What could be more embarrassing than being a witness to the presidents of other nations, including own neighbor South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, readily and happily embracing their people, through seemingly daily press conferences and open fora, where ordinary citizens can freely question their leaders on matters directly affecting them – yet, here in Zimbabwe, our president appears intent in dodging any engagement with the population whatsoever, without ever allowing himself to be answerable to them?
Is it then any wonder that, there has never been a single open press conference, or platform of directly questioning the president in Zimbabwe – something citizens of other countries take or granted and have become accustomed to, as meeting and engaging their leaders is a norm – whilst, in this country, we know our head of state and government as only issuing one-way speeches and statements, without the people ever being afforded their right to hold him accountable?
How then can we have a supposedly “listening president”, when he does not give a chance to the people to challenge and question him?
From where, then, does he hear what we want, what our concerns are, and where we are not satisfied?
Is that not, then, the reason some would say the president is being misinformed and ill-informed about the true state of affairs on the ground, in the country he governs – since, he never takes the time to listen to the people himself?
Surely, even in a home or even organization – how is there expected to be any development or progress, when the “head” does not even talk with his family or charges, rather choosing to be told what is taking place by “advisors” or sidekicks?
Does that even make sense?
A leader can only be effective if he listens to those he is meant to lead, know what is going on and what they are thinking, as well as understand the real situation on the ground.
Anything less would just be a sheer waste of time – as the leader would be working in the dark, without any idea of the temperature amongst the people.
Which is the reason some leaders become paranoid, and be terrified of their citizens – seeing ghosts of illegal regime change, and enemies seeking to do them harm, around every corner!
The bottom line is that, no country on earth can ever dream of prospering with a leader who does not have the foggiest idea of what is happening in his own country, and has no knowledge of how the people he leads are feeling or thinking.
In fact, some of the greatest ideas on how to solve problems emanate from the affected people themselves – but, this can only be achieved when the leader is willing and prepared to engage, as well as brave and strong enough to bare the truth.
As such, it would be a pointless pursuit if these platforms for open public dialogue, debate, and discussion are rigged and staged – with sycophants and praise-singers deliberately being the only ones in attendance.
These fora should not be glorified campaign rallies, or abused as opportunities to show up the leader’s support – but, genuinely be an opportunity for truth-telling, and the gathering of the citizenry’s honest views and opinions… characterized by the active removal of any fear, with reassurances to the general public that they are free to express whatever is in their hearts, without any subsequent victimization.
There can never be any hope of economic recovery as long as the country’s president is averse to engaging the ordinary people.
We have seen it in other countries – whereby, leaders like then Botswana president, Ian Khama, would actually sit around a fire, whilst sitting on a log with ordinary villagers, as they openly and freely discussed issues affecting their livelihoods and communities.
It is all truly well and good for our own president to sit down with his chosen advisors, or POLAD, or even incorporating other political parties, church leaders, labor unions, and civil society – but, if truth be told, all those groupings represent their own vested interests, which can be self-serving, and far divorced from the man, woman, and child on the street.
However, nothing beats engaging the ordinary people themselves – from where some of the most honest, frank, and open observations, opinions, and advice can be expected.
Nonetheless, for this to happen, the country requires a president who is strong enough to handle being told what he needs to hear, and not what he wants to hear!
As a wise friend commented this morning – Zimbabwe does not necessarily need too smart a president, but a president who genuinely listens to the people!
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured