NOBODY OWNS THE CITIZENS
When the time to go back to Zimbabwe from Mozambique at the end
of the Zimbabwean war of liberation arrived, the militant Edgar Tekere
is said to have expressed his profound fear of governance. He was
secretary-general of ZANU-PF that waged its armed struggle against the
Ian Smith settler-colonialist regime from Mozambique.
The Rhodesian forces had often undertaken ground and air raids
against military targets and refugee camps in Mozambique in which
hundreds of Zimbabweans were massacred or maimed. Edgar Tekere
witnessed all that, and yet he feared governance more than war.
Tekere reckoned that in the war for liberation, the enemy is clear,
visible and occupies a definite space. In a neo-colonial governance
scenario, the enemies are corruption, cronyism, complacency and
arrogance of power. These enemies are invisible and subtle. There is no
frontline and more often than not they are in your midst. They are
much harder to fight than the one with a frontline.
Indeed, it was not long after ZANU-PF came to power in Zimbabwe that
these ills started ravaging the political and moral fibre of the country.
That in turn led to the decline in the prestige, moral authority and
political support of the former liberation movement. The political and
social strife that these ills spawned, presented an opportunity for
outside forces to meddle in the internal affairs of the country. The
result is the present political and economic difficulties that have seen
Zimbabweans fleeing their country by the millions to neighbouring
states and further afield.
That is the pattern that the South African situation followed. Although
we have not yet reached the Zimbabwe stage, some of the elements
are present in our environment.
Corruption is on the rampage in South Africa and the liberation
movement as a whole – ANC, AZAPO and the PAC – has been losing
support in the last few elections. However, the 2016 local government
elections have caused a mixed bag of emotions, relief and excitement
for those who are concerned about rampant corruption, and
consternation for those who are closely connected to the liberation
One of the common diseases that countries suffer from in a one-party-
dominant system is corruption. It had infected the National Party rule in
South Africa and the Soviet Union in the past, and it is a problem in
China presently. Rampant corruption is often deterred by an
environment in which there is robust and meaningful political
In addition to the shock results of the recent local government
elections, there is the intensification of a narrative that suggests our
citizens, especially black people, should just vote for a liberation
movement, regardless of what it does.
This implies that citizens should not express a dislike for corruption,
looting, cronyism, arrogance and incompetence. Citizens should not
have desires that are not articulated, championed and led by the
liberation movement. It says that citizens should not think. The
liberation movement would think for them. It says the liberation
movement owns the people, their agenda and interests and that
therefore the liberation movement is entitled to their vote.
This flawed thinking has led to a discourse where people, especially
black people, are ridiculed and called names for belong to, or voting for
parties other than the liberation movement. Those that lead these
parties are not engaged on political issues but pilloried for daring to
belong to those parties.
These are dangerous tendencies that have led to civil strife, destruction
and the loss of life and limb in some jurisdictions. Nobody owns the
masses. The liberation movement has freed the people from
oppression so that they can express themselves in whatever way they
want, including voting for any party of their choice.
A denial of this would suggest that the people are not free. They are
slaves of the liberation movement, which would be a contradiction of
what freedom means. It would mean that the people have traded one
oppressive master for another.
The totality of our liberation movement should be justly proud of its
achievements in the struggle for freedom. It could also be proud of
some of the achievements during the period of democracy. But that
does not mean that our people should be so perpetually grateful to the
liberation movement that they stop thinking and rely on the liberators
The liberation movement brought about a democratic order in which
our people can no longer be ruled without their consent. They can no
longer be taxed without electing the government that is going to spend
their hard earned taxes.
In fact, the liberation movement should be happy that we have a
thinking and developing population that is not trapped in the past. We
have a vibrant political space in which our people can exercise their
The liberation movement must contest like everybody else and stop
demonizing citizens who choose to vote for any legitimate party in the
country. Let a thousand ideas flourish and our people freely make their
pick. Otherwise, we run the risk of those who believe they own the
masses causing unnecessary strife and instability in our country.