via We’re all in the same boat – The Zimbabwean 1.10.2015
My outburst last week interrupted my discussion of our vision for a better society, but it did make a point about our need for equal access to education and that might be a good place to start this week.
We all have equal dignity because we are born human; being black, white or yellow, rich or poor, strong or sickly, clever or a bit slow doesn’t change that. That means we all start entitled to an equal ration of respect from everyone else. Some people earn more respect by their actions, others lose it by theirs – but we can’t deny any person all respect.
Because we have different abilities, we all have different needs when we come down to details. Life is a handicap race in which we all have different handicaps. To even it up, some need special education, some need special medical care. We all deserve equal chances, not the equality of peas in a pod. Society will only be perfect when we all make allowances for each other’s differences, loving each other as we do ourselves.
We can’t do that by making laws. We can only encourage everyone to remember that what one suffers hurts us all in the end: we are all in the same boat. We can reward good behaviour, but we can’t prevent all bad behaviour. We will need to discourage the worst behaviour, like murder and theft. We need to make rules for how anyone to whom we give power uses it.
They must know that we are watching every move they make and we have a right to do that, in self-defence. Questioning them is not disloyalty. It is common sense, because power can corrupt anyone. Anyone given power must use it transparently so that we can all check on him.
This is easier if power is decentralised so that the nearest representative of “authority” in your community lives in the community. That’s why some people insist an MP should live in his/her constituency. That is probably why, when a government commission asked in the 1990s who and how we wanted to organise land distribution, most people said they trusted their chiefs and headmen more than any government official. There were still many old-style chiefs at that time, who tried to be real fathers to their people, listening to all their problems, big and small, and being concerned about all of them.
A good father prefers to enrich his children rather than himself, and the old-style chief preferred to enrich his people rather than himself. I could name several such chiefs I have known, but the outstanding example lies now amomng some very dubious company at Heroes’ Acre; Rekayi Tangwena. Maybe the youth of today have not heard of him?
Rekayi became chief just after UDI. Some of Ian Smith’s supporters were casting greedy eyes on the Tangwena’s land, Gaeresi in Nyanga district. They tried to buy the Chief. Smith promised to build him a big house and give him a car and invited him to come and learn how to be “a proper chief”, if he would agree to his people being moved away from Gaeresi. He refused, saying his people would not move from where their ancestors were buried and he would not abandon his people.
Police burned their homes, but Rekayi and his people hid in the hills. When the war came, they took refuge over the next hill, in Mozambique and at Independence, Rekayi entered parliament; not as one of the appointed chiefs, but as an ordinary MP, elected by his people. He didn’t change his lifestyle. He was the only MP who insisted on his right to speak Shona in parliament and when he spoke, he spoke for the common people.
We need more chiefs like him. We need more councillors, MPs and civil servants like him. We probably need to make a few rules to encourage them to follow his example.