Who forbids it?

The other day I met a friend in the street and we stopped to catch up on each other’s news. But we were interrupted by a young man addressing us in English, and apparently giving us an instruction. He wore no uniform, and I always refuse to understand or officious language, so it took some time before he told us “Kumira kuno kunorambidzwa.” (It is forbidden to wait here). I asked “Anorambidza ndiani?” (who forbids it?) and he didn’t seem to know, so just walk

No, that was not outside State House, where honest citizens fear to walk or cycle. If you must know, this happened near Beatrice Road on Remembrance Drive. But that doesn’t matter; our freedom of movement is being restricted in more and more places day by day. We will need special permission to step outside our own front doors if we don’t question the trend now.

The first question we should ask is “who is this order being given by? Is it a decree of the Dear Leader, published as statute no. such-and -such in the Government Gazette, or is it just the whim of a sergeant of police or army who woke up in a bad mood this morning?

Of course, a more important question is whether it is a just command, but you don’t want to get into philosophical discussions with minor officials, especially if they carry guns. You might succeed better if you ask whose authority they represent.

One dangerous tendency of officious language (yes, I meant “officious” = “bossy”) is the use of the passive voice. Have you noticed how often The Herald announces something “is said” or “is forbidden” without any indication of who says or forbids? I must admit, Shona with its use of the indefinite passive “kuitika” seems designed to by-pass this question. Either way, officious English or disinterested Shona, demands a dehumanising blind obedience. I won’t obey an order if I don’t know who’s giving it and on what authority. Of course, I may comply if someone is pointing a gun at me, but the gun gives me more doubts about his authority.

Authority was an important question here from 1965-79. We had more friends and supporters in Britain because Ian Smith was in rebellion against the Crown. Many of us made a point of not letting British people forget that his regime was illegitimate. Charles Mzingeli was too old by then to be very active, but he would have enjoyed this challenge to what was often British official hypocrisy. They claimed to defend our rights. Smith denied them that power by his rebellion.

Our question was whether they did anything about his rebellion? A good number of ordinary British people supported us and they pressed their government to act against the rebel settler regime. That can happen in almost any country where elections are less dishonest than ours.

If their government listened to them, we won another battle, even if it was a small one. If they didn’t, they exposed their hypocrisy and that strengthened opposition to their complicity here and in Britain. That is where the question “Is it right?” becomes more important than “Is it legal?”

When the legal and electoral systems are as corrupt as they are here, that is always the most important question. Anything less may be the right tactic with less intelligent junior officials, especially those with guns, but we must keep our eye on the ball. Justice is the main issue.

If we don’t ask whether what is commanded is right, we will end by accepting every time The Herald calls something “illegal” as in “illegal sanctions” meaning “we don’t like them”. We will accept as Gospel every statement they record as what “political analysts say”. Remember they won’t need an immortal Liberator if they can brainwash us all so thoroughly that we don’t notice where orders come from, but just jump or more likely shuffle to obey.

Post published in: Letters to the Editor

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