Zimbabwe is possibly one of the very few places in the world, where the ruling elite can do pretty much anything they want with impunity – without so much as any resistance from the population.
Actually, I can not help but laugh aches into my head whenever President Robert Mugabe talks of machinations by Zimbabweans for illegal regime change and anarchy.
For crying out loud, we do not even have the temerity to exercise our constitutional rights to peaceful demonstrations, as we fear police crackdown, so where in the world would we finally get the balls to stage an illegal regime change or go into some anarchist frenzy?
This would just be the president letting his imagination – or paranoia – get away with him.
Zimbabwe’s constitution – despite its occasional flaws – is quite well-crafted when it comes to issues of human rights, and how we can exercise them.
However, the problem comes when we, the people, can not even exercise these rights – not necessarily because we are denied them, but we do not stand up boldly in defence of them.
I have always believed that, ‘resist the tyrant, and he (or she) will flee’.
As much as it might seem hard to believe, but tyrants and dictators are naturally cowardly – that is why they seek to over-compensate that with aggressive behaviour and brutality.
They have serious self-esteem issues – even though, at times these may manifest themselves as delusions of grandeur – as they think everyone is out to get them, and need to prove that they are tough guys.
Whilst, in actual fact, if these bullies are resisted and shown that they are not feared, they easily crumble and flee.
As much as I am not talking about illegal regime change, however, a few examples of these bullies swiftly come to mind.
Is it not a wonder how notorious dictators as Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and Egypt’s Muhammed Hosni El Sayed Mubarak easily resigned from office after only a few weeks of street protests – which were relatively peaceful, save for the governments’ own failed brutal attempts to stifle the people’s wishes.
Both Ben Ali (1987 to 2011) and Mubarak (1981 to 2011) had ruled their countries as typical tyrants and dictators do – with brutal force and rampant systematic corruption.
They were so notoriously oppressive that no one ever imagined that the people of those countries would one day have the boldness to challenge them openly – in spite of the deployment of the army and some dubious sharpshooting horsemen, notably in Egypt, to quash them.
What shocked the world even more was the way in which these two dictators swiftly resigned – Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia.
Such is the typical profile of dictators and tyrants – they are so scared of their own people that they are haunted everyday but all sorts of phantoms of resistance, such that they resort to brute force and brainwashing in the hope of securing their positions.
Who can forget how paranoid Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was – travelling around the world with his own tent, and cooks, with an outrageous host of mainly female bodyguards.
Even if his palace has once been bombed by the United States (US), there was everything absurd about staying in his own reclusive tent wherever he went in the world – as that clearly, never provided any more practical security, but just made him more conspicuous.
And was it not such a sorry sight – when his worst nightmare finally came true – to watch him begging for mercy like a little child, when he was finally removed from office, caught, and brutally killed.
Such is the insecure nature of all bullies.
Therefore, which dictator would resist ruling over a nation where he or she is assured of non-resistance – no matter how legal and constitutionally enshrined it is?
A country where, what the best most of us can do is merely grumble in our homes, workplaces and with friends, or write protesting articles in the media, or forward all sorts of anti-government messages on social media.
As David Barber in his article titled, ‘It is about time Zimbabwean citizens took responsibility’ (www.thezimbabwean.co/2017/10/
Indeed, tyrants and dictators are great psychologists who already know what to expect from the people they lead – leading them to act with vulgar and brazen disregard of the people.
That is why in Zimbabwe today – with an apparently watershed election just around the corner in 2018 – Mugabe feels more threatened by his own lieutenants in ZANU PF, rather than the people of Zimbabwe.
So far, in his campaign trail, he has mainly focused on his own party’s perceived attempts to oust him, rather than the Opposition’s.
This is as a result of his strong belief that he has more to fear from his own internal rivals, than from Zimbabweans in general, as he sees us not offering any real challenge to the status quo.
And he is not exactly wrong!
What real challenge do we truly offer Mugabe?
Besides, hoping and praying that next year’s elections as free and fair, and that people will go out in their huge numbers to vote out ZANU PF, what else do we have a spine for?
I will reiterate that this is not about illegal regime change and anarchy, but merely for us to unequivocally send the message to our leaders that we are watching and we will not just stand by whilst they turn this once proud nation into a basket case – through our Section 59 constitutional right, without any fear of the obvious regime
The US is relatively a democratic nation – albeit, with their own problems, especially with the Electoral College presidential election system – nonetheless, people still go out into the streets nearly daily to let Donald J. Trump know exactly what they feel about his governance.
They are not just standing aside waiting for the mid-term congressional elections due 2018, and the next presidential election in 2020.
The people’s right to peacefully protest and make their demands known is the core of any democracy, and as such should be exercised without any fear, as that is one mode of communication that a dictator can not simply ignore – so much so, that as Zimbabweans we need to resist and stand firm against anything the regime throws our way, and claim what is rightfully ours.
How can the ruling family callously and shamelessly flaunt their wealth, in the midst of all our poverty, and yet we do not stand up loudly and demand accountability?
How can we stand – or sleep – in bank queues everyday, as the country is cashless, and not be enraged enough to resoundingly express our displeasure?
This is no longer about ‘turning the other cheek’, but we are just plainly ‘playing dead’.
Our passive reaction – or more honestly, non-reaction – to these brazen violations of our rights is a defeat for democracy.
Honestly, who would not be tempted to oppress a people such as us?
However, in order to strengthen the country’s democracy, we as the people need to play our role and hold our leaders accountable and answerable for their every action.
It would be grossly foolhardy to expect democracy to be bestowed on us from the top.
A democractic dispensation is created by all of us, not just by those in power.
When we do not hold our leaders accountable, we ourselves are not practising democracy.
As they say: ‘it takes two to tango’, therefore, democracy should be exercised by both the leaders and the led.
That is why it is described as ‘government BY the people, OF the people, FOR the people.
So if democracy is BY the people, it just does not allude to elections, but it is our obligations to hold the government accountable and answerable.
It is, thus, every Zimbabwean’s patriotic duty to make sue that we take full part in the democratic processes of our country, by ensuring that we no longer tolerate impunity by our leaders.
Zimbabwe should be a proud and exemplary nation of democrats, and never again can we allow it be a paradise or dreamland for dictators and tyrants.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should anyone want to invite his to speak at any event. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]