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Mr. President, do you understand the democracy for which you 'fought'?

08 Aug 2023 at 19:18hrs | Views
We have been told this time and time again!

To be frank, I have had it up to here listening to the same old tired and worn out drivel!

Who wouldn't be - when each time Zimbabweans dare challenge and criticize our government over the unbearable misery and suffering they have authored - we are always reminded that we were liberated by these people in power?

So what, I ask?

Was 'liberating us' a license for you to oppress us?

That is the problem with this whole concept of 'liberating' others.

It makes those who believe they 'sacrificed everything in liberating us' feel a sense of unbridled entitlement to ride roughshod over us - as if they now own our very souls.

Let us get one thing absolutely clear - just because those in power in Zimbabwe actually believe they did us all a great favor by fighting for the country's independence - does not mean we owe them.

In fact, in Shona we have an adage, 'gudo guru peta muswe vapwere vagokuremekedza'.

In short, those in authority should humble themselves, in order for those in lower positions to respect them.

 Just because there are those who think they brought democracy to Zimbabwe - by fighting against white minority colonial rule - does not, and can never, justify them turning into our new oppressors.

This was the case yesterday, when I was listening to President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa berate lawyers who stood for human rights in Zimbabwe - whereby he demanded to know who it was who actually brought human rights to the country.

He reminded everyone present that people like himself and the ruling ZANU PF party were the ones who sacrificed their entire lives, in the pursuit of democracy for the previously oppressed black majority - who 'had no human rights under colonialism'.

This, in his mind, was reason enough for those in power in Zimbabwe to never be held to any standards of democracy and human rights - as they were a standard upon themselves!

 They were at liberty to do pretty much what they desired to us, with abandon impunity - on the grounds of having 'liberated us' and 'brought democracy to Zimbabwe'.

 For them, it is of no concern whatsoever, even when it is clear that they have morphed into worse oppressors than the colonial rulers they replaced - albeit in a different color, form and shape.

 They very fact that Mnangagwa feels that the rest of us have no right to condemn him and demand the respect of our rights - is evidence enough of his failure in understanding what constitutes democracy.

 If people as himself genuinely fought for democracy and human rights, then he should be the first to fiercely defend ordinary Zimbabweans' right to criticize him and his government.

 Mnangagwa should be at the forefront of safeguarding and ensuring that any who were in disagreement and even opposed to his administration exercise this right without any hindrance at all.

 As biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall attributed to Voltaire, "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

 It appears these people from centuries ago actually understood better this basic concept of democracy and human rights than our own 'liberators' in the 21st century!

 In a truly democratic society - for which leaders as Mnangagwa want to be credited - the most important right is that of holding those in power accountable and condemning whatever we feel is not being done properly.

 Let us remember that even our Constitution acknowledges that the authority to govern is derived from the people.

 We have every right to speak out against the wanton looting of our national resources by the ruling elite and their cronies - which has led to the indescribable underdeveloped and poverty witnessed in Zimbabwe.

 Under what circumstances would we keep silent when the country is losing over US$2 though the smuggling of our minerals, US$3 in illicit cross-border financial transactions, and half our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to criminal activities?

 In all this, those involved, mainly aligned to the ruling elite, are never brought to book - and permitted to walk free and plunder even more.

 Can anyone imagine if those fingered, or who unwittingly implicated themselves, in the 'Gold Mafia' Al Jazeera investigative documentary were actually members of the opposition.

 Would they be walking around as free men and women today?

 Yet, not only are those featured in the documentary free today, but still hold their powerful positions within government and the mining sector.

 In addition, we have every right to castigate those in power for seeing it fit spending a shocking US$340 million on helicopters - in the midst of hospitals going without adequate medication, ambulances, beds, and cancer machines.

 Or, a staggering US$54 million on a presidential jet - when our children, especially in rural areas, are still learning in the open - lacking the most basic of learning material, as books, desks and chairs.

 Are we surely expected to remain quiet when opposition and human rights activists - as Jacob Ngarivhume and Job Sikhala - languish in prison on spurious charges?

 Is this the 'democracy' for which Mnangagwa and his allies 'fought'?

 What are we to say when the main opposition is not even permitted to campaign freely, and citizens (also, specially in rural areas) are threatened into supporting the ruling party?

 What manner of 'democracy' is that when those critical and opposed to the government can not air their views in state media - and are actually treated as 'enemies of the country'?

 Are these the human rights fought for, when state institutions - as traditional leaders, media, law enforcement, the judiciary, electoral commission - are abused and whipped into serving the interests of one political party?

 In fact, what picture of Zimbabwe does it paint when people as myself have to regularly be reminded, by those who love us, to be careful and safe - as our lives could be in danger from our own leaders?

 It is really disturbing when I meet or receive messages from those who ask me (out of sincere concern), "havambokutyisidzire here" - which means, 'do they not threaten you'.

 We all know who 'they' are!

 Why would anyone fear for his life, on account of merely telling truth to power, in a genuinely democratic state?

 There is no greater reminder than this that we are not living in a democracy.

 In a nutshell, there is no justification at all for those in power in Zimbabwe bragging of how they 'liberated us', and 'brought democracy to the country'.

 It is undeniable and undebatable that they have absolutely no grasp of what this 'liberation and democracy' really entails.

 If they did, then, they (as Evelyn Beatrice Hall) would ensure that, even if they disagreed with what we said, they would still defend to the death our right to say it.

 They may have 'liberated' themselves - but, one thing is for sure: the rest of us merely transitioned from one oppressor to another.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana
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