Teaching the wrong patriotism

President Robert Mugabe’s successive governments have for the past one and a half decades used all the wrong methods in their bid to inculcate a sense of patriotism among Zimbabweans, particularly young citizens.

Tawanda Majoni

Tawanda Majoni

They have not succeeded in their attempts, of course, because the methods are premised on wrong thinking about how people should be socialised into patriotism.

Let’s make no mistake about it. Zimbabweans love their country yet they are not proud of it. Millions have, especially from the early 2000s, emigrated to other countries because of the social, political and economic problems that still burden our country.  Those millions and the generation that was born in the diaspora still cry for their beloved country and hope that, one day, the situation will change so that they may comfortably return home.

I have not talked to a single Zimbabwean who says he or she will never come back. The only condition they set is that things must transform for the better.
Some want a change of government but others don’t care – as long as they can live a decent life, be guaranteed bread on the table and that their constitutional and other rights are respected.

But all of them acknowledge that it has become a big embarrassment to be associated with Zimbabwe. They are the laughing stock out there and carry the heavy cross of being associated with poverty, misery, homelessness and hopelessness.

Too sorrowful
The same applies to the millions who remain at home, most of whom loudly wish they could be in places other than Zimbabwe.  It doesn’t matter whether they sympathise with the opposition, are apolitical or belong to the long-ruling Zanu (PF).

They all just don’t see any value in being Zimbabweans when they have to spend long hours in the dark, cannot go to school or give their children an education, cannot afford to get medical treatment and don’t have jobs. They love their country but are too sorrowful to be proud of it.

To be meaningfully patriotic, there is need for citizens to take pride in being associated with their nationality. There must be a basic sense of belonging and fulfilment. Love of your country is a requirement for you to qualify as a patriotic citizen, but it is not sufficient. There must also be dedication to your country, no matter what.

Given this, it is correct to say the majority of Zimbabweans are not patriotic.  Be that as it may, it is crucial that citizens must be patriotic and when there is pervasive lack of patriotism, strategies must be adopted to ensure that there is fundamental dedication to our country.

Crazy thinking
The government has a role to play in this but, unfortunately, ours has been holding the wrong end of the stick. When Zimbabwe started the steep descent into crisis in the early 2000s, Mugabe and Zanu (PF) made a big mistake. They started regarding disgruntled citizens as enemies and malcontents.

They somehow adopted this crazy thinking that patriotism must mean respecting and adhering to Zanu (PF) values. Thus, in order to restore “patriotism”, they adopted strategies that would make people believe in the Zanu (PF) cocktail of values such as acknowledging and believing in the all-time importance of war veterans, respecting Mugabe as an infallible leader, believing in the ruling party’s definition of national heroes and hating the west and the local opposition.

People did not see it that way. All they wanted, and still want, was respect for their basic human and civil rights, a properly functioning government and public bureaucracy, a working economy and access to social services. They wanted the ruling elite to acknowledge failure where it was abundantly evident. They wanted happiness, comfort and dignity. On the contrary, the Zanu (PF) government mistook that for a wish to change the regime and get Mugabe out.

Wrong values
Consequently, the Zanu (PF) system introduced what it called national studies in tertiary learning institutions that just repeated the gallant fights by Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi. Additions to the curricula taught students the language of hate and racism. More notably, it introduced the national youth centres which turned out to be nothing but an excuse to produce militias who then terrorised the “unpatriotic” ones.

All this was an attempt at foisting the wrong values of patriotism on the youths and Zimbabweans in general, through fear, intimidation and coercion. That is not how you inculcate patriotism in your citizens.

Yes, patriotism requires some kind of socialisation as part of the deal, particularly among the youths. There is nothing wrong with teaching the national anthem and its significance to students, in addition to the history of the country as well as how independence came about. However, it must be based on voluntarism and respect for citizens.

There must be a conducive context as well. You first need to prove that it is worth loving and being proud of your country. You must convince citizens that the country is worth living in. In the USA, for example, where the citizenry is undeniably patriotic, nobody ever wielded the stick for the Americans to love their country.

Even sons and daughters of people who were abducted and made to labour in the Americas are proud to be part of the USA because successive governments have used appropriate methods to teach patriotic values and the worthiness of their centuries’ old constitution. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

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