Zimbabweans’ unquestioning belief in their leaders a retrogressive weakness that prevents accountability and development

One would be forgiven for believing that questioning one's leaders, and holding them accountable would be a given - a normal part of everyday life, whereby a country's citizens, or city's residents, always keep close checks and balances on whatever those they have placed in positions of authority do or do not do.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

It would be expected for any responsible citizen or resident to question whatever they are told by those in power – so as to verify the authenticity of such claims, with the goal of ensuring that all decisions made, or action taken, is truly in the best interest of country and city – thereby, holding those in authority to good corporate governance standards, and best practices.

When a ruling elite tells the nation that, the real reason for their unbearable economic suffering is as a result of crippling sanctions imposed by powerful countries, and sabotage by enemies of the state – do we bother to verify and authenticate such claims?

When our local authorities inform dwellers that, non-payment of bills by defaulting residents and other entities, and counter-productive interference by central government, are the main reasons for unavailability of adequate service delivery – do we even feel the need to query and investigate these allegations?

Or – like little children, who can never doubt their parents – gullibly swallow hook, line, and sinker whatever is told us?

Where does this childlike faith in those in authority emanate?

Does this not explain our docility in the face of oppression and suffering, and even the apparent inexplicable defending and praising of those who actually author our misery?

As a matter of fact, this blind belief – as if under some spell that prevents us from questioning those in authority – is not solely the preserve of politics, but its ugly head is also very visible in other spheres our lives, such as in religion (where the so-called prophets’ and pastors’ word is as good as God Himself), or in our own health (where the doctor’s or scientist’s declarations are regarded as holy).

Does this not hold us back as a people from developing?

I am reminded of a most disturbing incident that occurred last week.

I am a member of our small town of Redcliff Mayor’s WhatsApp Forum – in which we engage our local authority on matters affecting service delivery.

As a consequence of a plethora of inadequacies attributable to our municipality – such as unavailability of tap water for three consecutive months (a recurring problem for the past two decades), uncollected refuse, non-maintenance of street lighting and roads, amid a whole host of challenges – we always try to hold our leadership accountable.

I disputed council’s persistently irritating, and quite frankly unproven, excuses and shifting of blame to ratepayers, for their alleged failure in paying their dues to the municipality, as the main reason for its failures – in which, if that were truly the case, I queried why the responsible authorities had never taken any meaningful action against defaulters, besides repeated empty threats of litigation and water closures.

In the midst of this discourse – an unexpected bombshell was thrown by a most senior town official – who, instead of directly responding to my points (which they seldom do, anyway), he decided to make unsubstantiated and misleading accusations, that I was one of those “bad debtors” to the municipality, further threatening that, when the time for action came, I should not be shocked.

Unfortunately, I had gone offline for about 30 minutes when this mischievous and clearly defamatory statement was posted in the group – but, what truly perturbed and dumbfounded me the most, when I eventually saw it, was the significant number of people who had blindly and naively bought into this lie, and were already having a field day mocking my contributions, as “noisemaking by someone who does not pay his bills”.

I had to quickly post in the group a copy of my latest statement/invoice (for January 2022) – which proved that, not only was I up to date with my payments, but the municipality actually owed me, as I had overpaid.

As to be expected, there was sudden silence – as those who had found the untrue and defamatory statement extremely hilarious and exciting, no longer had anything to say, not even an acknowledgement of their error, nor an apology.

However, above all this, what I found rather worrisome was the tragic tendency by Zimbabweans to readily believe whatever we are told by those in authority – without ever bothering to fact-check, query, and conduct our own investigations and research.

Could this be a product of an educational system that does not encourage questioning what we are taught – but, largely focuses on ensuring that students receive what our teachers and textbooks say as infallible truths…which, if queried, results in a fail?

Is this not why we find ourselves in this unenviable position in Zimbabwe – whereby, we are divided by political/religious leaders, and even scientists, who feed us things we hardly double-check and verify?

How many of us have incontrovertible evidence that alleged “economic sanctions imposed by the West”, and “saboteurs” are truly responsible for our suffering and lack in this country?

How many of us have bothered investigating and researching whether non-payment of bills is the real reason why we have appalling service delivery in our urban areas?

Should we be shocked with the countless reports of congregants who have been deceived, duped, and even abused by their church leaders?

How many of us have been fooled into lamely believing that those not vaccinated from COVID-19 are a threat to public health?

Yet, how many of us actually believe these claims without any shred of verifiable and substantiated evidence!

Is it, then, any wonder why we appear perennially stuck in apparent stunted growth in Zimbabwe – even being easy fodder for selfish politicians and religious leaders, as well as scientists, who have their own agendas?

@ Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social 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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