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We cannot take democracy for granted - ex-army general Chiwenga imperil us all

28 Feb 2022 at 08:58hrs | Views
Trust in Zimbabwean politics is at a low ebb, eroded by foolish behaviour.

The ugly scenes that were witnessed at Citizens Coalition for Change CCC rally in Kwekwe leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The violence happened barely hours after vice president Constantine Chiwenga made threat at a rally in Kwekwe on Saturday.

This has been the Zanu PF script ever since. Violence.

One person is reported to have died from the attacks while 17 are in hospital nursing varying degrees of injuries from the assaults.

It is not amazing that regime apologists will come out with counter theories to try and clean the image of ZANU PF using the utterances by president Emarson Mnangagwa on the very same day.

What we now know is that ZANU PF through it's second secretary and Vice president made it a policy statement that CCC Leader Nelson Chamisa must be crushed. It's now a government policy. Joice Mujuru once declared debt cancellation policy for all municipalities and councils at a party rally in Harare and it was followed. Mujuru was then Vice president deputizing the late Robert Mugabe. Her word prevailed. The same thing was done by Chiwenga. He is Vice president, now that which happened to CCC members is proof of what the government have planned against our democracy.

Our democracy has always been among the weakest and most unsettled in the world. This is so because there's no respect for the laws made in parliament, there is always a threat on an independent judiciary, no acceptance of the conventions of public life, and no self-restraint by the powerful.

If any of that delicate balance goes astray - as it has, as it is - our democracy is undermined. Our government is culpable, in small but important ways, of failing to honour these conventions and the chapter 12 institutions.

Where governments fall short, candour is the best means of shoring up support. But that candour must be freely offered – not dragged out under the searchlight of inquiries. If it is not wholehearted and convincing, the loss of public trust can be swift and unforgiving. We call the VP to order. This democracy is the same which you fought for in the 60s against the settler regime. We can't afford to see it dying at the hands of anyone.

We have seen politics of hate playing out in recent weeks. Trust in politics is at a low ebb, eroded by foolish behaviour, leaving a sense of unease about how our politics is being conducted.

Too often, the regime have been evasive and the truth has been optional. When they respond to legitimate questions with pre-prepared soundbites, or half-truths, or misdirection, or wild exaggeration, then respect for government and politics dies a little more. Misleading replies to questions invite disillusion. Outright lies breed contempt.

In our democracy, we must be able to speak truth to power. But, if democracy is to be respected, power must also speak truth to the people. And yet, in recent years, it has not been doing so.

There has been cynicism about politics from the dawn of time. We are told that politicians are "all the same", and this untruth conditions electors to condone lies as though they were the accepted currency of public life.

But politicians are not "all the same". And lies are just not acceptable. To imply otherwise is to cheapen public life, and slander the vast majority of elected politicians, who do not knowingly mislead.

But some do – and their behaviour is corrosive. This tarnishes both politics and the reputation of parliament. It is a dangerous trend. If lies become commonplace, truth ceases to exist. What and whom, then, can we believe? The risk is … nothing and no one. And where are we then?

Law must be justly applied. Everyone must be equal before it. But it has been otherwise.

ZANU PF is free to campaign not subjected to covid protocols whatsoever but the opposition specifically the CCC is subjected to every limitation in the law book.

The regime use brazen excuses. Day after day, the public is asked to believe the unbelievable. Ministers were sent out to defend the indefensible – making themselves look either gullible or foolish.

Collectively, this has made the government look distinctly shifty, which has consequences that go far beyond political unpopularity. The lack of trust in the elected portion of our democracy cannot be brushed aside. The Harare admin has to correct the anomaly.

If it does not, and trust is lost at home, our politics is broken.

If trust in our word is lost overseas, we may no longer be able to work effectively with friends and partners for mutual benefit - or even security. Unfortunately, that trust is being lost, and our reputation overseas has fallen because of our conduct. We are weakening our influence in the world. EU is tightening it's sanctions, so is the USA. Our behavior is bad, yet we are paying a lobby group to get the country out of the ostracization.

We should be wary. Even a casual glance at overseas opinion shows our reputation is being shredded. A nation that loses friends and allies becomes a weaker nation.

And when ministers attack or blame foreign governments to gain populist support at home, we are not taken seriously. Megaphone diplomacy merely increases hostility overseas. International trust may not be easy to regain.

Our way of life is built around the maintenance of law. It was unprecedented when this government broke the law by overriding the judiciary directives. Rendering the state handicapped.

This is the government that fought a liberation war to "gain the sovereignty and democracy" and the sanctity of equality before the law.

All of this is against the backdrop of the whole vice president who threatens an opposition political leader with death. He chose to ignore critical right to life given by the constitution; he  reject advice from his own president ED Mnangagwa on peaceful coexistence.

It may be possible to find excuses for each of these lapses – and others – but all of them, taken together, tell a stinking tale of intolerance.

There have also been attempted assaults on civil rights. The government blocked CCC rally on Saturday 26 February in Gokwe, but rowed back from, on judicial review: but their intent was fulfilled when the police ignored the judiciary an important arm of the state. Went ahead to stop the rally.

It's sad that the police is seeing it fit to impose conditions on CCC gatherings citing that they are likely to be "noisy". How they are privy of such is not known. CCC is barely a month old party whose history is beginning to unfold. The excessive repression against the outfit is abhorrent. If the power of the state grows and the protections of the law diminish, the liberties of the individual fall.

Democracy should not permit such.

VP Chiwenga must looking for enemies where there are none. Moreover, he then chooses the wrong enemies. Most recently, he has been waging vitrols against the civil service especially teachers and the now the CCC. In neither case is this wise or justified – or even in the government's own interests.

The civil service is the support structure to government: treating it as a hostile "blob" that seeks to undermine the government is both foolish and wrong. As for the CCC, it is a crucial partner in policy reviewing, the alternative voice that is needed to improve positions. It is self-defeating if they're not treated like that.

Source - Taruberekera Masara
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