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In defence of the July 31, 2020 protests

29 Jul 2020 at 13:06hrs | Views
IN life there is only one constant; that is change. But for Zimbabweans of different generations from that of Father Zimbabwe, through to the born "frees" and the millenniums the common constant is the lack of freedoms.

These freedoms have been elusive due to Zanu-PF's deceit and misinformation. As the intergenerations of Zimbabweans are coming together for the July 31, 2020 protests, Zanu-PF misinformation machinery is now on overdrive. But lies have short legs.

In democracies the July 31, 2020 protests would be viewed just like the elections in terms of citizen engagement, not as a terrorist act as the government is insinuating.

In democracies there are a plethora of activities that the citizens can use to hold their governments to account, these are elections, referendums, protests, constitution-making process among others. Such activities are enshrined in powerful symbols of democracy and rule of law worldwide such as the Magna Carta, and the code of Napoleon. The activities also manifest informally at local level.

Therefore, it is not due to the benevolence of Zanu-PF and its government that sections 58, 59 and 61 of our Constitution provides Zimbabweans with the right and responsibility to demand accountability and ensure that government acts in the best interest of the people through protests. Constitutionally guaranteed rights are not tokens, neither are they privileges that are given and withdrawn whenever Zanu-PF deems fit.

Contrary to the demonisation of the NGOs by Zanu-PF, research has it that civil society through NGOs is instrumental in channelling citizens' voice, the 31 July style through engaging with political parties, elected representatives and relevant actors.

Zanu-PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa refers to the civil society as the evil society, but the world over, civil society is respected for its role of ensuring accountability. In the last 50 years the world has seen an exponential growth of NGOs. The presence and growth of NGOs in Zimbabwe cannot be attributed to the so-called country's detractors. The Zanu-PF narrative peddled by its gurus and their "hired" sympathisers is totally out of sync with worldwide trends.

The war veteran leader Christopher Mutsvangwa refers to the organisers of the July 31 protests as instigators. He vows that the so-called triangle of power, comprising the people, the security establishment and the war veterans is in support of the government and as a result, it will not allow the demonstration to take place. As usual he blames sanctions for the state of the economy.

This so-called triangle of power is exactly what is wrong with Zimbabwe not sanctions. In democracies governments derive their authority and power from the people not from the security establishment, war veterans or some other pressure group. Zimbabweans know very well that it is the top-down diktat of Zanu-PF that has brought Zimbabwe to its knees. Zimbabweans on July 31 will be demanding their freedom to hold the government to account.

Zanu-PF youths have joined their government in accusing Hopewell Chin'ono and Jacob Ngarivhume of inciting the people to protest on July 31, 2020. This is a typical case of "If you want to kill your dog accuse it of having rabies". The issue of inciting people is neither here nor there. Scholars like the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen argue strongly that participating in such an activity as the July 31 one has an intrinsic value.

According to the Economist and Philosopher Sen, participating in one's development through open and non-discriminatory processes, having a say without fear and speaking up against perceived injustices and wrongs are fundamental freedoms that are integral to one's wellbeing and quality of life. It is the desire to claim these freedoms that will make Zimbabweans take a stand on July 31, not Chin'ono, Ngarivhume, Chamisa or any other person. Such freedoms have been elusive for a long time to Zimbabweans as observed by Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo, in 1984 when he said "The hardest lesson of my life has come to me late. It is that a nation can win freedom without its people becoming free".

Scholars like Mansuri and Rao state that participating in the July 31 kind of activity has an instrumental value. Engaging as citizens in such activities is seen as a means to achieving improved public service delivery, better and maintained infrastructure, social cohesion and improved government accountability etc. Zimbabweans know very well that had it not been for the rent-seeking activities of State officials Zimbabwe could still be the Jewel of Africa as the late Tanzania President Julius Nyerere described it at independence in 1980.

Zimbabweans have been talking about how corruption is haemorrhaging the nation well before sanctions were imposed. In the late 1980s from Harare Thomas Mapfumo sang about the "something for something, nothing for nothing" scenario in his song Corruption. The bribery culture had taken root in our society. From Victoria Falls the group Mandebvu in its song Ndangariro talks of "vano-PFurira gumbo mushuga vamwe vachidya nhoko dzezvironda". This is in the 1980s as social cohesion was increasingly under threat.

From Plumtree in the late 1980s we heard the late Solomon Skuza in his song, Love and Scandals lamenting about corruption and the culture of unaccountability. True to the song the media relied on information leaks to expose the Willowgate scandal in which a number of government officials were implicated including the current Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda.

Zanu-PF has always had a culture of tightly controlling information so that it can conceal its corrupt activities. This explains why the Zanu-PF government is going after Hopewell Chin'ono for exposing the COVID-19 graft scandal among others. All those who are providing information that the public needs to hold government to account are being called names - Twitter brigades, Stooges, puppets etc. Honestly politics cannot be an art of governing men by deceiving them. No. Information is paramount for accountability.

As we entered the 1990s from Mutare Hosiah Chipanga bemoaned the amassing of wealth by those in authority creating a society of haves and have-nots in his song Taiona Moto. Even though his audiences would always roar "vapange Chipanga" those in authority have not known how to pay heed. In his song I shall not speak Albert Nyathi all the way from Gwanda spoke volumes about nepotism and intolerance. Among other things he complained about being denied "a diet of words".

They still do not want to see this diet on the Zimbabwean menu in 2020; hence the political "malnutrition" in our country. How else can one possibly explain the recalling of MDC Alliance MPs by MDC-T. Can one ever expect robust debate in Parliament or we are heading for a rubber stamping Parliament. In view of this it is important to be cognisant of the fact that political voice is not just about "polite debate".

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The prominent UK academic Frances Stewart says the political voice often is channelled in ways that are more contentious, and disruptive. Hence the July 31 protests are such an attractive option.

Source - newsday
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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