HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsPowerful vocal minority empowered by powerless majority

Powerful vocal minority empowered by powerless majority


After 31 years of independence it must be of grave concern to any rational person that many citizens feel rightly or wrongly that their voices do not count and more significantly that the State does not belong to them.

What, if any, was the promise of independence? What was to be and how has the relationship between the State and citizens evolved?

What was to be and how has the relationship between the ruling party or political institutions and the State evolved?

What was to be and how has the relationship between ordinary members and the office-bearers of political institutions evolved?

God has given citizens of Zimbabwe 31 years to shape and define the nation state’s identity and character.

Accordingly, as we look back we must reflect on the power relationships that have evolved to produce unintended but predictable outcomes.

I was not surprised, therefore, when a person who identified himself as a Zimbabwean belonging to a class of coloured persons whom he classified as a minority group needing the intervention of what he classified as the majority group, the Shonas, made the point in response to my article on citizenship that coloured persons have a sense that their rights and interests have never and do not count in informing the choices about what kind of Zimbabwe should secure the future.

It must be accepted that no serious thought was taken at independence to address issues of identity, cohesion, inclusion and nation building otherwise the feeling of alienation and powerlessness would not be pervasive and omnipresent after a 31-year-old journey of what was expected to be an experiment of nation-state building.

With a population of about 12 million and registered voters of about 5,9 million, only 2,5 million people voted in the March 2008 elections.

However, what is not known is the number of duly registered members of the three parties that formed the inclusive government pursuant to the Global Political Agreement framework.

If the numbers were known it would be evident that the period in between elections the State is driven by a minority group while the majority remain voiceless either by choice or as a result of fear.

The actual numbers pale in comparison to the millions who vote during elections.

Elections are events in the life of any nation-state and, therefore, it is not sufficient just to participate in events, but citizens must see it as their duty to add their voice on how they should be governed.

The State has and should never have a voice, rather its voice must be the voice of the majority whose interests it must serve.

What regrettably has happened in human civilisation is that the vocal people assume power solely because the majority, beginning with each citizen, assume that they are a minority and, therefore, their voice does not count.

The vacuum created by non-participation creates its own distortions and complexities like lack of institutional and financial capacity.

Human beings generally want to be led expecting that the actions of leaders are informed by better angels than the interests of those who want to hijack the people’ s power for personal benefit.

The powerful vocal minority has dominated the State to the extent that citizens, contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, feel helpless in reclaiming their sovereignty over matters of the State.

Any person with power must never be trusted because they can use the power for good or bad informed by the decision support systems that are in place and are revealed to them.

What is known and has been universally accepted is that human beings can never play the role of God in that whatever their station in life or power and money they may have access to, human beings are inherently corrupt and subjective.

Even the Head of State is just another person of the flesh with interests no different from those held by the weakest link in society.

If this is the case, in constructing a nation-state in which each citizen counts, it is important to inculcate in the minds of citizens that they are true owners of the State and that no person that is created through an electoral system, however intelligent, remains just another human being who has the capacity to be irrational, vindictive and small-minded.

When understood in its proper construction, the question of State power dynamics and how they play themselves out in any nation-state has to be seen in a broader context in which citizens constructively take a back seat or choose to behave as a minority in between elections on matters that affect their future.

It is generally accepted that in electing office-bearers, a legitimate expectation exists that they will act in a manner that promotes and protects the interests of members, but in reality people with power, however the power is acquired, generally exercise such power in their interests rather than in the interests of people they do not know and whose interests are remotely placed from those that are close to them.

It is, therefore, important for anyone who feels excluded to be part of the change that they want to see instead of reducing the number of the vocal, powerful minority by joining them with a view to diluting their voice.

When people choose to abdicate their civic responsibilities, nature normally takes its own course by bridging the gap with views and actions that undermine the interests and rights of the majority.

Is it not ironic that the people who complain about the unacceptable condition that the majority find themselves in after 31 years of independence, are the very people who elect to surrender their future to others by choosing to be the silent majority?

The fruits of democracy can only be harvested by the majority if they choose to invest in checks and balances that seek to control the power of the vocal minority who often misunderstand the true purpose of State power and the role of the State in serving the interests of the living.

Black ethnic groups make up 98% of the population and yet when complaining about their contemporary condition they often resort to finger-pointing instead of looking at themselves to locate the squandered opportunities of independence.

Who has been running the country when after a 31-year journey we still have to identify the enemy who has caused the vocal minority to preside over the State as if they own it?

The Constitution has no provision for a special citizen, let alone a superior one, to allow people to take a view that their claim on the future is subordinated to a powerful but vocal minority.

Only when the majority choose to be the custodians of their system and processes can the future be brighter and secure.

Mutumwa Mawere is a businessman based in South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.

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