Democracy shouldn’t merely be the counting of heads like sheep

The recent absurd panic buying, hoarding, and subsequent price increases in Zimbabwe - apparently, due to a viral social network message that caused alarm by alleging imminent shortages - brought to the fore a very disturbing question: are we so gullible.


How can someone so easily manage to deceive such a huge section of the population with a simple social media message?

Is there something seriously wrong with our research abilities, such that we are unable to independently verify issues brought to our attention, before pressing the ‘panic button’?

I am reminded of a biblical verse Hosea 4:6, which perfectly suits our situation, ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge…’.

It is about time that we became hungry for knowledge, such that our everyday decision-making is not dictated to by rumours and hearsay, but sound knowledge and information.

This is a new culture we need as Zimbabweans, if ever we are to prosper as a nation – as, indeed, the events of the past week testify to the fact that we will perish as a nation if we do not safeguard ourselves with knowledge.

As we fast approach the vital 2018 elections, our independent knowledge will be crucial, so as to avoid being woodwinked by these wily politicians.

If a mere social media user could pull a fast one on us with a single message, can we imagine the devastation falsehoods by our politicians can cause on our nation.

As we all know, politicians are not the most trustworthy people on this planet, thus, we need to be well-armed with all the knowledge we can muster – as making the wrong decision at the ballot box will spell doom for our nation.

I believe that most of the problems we face today are as the direct consequence of erroneous electoral decisions.

As the electorate, we hold tremendous power, and if misused could be
catastrophic.

A vote is not dissimilar to fire – if used wisely, can be a best friend, but if used unwisely, can be a worst enemy – as such, we need to be adequately equipped with the right knowledge so as to make wise electoral decisions in 2018.

It is so saddening to note that the nation has spent the past 17 years immersed in a heated debate as to the real cause of the country’s economic meltdown.

We have had the ruling ZANU PF claiming that sanctions imposed on the country were to blame, whilst the opposition place all the fault on government mismanagement, and alleged that the sanctions only targeted President Mugabe and his colleagues.

This confusion has existed through three very important elections, and the electorate has largely voted based on who – in the political dynamics – they chose to believe.

However, electoral decisions should never be based on who one chooses to believe, but on a firm foundation of knowledge.

The United States (US) enacted the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) in December 2001 – one of the laws in the forefront of this sanctions debate.

Nevertheless, over the past 16 years that it has been in existance, how many of us have bothered downloading and reading the Act, so as to independently determine what these sanctions are truly about, and whether they had any effect on Zimbabwe’s economy or not?

I believe not many of us ever did!

Yet, we have argued fiercely over the sanctions issue, and even had the audacity to vote based on assumptions.

It would be understandable if it were our dear illiterate grandmothers in the rural areas, but for the vast majority of us, it is inexcusable to determine the country’s fate based on something we do not know for a fact.

We are not expected to understand everything in our political, economic, and social landscape, but we need to try our best.

At the moment, can we honestly declare that we do our utmost best to be well-informed, such that we do not have to rely on politicians – who have their careers at stake – to tell us what is going on in our own country, and what we need to do?

Politicians in general, and the government in particular, derives its authority from the electorate, as such we have all the power, and we need to use it wisely.

We can not be given directions by the people we put into office, but they need to be given directions by us – and we can only achieve that if we have the knowledge.

An uninformed electorate is a very dangerous one, who can lead the country over the edge of a cliff – as he or she is no different from a drunk driver.

Such democracy where we just vote ignorantly, just because we are over 18 years of age is unattainable.

I am not advocating for anything drastic, except that we make sure that when we exercise our suffrage, we do so wisely.

* Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and author. He is available should anyone want him to give presentations at any gathering. Please call +263782283975, or email [email protected]com

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