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NOBODY OWNS THE CITIZENS

NOBODY OWNS THE CITIZENS

By

Mosibudi Mangena

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

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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

movement.

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

competition.

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

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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

for everything.

The liberation movement brought about a democratic order in which

our people can no longer be ruled without their consent. They can no

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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

rights.

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.

Mosibudi Mangena

29/08/2016

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