Mr President, are you sure your fellow leaders laugh with you, and not at you?

I used to drink alcohol, and during those lost dark days - which I am so grateful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to have left far behind - there was one thing I found particularly disturbing.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana


I would spend time with my friends, laughing and having what I erroneously believed was a good time with them – only to learn that, those same friends had spent the following day laughing behind my back, due to my shameful, despicable, and clownish behavior during my drunken escapades.

The same escapades I thought they thoroughly and truly enjoyed watching – as they always seemed exceedingly excited and entertained by my drunken antics.

Of course, that was not the case – a fact that only dawned on me later on in life – as it came as a huge shock to realize that, far from laughing with me, they were actually, laughing at me…which explained why they would not waste any time telling anyone who listened.

What evoked memories of this regrettable and sad period of my life?

This morning, when I was watching the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) News, it was interesting noting the decision by that country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to move their COVID-19 induced lockdown restrictions from alert level three to level two – as a result of the significant reduction in cases over the recent past.

However, what really caught my attention was the pronouncement that, gatherings of up to 500 people outdoors, and 250 indoors, were to be permitted – paving the way for the country’s political parties to commence campaigning for the slated local government elections.

I could not help drawing parallels with our own Zimbabwe government’s actions – who have sought to use every opportunity to hide behind COVID-19 lockdowns to stifle any opposition activities – whilst, at the same time, the ruling ZANU PF party violating these same restrictions with sickening impunity.

In Zimbabwe – despite the fact that, as most African countries, COVID-19 case rates have been relatively lower than the rest of the world, including neighboring South Africa – the ever paranoid, and increasingly unpopular ruling elite, have virtually banned all elections (even though, numerous constituencies have been left unrepresented in both parliament and local councils, due to rabid and vindictive recalls of opposition MDC Alliance MPs [members of parliament] and councillors, by the court-created MDC-T party, and the deaths of others).

The regime – which is perpetually haunted by the fear of losing elections – has ensured that no by-elections ever take place, regardless of a constitutional mandate for them to be “conducted within ninety (90) days after the vacancies occured, unless the vacancies occur within nine months before a general election is due to be held” [section 158(3)].

Whilst, countries as South Africa, are basing their lockdown decisions strictly on scientific models – balancing between adhering to enshrined democratic tenets, and curbing the ravaging pandemic – their Zimbabwean counterparts have, on the contrary, been making purely political decisions, that have very little to do with COVID-19 control and ‘saving lives’, but meant to save the ruling elite, or their court-created surrogates, from an imminent defeat at the polls.

That is why my forgettable drinking days came back into remembrance – since our government’s actions are surely making their colleagues across the borders laugh behind their backs, seeing that, while other ‘revolutionary’ political parties appear more democratic and confident in their democratic processes, our own leaders shiver at the very thought of elections, and opposition entities freely campaigning.

I am also reminded of a speech once given by our president, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa – as he addressed his party’s Politburo, some time ago – bragging that he regularly talked on the phone with other regional leaders, nearly every night, and they would laugh together over the situation in Zimbabwe.

I can not seem to shake that speech out of my head.

Considering that, the named leaders (such as, Ramaphosa, and Namibia’s Hage Geingob) are busy moving their countries forward – yet, our own is going backwards, and making a mess of everything – what exactly were they all laughing about?

Is our president absolutely sure that they were laughing with him, or – as so often happened to me – they were laughing at him?

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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