An 18th century French philosopher, lawyer, monarch apologist and absolutist Joseph de Maistre said, “Every nation gets the government it deserves.” The contextual relevance of this statement can still be weighted today. What has Zimbabwe done to deserve a 33 year old Mugabe led government? Or more precisely, what has Zimbabweans not done to deserve Mugabe’s 33 plus years in power? The answer to the latter is poignantly answered by the historical overview of our own dear leader.
Mugabe’s tyrannical disposition persuades many to totally erase his early political formative years. We should not. He was a true revolutionary then and very sincere at that. The teacher wanted his fellow black citizens to be free from oppression. He took necessary steps to effect that change and he paid the price. He was imprisoned for ten years. He was denied the rite to travel to Ghana to bury his first child, Nhamodzenyika, who died at the tender age of three. He did not give up until his noble aspirations were realized in 1980.
At the very least the Mugabe of the 1960s, and 1970s perhaps, realized that if Zimbabweans did not act to rid themselves of oppression, no one would. To be undeserving of the evils of oppression required action. Mugabe acted. Unfortunately, the trappings of power overhauled the very person Zimbabwe wanted to identify with freedom. Mugabe replaced an oppressive but competent regime with an oppressive and incompetent regime. For the past three decades corruption, nepotism, oppression, intolerance and all the hallmarks of poor governance have disgraced Zimbabwe. The announcement of the cabinet on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 begs the question, what are Zimbabweans going to do to get the government they deserve or do we deserve the government that we have?
The action or none action we take is instructive. Nothing new is going to come from the present government. It is going to be the same old same and potentially worse, because the powers that be know how unpopular they are. The need to calibrate and fine tune the machine to an efficient dictatorship is overwhelming. Jonathan Moyo is back, and that ignoramuses like Chinotimba are ZANU PF’s members of parliament is telling. Chinotimba’s over zealotry and violent disposition is invaluable to ZANU PF, because ZANU PF’s politics is politics of patronage and not of good ideas. But is it going to be the same old response from the general public? I hope not and encourage not.
Ladies and gentlemen, Zimbabwe needs to stand up for herself. We tend to think that functioning democracies are blessed. The fact is, every country is blessed. The blessing is ensconced in each individual’s ability to realize his or her power to think and act independently, and to steer the country which way he or she deems fit without surrendering to political hegemony and exploitation. People power is not an abstract. It is real. The beholders just need to realize that truism and act on it. Functioning democracies did not wake up one day and find democratic values falling from the sky like manna from heaven. The citizens of those countries fought for and won the right to democratic governance and freedom. They nursed and harvested a culture of democracy. As a result, they don’t trust politicians. They are right, they shouldn’t. Neither should Zimbabwe. They jealously protect their hard won right. They relentlessly participate in the daily politics of their countries. They hold their leaders accountable. They define themselves and refuse to be defined or dominated by politicians. Politicians are answerable to them and not the other way round.
Generally, and in particular reference to Zimbabwe, politicians are corrupt and power hungry. They will stay in power if they are not forced out. Guess who? The only way for politicians to relinquish power is either through an established political culture mandating constitutional limits or, where such culture is absent, by popular pressure or civil unrest. Mugabe has a five year term, but we should never delude ourselves into thinking that ZANU PF is planning to put in place conditions that are conducive to a culture that encourages good governance.
An overdue discussion must be had on how the currency of ZANU PF has paralyzed many to political docility. There is too much reliance on the expectation that ZANU PF will implode and when that happens, a better political dispersion will be ushered in. This is myopic and dangerous. Myopic because Zimbabwe is expecting an entity which has for the past three decades specialized in retaining power, by violence, misinformation and disinformation, to all of a sudden collapse? ZANU PF has every incentive to stay in power: mineral wealth, fear of retribution and the debauchery that comes with power, to name a few. Dangerous in that, if ZANU PF implodes infighting will ensue and engulf the innocent.
ZANU PF is very deceptive. We all know that. Is it therefore possible that the factionalism reported from “very reliable sources” may be manufactured? Let’s analyze this hypothesis.
If the reported deep schism between Mujuru and Mnagagwa does exist then the Mnagagwa faction has won. Solomon Mujuru died. I am not one to speculate on the cause of his death. If the factionalism is as cut throat as reported, Solomon’s death robbed his faction of a stalwart if not the kingpin. If that is the case, the smoothness in which Solomon’s death was handled is a marvel, because no matter the cause of death, factionalism does not know diligence or objective reasoning. Suspicion lingers and conspiracy theories play out to their logical conclusion. Don’t get me wrong. I am not absolving or accusing anyone. Those who know are not talking but those who talk seem not to know what happened to Solomon. The alleged factionalism is not convincing, or if there is one, the depth of the schism is not as deep as alleged. If it was, then surely the death of Solomon Mujuru should have seen some movement of some dominos. Granted the ZANU PF nucleus is shrinking and hangers on are jumping onto the gravy train. But ZANU PF’s housekeeping should and is irrelevant to how political participation works.
The general public should not look at what ZANU PF does or does not do as the barometer for political interest and/ or political participation. Political activism and participation should be a way of life irrespective of who is in power. That is the only way people can regain their decency and rebuild their country. There may be some utility if ZANU PF implodes, but we should be mindful of unintended consequences. Innocent people will die and the vacuum may be filled by a monster. ZANU PF can be defeated without imploding. And maybe it is for the better. It is not the destruction of ZANU PF that matters, but a chance of democratic space. Perhaps political defeat will force the dinosaur to find a reason to rid itself of the apparent decay. However, all is contingent on people reclaiming their power and changing the way politics is handled. Nicodemuses may have assumed their role to survive political persecution, but Zimbabwe does not need timidity right now if she expects to grow and survive. There is a need for political humanism.
Zimbabweans can start reclaiming their freedom by stop calling these political leaders ‘chefs’, a word which ordinarily means a restaurant cook, but a hero worshipping term in Zimbabwe. Such terms empower them and make them believe in their self importance to the extent that they don’t feel answerable to the very people they are supposed to represent. It is this generation’s obligation to fight for its own freedom and have a government that it deserves, unless it deserves the current government.