Has democratic change become ‘chimera’ in Zimbabwe?

By IndepthAfrica
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Nov 19th, 2012
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By Mutsa Murenje (Johannesburg, South Africa)

The first time I wrote about democratic government becoming chimera in Zimbabwe was in May 2011 and I wrote, then, from Ibadan, Oyo State, in Nigeria where I read for a Master of Science in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Ibadan.

Mutsa Murenje

Mutsa Murenje

I haven’t really changed the article as I wrote it then but have made some modifications, cosmetic changes so to speak. In other words, I have also beautified it! The good news is that I did not just go to Nigeria but also accomplished the objective which sent me there in the first place.

For I was never a tourist but a scholar and so, I graduated yesterday (Friday 16 November, 2012) and you can only imagine the heady and potent feeling I have at the present moment! My profound debt of gratitude goes to the innumerable people who had a hand in my success and particularly, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) which funded my studies.

Now to the nitty-gritty, for this presentation isn’t about me but, instead, is about our beloved country, Zimbabwe, which we dearly love. If it weren’t so, we would be about the business of living. But I know, as you also do, that we are yet to realise democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law.

Furthermore, I wish to draw your attention to these hard truths: Robert Mugabe had his own time and is a bit outdated to deal with the pressing demands of the twenty-first century. He isn’t only very old but also has old-fashioned ideas, rather than accepting new ways of thinking.

He might have ‘liberated’ us yesterday but today he is our number one oppressor. He is failing to accept the fact that times have changed and one has no choice but to adapt to new realities. For Mugabe, however, it is no longer possible (adapting to new realities) especially given his advanced age.

We can’t be led by an octogenarian; doing so even in the name of democracy will be grossly irresponsible indeed! And Mugabe himself knows that he is in that position of president against our will.

Mugabe doesn’t want us to work, access affordable health care, education and training opportunities, have good roads and communication systems, electricity and safe drinking water as well as proper housing, sanitation, food and money in the bank. We can’t start our own businesses because he keeps on scaring away both potential domestic and foreign investors.

He revels in our poverty and this is the chief reason why we intend to end his misrule next year. Every vote counts. Register and vote. Like the prophet Jeremiah, I, also, am a sensitive man and I deeply love my people. Like the prophet Ezekiel, I, also, am a man of deep faith and great imagination.

I emphasise the need for inner renewal of the heart and spirit, and the responsibility of each individual for his own crimes. I am for the renewal of the nation because of my considerable interest in the Cabinet and the need for responsible and responsive governance.

And so, like the prophet Amos, I am calling the people and our leaders to a life of righteousness and justice. With passion and courage, I call for justice to ‘roll down like the waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’ I am and will always be against injustice and oppression of the poor.

Once again, I have started hearing about ZANU PF’s use of violence and intimidation ahead of the elections expected in 2013 and this is coming at a time when we are still so badly traumatised by intimidation and electoral violence.

I am sure you will recollect that I posited a few weeks ago that political violence is inevitable in Zimbabwe. This is largely a result of the fact that dictators won’t give up power without a fight and this is all the more reason why we ought to also fight tirelessly and peacefully for our freedom.

I recognise human government as an ordinance of divine appointment and I teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, obviously within its legitimate sphere. I do not defy authorities. My words, whether spoken or written, are carefully considered, lest I place myself on record as uttering that which would make me appear antagonistic to law and order.

It is because of this that I have written today, not as a Chipinge man, nor an Eastern man, but as a Zimbabwean consecrated to the cause of freedom. Hear me for my cause dear reader.

Deplorable conditions in Zimbabwe and the conscience of good to the cause of freedom have summoned me to make this contribution and by so doing, I hope to change, radically, the ugly face of our rotten politics. I believe this contribution is of special relevance to Zimbabwe especially as I hear and read almost on a daily basis about forthcoming elections.

My position on elections hasn’t changed at all and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Zimbabwe won’t be ready for elections by March 2013 and the ZANU PF position makes democratic government in Zimbabwe chimera. Zimbabweans expect structural changes in the political environment before any election is held.

We all know that the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai identifies with the masses and this is the only party that has the capacity to sanitise our defiled polity. I disagree today, tomorrow and forevermore with Rugare Gumbo’s illogical reasoning that the MDC lacks an agenda to unfetter us from the fetters of Mugabe’s unsound political and economic policies.

The MDC remains the only legitimate party in the country, with a genuine mandate to lead the people of Zimbabwe to a new, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. For the record the MDC is ever ready for elections anytime, anywhere.

However, unlike the unpopular ZANU PF, the MDC, the people of Zimbabwe, SADC and the AU agree that there should be a clear roadmap to holding of free, fair and credible elections.

Now to Peter Ekeh’s work on “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement” (1975) which is one of the most cited publications in the field of African studies, inside and outside Africa. Peter Ekeh’s publications span several fields and have been particularly influential in African studies.

According to him, experiences of colonialism have led to the emergence of a unique historical configuration in modern post-colonial Africa-the existence of two publics instead of one public, as in the West. Ekeh is of the opinion that Africa’s political problems are largely a result of what he called “the dialectical relationships” between the two publics.

How do we define politics? Politics refers to activities of individuals insofar as they impinge on the public realm made up of the collective interests of the citizenry. But Ekeh argues that not all the activities of an individual are political-to the extent that he acts in his household or practices his religion in his home, he is acting in the private realm.

My postgraduate studies brought to the fore the fact that both private and public realms have a common moral foundation. Generalised morality in society informs both the private realm and the public realm.

That is, what is considered morally wrong in the private realm is also considered morally wrong in the public realm. Similarly, what is considered morally right in the private realm is also considered morally right in the public realm.

However, Ekeh argues that the total extension of the Western conception of politics in terms of a monolithic public realm morally bound to the private realm in Africa can only be made at theoretical and conceptual peril.

He believes that there is a private realm in Africa that is differentially associated with the public realm in terms of morality. Ekeh makes reference to two public realms in post-colonial Africa and these have different moral linkages to the private realm. At one level is the public realm in which primordial groupings, ties, and sentiments influence and determine the individual’s public behaviour.

Ekeh called this the Primordial Public-the primordial public is closely identified with primordial groupings, sentiments and activities, which nevertheless impinge on the public interest. The primordial public is moral and operates on the same moral imperatives as the private realm.

On the other hand, there is a public realm which is historically associated with the colonial administration and which has become identified with popular politics in post-colonial Africa. It is based on civil structures: the military, the civil service, the police, et cetera. This public realm which Ekeh called the Civic Public has no moral linkages with the private realm.

It is amoral and lacks the generalised moral imperatives operative in the private realm and in the primordial public. ZANU PF represents this civic public. Calling for elections in March 2013 is unreasonable either on moral or prudential grounds. The move stands in the way of democracy and should be vehemently resisted.

I hope you understand, dear reader, why I had to make reference to my studies in the first place. My studies remain germane to the social, political and economic development of our country and all I am saying is: I am willing to put the highest standards of academic excellence in the service of humanity.

In conclusion, “Of course, ‘morality’ has an old-fashioned ring about it; but any politics without morality is destructive. And the destructive results of African politics in the post-colonial era owes something to the amorality of the civic public” (Peter Ekeh). May God help Zimbabwe!

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