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View from up here - Absolute power, the precursor to deceptive democracy in Africa; The case of Zimbabwe

21 Jul 2020 at 08:27hrs | Views
"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." (John Dalberg-Acton)
In Shakespeare's Macbeth play, the relationship between the amount of power Macbeth obtained and the corrupt acts he committed was strict and direct. With no title, or only the title of his father, Thane of Glamis, he did not exhibit corruption. But as he amasses more power, such as gaining the title of Thane of Cawdor, his corruption became more and more evident.

This cannot describe Zimbabwean situation any better. However, Zimbabwe's political tragedy cannot be objectively analysed and understood if taken in isolation, but in the context and broader picture of political dynamics in Africa and beyond.
In the opinion piece, "This is How Democracies Die", Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, succinctly describe how leaders kill democracy and eventually become dictators. Below is an excerpt from the opinion piece.

"Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves. Like Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, elected leaders have subverted democratic institutions in Georgia, Hungary, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Ukraine.
Democratic backsliding today begins at the ballot box. The electoral road to breakdown is dangerously deceptive. With a classic coup d'état, as in Pinochet's Chile, the death of a democracy is immediate and evident to all. The presidential palace burns. The president is killed, imprisoned or shipped off into exile. The constitution is suspended or scrapped.

On the electoral road, none of these things happen. There are no tanks in the streets. Constitutions and other nominally democratic institutions remain in place. People still vote. Elected autocrats maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance.

Many government efforts to subvert democracy are "legal", in the sense that they are approved by the legislature or accepted by the courts. They may even be portrayed as efforts to improve democracy – making the judiciary more efficient, combating corruption or cleaning up the electoral process.

Newspapers still publish but are bought off or bullied into self-censorship. Citizens continue to criticize the government but often find themselves facing tax or other legal troubles. This sows public confusion. People do not immediately realize what is happening. Many continue to believe they are living under a democracy.

Because there is no single moment – no coup, declaration of martial law, or suspension of the constitution – in which the regime obviously "crosses the line" into dictatorship, nothing may set off society's alarm bells. Those who denounce government abuse may be dismissed as exaggerating or crying wolf. Democracy's erosion is, for many, almost imperceptible"

"" Consider the words of Eduardo Mondlane, formerly head of FRELIMO…"FRELIMO and FRELIMO only knows [and] understands the real motivations of the people…[only FRELIMO knows how] to organize, to unite, to educate the people politically…FRELIMO [therefore] appears  as the incarnation of the will and aspiration of the Mozambican masses, the depository of national sovereignty and leadership of the fatherland"" (Robert Malley; The Call From Algeria)

This mindset of absolutism is the premise of killing real democracy [by most liberation movements] giving birth to the deadly deceptive democracy. They believe that waging an armed liberation struggle gives them [the autocrats] the absolute knowledge and absolute right to rule. Therefore, anyone or any organization that has and preaches a different ideology is a traitor and hence they are enemies of the state. That's the beginning of stifling democracy.

ZANU PF, now under the leadership of the despot Emmerson "The Crocodile" Mnangagwa, has strengthened and continues the idea of absolutism which started during the rule of the late president Robert Mugabe. To achieve this, deceptive democracy was established…elections are held, opposition political parties are being formed, people are "allowed" to criticize the government, etc. However, this is to cover their political dirt that drives their clinging to power.

Joseph Stalin of USSR once said, "It's not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes." ZANU PF has stolen elections many a time through rigging. This is because all the institutions in Zimbabwe that have to do with elections have been and are headed by ZANU PF military autocrats and hence the total control and manipulation of the electoral process to their advantage.

"There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech." (Idi Amin of Uganda). This describes the typical political situation in Zimbabwe. At a rally in 2003, Mugabe said, "Let the MDC and its leadership be warned that those who play with fire will not only be burnt but consumed by that fire" Only a leader of a nation under quasi-democracy can utter such threats to a nation which has been denied its constitutional rights for years. Unfortunately, out of ignorance of the deception and the love for change, people fall into the trap. This results in illegal arrests, abductions, disappearances and killing of innocent people. The classic cases of Itai Dzamara, and of late the abductions of Hopewell Chin'ono, Cecilia Chimbiri, Joana Mamombe and Netsai Marova speak volumes about the deceptive democracy led and supported by the president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

I believe that ZANU PF has been and will always be a demagoguery organization that thrives on conspiratorial philosophies that help convince people to believe in and rally behind its politics of deception. Under Mugabe, the conspiracy was the west through the opposition are fighting to come and recolonize Zimbabwe, hence the famous chant, "Zimbabwe will never be a colony again" Targeted sanctions have been a scapegoat that has been used to drive the conspiracy theory of sanctions. At an interview with BBC, Emmerson Mnangagwa alluded to this when he said, "Sanctions are slowing down our progress, inhibiting our economic recovery and punishing the most vulnerable" Unfortunately, some people still buy this false narrative. This helps the ZANU PF goons perpetuate their grip to power.

Be watchful my beloved country, for those who lead us are wolves in sheep skin.

Source - Peter Muzira
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