Zimbabwe’s ‘new dispensation’ has no room for bootlickers and sycophants

I could not help but be flabbergasted and disgusted by the manner in which some sections of our society, especially the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), seem intent on continuing the 'legacy' of cult politics in this country - as witnessed by their pathetic attempts to create another Mugabe out of new president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.

Emmerson Mnangagwa

By now, I would have thought that Zimbabweans had learnt a very valuable lesson, in that, we can not risk having another demigod as a leader, as that only leads to the politics of entitlement and impunity that we had come to expect from former president Robert Gabriel Mugabe, and his wife Grace.

We inculcated in them the notion that they were infallible, and incorruptible, as well as that they owned this country – and, therefore, not answerable to anyone.

I will not waste time narrating the pain and suffering that all Zimbabweans endured at the hands of that family, due to their sense of being ‘holier and mightier than thou’, and that they were above each and every Zimbabwean.

This also included Mnangagwa, who was at the mercy of the so-called First Family – a term that has no place in this ‘new dispensation’ – who treated him like a little child.

Needless to say, Mnangagwa himself had it coming, as he was an integral part of creating the person whom Mugabe became – through the ruling ZANU PF’s politics of hero-worshipping and praise-singing.

We have all being witnesses to how a person can seemingly become oblivious and isolated from the reality of the situation and the plight of the nation he or she leads, thereby, becoming impervious to any advice and criticism – as a result of placing them on a pedestal, and never holding them to account for anything.

The more Mugabe and his wife believed that they were untouchable, the more brutal, callous, and irresponsible they became – resulting in a family that regarded itself as only next to God.

The more the people suffered, the more Mugabe believed that he was the victim, and unleashed all his anger on them.

As much as I can never excuse the military intervention that Zimbabwe experienced in the past weeks, however, what this showed was that, even those in ZANU PF had seen that they had given too much power to this family, such that the only way to rid the nation of this monster was through military might.

However, even the military was part of the problem, as they – over the years – have been party to the creation of this ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’, through their brazen support and defence of Mugabe, even by using brute force on the people of Zimbabwe.

So it was with a twisted sense of irony that the very same military and ZANU PF that were prepared to brutalize the people of Zimbabwe – who had long ago rejected Mugabe – saw it fit to finally push him out.

They can not expect to be lauded as heroes, as the people of Zimbabwe had already been brave enough to do it for themselves a decade ago, had it not been for this very same military and ZANU PF who protected Mugabe with all their vigour.

In fact, they are no less than arsonist firefighters, who want to be praised for extinguishing a fire they themselves started.

We should all – ZANU PF, the military, opposition, and every Zimbabwean – finally learn the grand folly of turning our leaders into demigods, and never must it ever be experienced again in this great country.

Nonetheless, worrying signs are already being seen, especially in the state media, and ZBC in particular, as they go out of their way in praise-singing and hero-worshipping Mnangagwa.

Do these people never learn?

Did the past 37 years of dictatorship and misrule not mean anything to them?

Seriously!

We have always known that the state broadcaster is the crop of bootlickers, but some of this is clearly outrageous – even by their own standards.

Imagine a seasoned ZBC journalist filing a report singing lyrically on how  punctual Mnangagwa is.

True, Zimbabweans are notorious for their impunctuality – a worrying sign of gross  disorganisation –  and if the head of state is to set an example on the need for that to change, that is obviously commendable – but, for ZBC to be so sycophantic about it, is something altogether different.

It sounded so pathetic!

I know we all have mouths to feed, but any principled person will draw the line.

I have been involved with the media industry for 28 years now, but my principles will tell me never to be anyone’s bootlicker – despite also having to put food on the table.

If I was to be forced to make a choice between bootlicking and be paid – so as to put food on the table – or stick to my principles and be unemployed – as difficult as it would be – I would rather stick to my principles, than sell my soul to the devil and have plenty.

The media is also known as the ‘Fourth Estate’, which means that its primary role is to hold the other three arms of government – executive, legislature, and judiciary – to account.

That is why we are here.

We are not here to sing anyone’s praises, or to treat anyone with impunity – as that would clearly be a betrayal of the responsibility entrusted to us.

Holding someone to account does not equate to constantly bashing or smearing them.

No!

It simply means, placing checks and balances on them, so that they are accountable to the people for their every action.

This is what the so-called ‘developmental media’ is all about – as there can never be any meaningful development in a country if the three arms of government, as well as the private sector, are not kept on their toes, and their every move questioned.

Actually, I have a principle that: the person who loves me the most is the one who keeps me in check and does not hesitate to criticise and chastise me – something I love my dear wife Tinta for doing to me.

In fact, most improvements I have made in both my private and work life, have been through hard candid criticism.

I have even taught my dear son, Tendaishe Elias, to be brutally honest wherever he sees a fault in me – as this is the highest form of respect.

The pinnacle of disrespect is seeing a fault in someone, and yet, keeping quiet about it – and the height of foolishness is not even seeing any fault in a person, especially, someone they purport to love.

This is why I love writing opinion articles, as this stimulates debate and criticism – which not only improves the nation’s thought processes, but also ameliorates my own knowledge.

Actually, a good leader would rather surround him or herself with critical minds, as they will push him or her to the limit of his or her abilities – than having sycophants, who contribute nothing meaningful, but mere praises, which lack any value.

Anyone who wants to succeed at anything has more respect for those that criticise him or her, than those whose sole purpose in life appears to be ‘yes men and women’ – as these are viewed as not only spineless, but also brainless.

Therefore, if ever a leader regards critics as enemies, then he or she is not worthy to be in such a position.

One major trait of an alcoholic is that he or she is only comfortable when surrounded by lower company – similarly, one major trait of a poor leader is his or her desire to be surrounded only by sycophants and bootlickers.

If people find that the only way to carry favour with a leader is by singing them praises – yet, bare the brunt of their anger, if they criticise them – then that leader has no business in that office.

Quite frankly, there is nothing called ‘constructive’ or ‘unconstructive’ criticism, as those are distinctions only used by these same weak leaders to deflect any criticism of their performance.

All criticism is constructive to a great leader, as he or she learns something from it – and would rather focus on what he or she has benefitted from it, than concentrating on whatever may be construed to have been unbeneficial.

Therefore, this is the type of society we all need to promote in this post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.

We have already had the negative experience of a hero-worshipping society, and no one would want a repeat, but a truly new dispensation where leaders are held accountable to the people who put them in power.

As I have always said, we do not go to an election to chose our bosses, but our servants.

If Mnangagwa was genuine in his address at the ZANU PF headquarters, soon after jetting back into the country last week – after his fortnight self-imposed exile – that he would be the servant of the people, then we all need to take him up on that.

A servant is given a job and paid by his boss – similarly, a president is given the job (elected) by the people, and we pay his salary through our taxes.

Therefore, just as any other employee, or servant, Mnangagwa is answerable to the people – even though he did not come through a popular election.

When the president said that he was the servant of the people, he was not being humble, but was saying exactly what he is.

Each and every person should then expect him to be at their beck and call, and do what we instruct him to do.

This then means that the president should be transparent in all his dealings, and seek our permission in his decisions through our proxies who sit in Parliament.

As such, Members of Parliament – as much as they were voted for on a political party ticket – represent, first and foremost, the views of their constituencies.

That is why in democracies, such as the United States (US), members of Congress or Senate can easily vote against their own party or President – as they put the interests of their constituencies above all else – of course, there is no perfect democracy in the world, and some corrupt tendencies tend to creep into some decisions, but there needs to be some effort in fulfilling one’s mandate to the electorate.

We need to see such a paradigm shift in Zimbabwean politics in this ‘new dispensation’ – a Parliament that speaks not for the party or president, but the people – and a president whose every action is questioned.

Any hope for economic revival comes from a sound democratic system, as the two rarely can be separated – as witnessed in the past 37 years.

We can never dream of jobs, cash in our banks, medication in hospitals, and food on our tables, if we have a leader who rules with impunity, and rides roughshod over everyone else – and only the people, and especially the media, have the role to keep him in check.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should you invite him to speak at any gathering or event. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected] Please also ‘Like’ the ZimJustice page on Facebook.

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