider themselves demi-gods, who are infallible, and beyond reproach, such that any ‘mere mortal’ who dares speak out, or stand up, against them, is worthy of punishment?
Surely, I would have thought that we had since moved on from the days of kings and queens who would charge anyone, who expressed dissent, with treason – with the subsequent, “Off with his head!” shout.
I honestly fail to wrap my head around this.
I try to imagine myself being the president of Zimbabwe, for instance, and then someone shouting at me, “Tendai unopenga!” (Tendai, you’re mad!) – why would I find offence in that, and more specifically, why should that person be worthy of punishment?
Would that not be the height of immaturity and savagery, if I were to be offended, and have that person punished?
Even my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (who I believe is God’s Son, and a God in His own right) was insulted and even called all sorts of unsavory names, such as, ‘mad’, ‘Baal’, a ‘drunk and glutton’, and so many others – yet, He never found any offence, neither was He angered, nor did He pray for His heavenly Father to consume His accusers with fire and brimstone.
As a matter of fact, when He was being crucified, Jesus actually passionately prayed for His killers to be forgiven.
Why then, would a mere president believe himself better or more important than God?
Let us also not forget that, in any true democracy, a leader is elected by citizens – and, as such, unlike God, or even an earthly father or mother (who are not elected by their children), a president is actually subject to the people who placed him in office, and pay his salary through their taxes.
Why then, can we not question, or even insult our own subject?
As much as any civilized person needs to respect the next person (irrespective of their station or position in life) – and, there is really no need for the spewing of insults and derogatory words – however, a leader is supposed to be the ‘bigger person’, and not be easily offended.
A true leader should be driven by genuine compassion – even towards those who hate, oppose, or speak out against him or her.
In fact, an event like yesterday’s was a missed opportunity by the president to step up and show his leadership qualities, by demanding that the unnamed man be immediately released, and all these who mistreated him be held accountable.
However, when we still have leaders who have no qualms arresting and manhandling – or even murdering, torturing, mutilating, abducting, and gang raping – any who oppose them, then we are still centuries behind the rest of the civilized world.
It is so shameful.
© 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