via From dictatorship to democracy NewsDay by Vince Musewe October 10, 2013
A tyranny does not necessarily have to be violent. Ask Zimbabweans. Actually, a non-violent one is more pervasive, more real as citizens begin to believe that there is no outside.
In Zimbabwe, it has created a persuasive and repetitive myth that only one man can be President for life; that only Zanu PF members can have access to new opportunities and lead a better life than most; that only those who are politically connected through birth, association or sheer audacity must have an advantage and be entitled unbridled access to the wealth of Zimbabwe. That only our “freedom” fighters can be heroes.
It will not be easy to change our circumstances or move our country into a modern democracy because we have been psychologically complicit in creating a social system that does not respect our own needs and aspirations. Our tyranny is manufactured by the people of Zimbabwe, for the people of Zimbabwe — that is the hardest fact to accept.
You see, dictatorships can only arise and flourish where very specific conditions are met. Critical to an effective dictatorship are people with a low self-esteem and who have a victim mentality. People who believe it is outside them that change can emanate. In such instances, the political leadership must also meet these same conditions; they must have a destructive and incessant low self-esteem and must, therefore, put to good use all tools and forms of oppression to shield their egos and vulnerability.
They must continually claim all that is good in society, and blame all that is bad on others. This works in arresting potential, stifling growth, spreading poverty and hopelessness so that citizens may remain complainants to a system that they abhor.
Dictators mirror their low self-esteem on the society which they seek to oppress and in that society, must be those individuals who are willing to support that low self-esteem with theirs.
A dictator must surround himself with praise singers and charlatans whose only interest is to see how they can benefit from the dictator. The dictator will then reward those who praise and fear him and incarcerate or injure those who refuse to do so.
He will bring close those he fears so that he may decimate their individuality and independent thought. This psychology of victim mentality slowly and thoroughly spreads itself in every sphere of society and becomes the DNA of that society. Everything is designed and manipulated to extend and fortify the lie that there is no outside.
You must agree with me that this is a formidable force to dismantle. Societies change slowly; a day at a time and that is our task here in Zimbabwe. It will take new conversations about an alternative to be repeatedly discussed and shared with all. It will take years of reconditioning the minds of our citizens so that they can begin to believe that they are the source of the fuel to our dictatorship; that they must actually shut down that supply if things are to change for the better. That is where we must go as a society.
We will face harsh resistance from those who are to benefit from retaining the status quo and a lukewarm response from those who could benefit from the any changed circumstances. It is a protracted battle of ideas that is lonely, difficult and unpredictable.
In my view regardless of what some are saying now, the MDC began 13 years ago to try and take us there and we must have the foresight and the courage to continue on that road despite how bleak our future may look now.
The difficult task is how we lead our communities so that their quality of life cannot be negatively impacted upon by bad politics. How do we create a society that is not driven by fear of loss of income or assets if they choose an outside? How do we prevent a dictatorship from using economics to imprison us?
In my books, corporate Zimbabwe is guilty of perpetuating this dictatorship. The middle class, who join the Central Intelligence Organisation, for example, in droves to buttress the oppression of Zimbabweans, are guilty. The greedy businesspersons, small traders and economic chancers we hear about every day who continue to seek political favour to gain an unfair advantage are also guilty of perpetuating a system that oppresses them.
We have also seen how those that are in opposition politics and claim to represent the interests of those who want an outside have become persuaded and are now complicit in strengthening this tyranny. Most of us have, therefore, played a decisive role and in part created the very conditions that we continue to complain against and blame.
Can a dictatorship such as this be dislodged through free and fair elections? Can our society destroy this pervasive and evil foundation from within?
My answer to the first question is no, unless the international community aggressively intervenes because change can only be fuelled from outside our society. Those Zimbabweans in the Diaspora can indeed assist and stop complaining why things have not changed.
My answer to the second question is yes, but this will take a while.
That is the journey we must take now; to destroy in our minds the myth that there is no outside. To accept that yes, we have been the fuel to this dictatorship and we can indeed change our circumstances through a deliberate albeit slow effort of changing our minds.
Believe me, it will not be easy or profitable in the short-term, but in my opinion, we can indeed move Zimbabwe from a dictatorship to a democracy if we choose to.
Vince Musewe is an economist based in Harare. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org