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 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 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 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.