BY MAGARI MANDEBVU
Last week I said our first mistake was to look for some Santa Claus to give us our freedom.Â Some readers will say, ‘But we didn’t just sit on our hands. We did work for our freedom,’ and they probably did. Maybe they went to fight, or helped the fighters.Â Maybe they worked for their trade union or other democratic organisation.
But once we had independence, a lot of us did relax.Â We thought we had won our freedom, but we had only won the chance to consolidate our freedom. It was like a tender young plant. It needed care and cultivation, but we sat back and let our leaders look after that.Â But they had only just won power, and they found it very sweet.Â Why should they do anything that reduced their power?
We have often been reminded that ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance’. Anyone who gets a position of power will be tempted to use that power for their own advantage, and if they do that, then they will be tempted to hold on to power longer than they should.Â You wouldn’t trust an alcoholic with a bottle of whisky. Why should you trust a politician with power?Â By calling himself a politician, he says he is a power-aholic. Such men need to be watched very carefully. They need to be reminded we are watching them.
I will never forget one gathering I attended in the early 1980s. It was probably a party given by some development workers. All the people who were working idealistically and fairly selflessly for the good of the country were there. Inevitably, somebody mentioned that things weren’t perfect. Some official was lazy, another was incompetent and – nobody dared say it openly – a third one was getting corrupt. Someone said ‘Surely HE doesn’t know about this?’
A woman from Nicaragua asked: ‘Then why don’t you tell him? That is what we would do.’ You may remember that the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua was just a few months before our first free election. The Sandinistas meant well, and did a lot of good, but nobody in Nicaragua was going to sit back and let them deliver health services, schools, social security and especially freedom on a plate. Nobody was going to trust any politician with unsupervised power. Their politicians knew they were being watched and they would be questioned about everything they did.
This Nicaraguan woman was only stating what seemed obvious to her, and to most people in Nicaragua. She must have been very disappointed and disillusioned when the rest of the company present either fell quiet, or suggested very gently that we do things differently here. She could have told us then that if we remained quiet, abuses would grow and become entrenched.
After Willowgate we saw corruption had become established, and struggling against it has been much more difficult since then.
ÂPost published in: News