When minds meet — who governs, who rules?

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Having read Nathaniel Manheru’s article entitled Who governs, who rules? published by the Herald newspaper on January 13 2012, it occurred to me that the shrinking conversation space on what matters in shaping and defining the character of not only Zimbabwe, but Africa may very well explain the post-colonial African quagmire.

Manheru correctly observes that no real assessment of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MT)’s book has been done by a Zimbabwean and concludes by saying that this is partly a self-sought ruin, partly a tragedy of contemporary Zimbabwe.

My focus is not on MT’s book and its alleged shortcomings, but on the need to invest in the correct knowledge about the African story.

Many of us are afraid to add our voices and faces to the story, choosing to be observers of the unfolding drama that typically takes place in our continent.

The central message that comes from Manheru’s instalment is that Zanu PF is in charge and MDC representatives in government are of no consequence, but more significantly, are intellectual midgets whose actions and choices are not original and patriotic.

The fact that the post-colonial government of Zimbabwe has been presided over by one face is not in doubt, but the question of governance and the genesis of the ideas that have influenced the direction of the economy require careful examination.

In the battle of ideas that seek to dominate the thinking on what kind of Zimbabwe the future should hold, the people in power have a tendency to believe they alone have the historic mission to impose their ideas on others instead of negotiating with others on the kind of political and economic morality required to deliver the promise.

The Zimbabwean narrative will suggest the rulers are the only thinkers sufficiently concerned about the condition of the people when in truth and fact the squandered opportunities of the post-colonial era may have been directly produced by the crowding out effect of few minds that see no evil or harm emanating from power that is not shared or a vision that is monopolised.

It is clear from Manheru’s perspective that MT is not fit to govern. Equally, it is self-evident from the ideas he subscribes to that only his boss has what it takes to govern.

In the battle of ideas, we are compelled to ask whether an electoral system is capable of producing smart or intelligent outcomes.

If this is the case, people normally get leaders they deserve. What is more important is for citizens to be vigilant and participate actively in the battle of ideas because propaganda can be used to distort and mask the real issues.

MT, like any citizen of Zimbabwe, is entitled to be wrong ,but what is important is minds must find a meeting point on what matters.

To Manheru it would appear the rulers are always right and any credit for human progress in post-colonial Zimbabwe must be given to Zanu PF. However, we must accept Zanu PF and its actors are no angels.

I have no doubt the narrative of post-colonial Zimbabwe from the perspectives of people like the late Maurice Nyagumbo, Edgar Tekere and others may be different from Manheru’s, although no one can deny they played a part in the liberation struggle.

If I were to ask Enos Nkala, for instance, about the Zimbabwean question, I have no doubt he will have a lot to say about what has gone wrong not in MDC, but in Zanu PF.

Recently, James Makamba lost his daughter in a car accident, but unfortunately could not visit Zimbabwe because of the existence of a warrant of arrest notwithstanding the fact that he was acquitted on the charges which saw him languish in prison on remand for seven months.

I have no doubt he has much to say about the rulers of Zimbabwe and the great idea that would condemn him to prison for a crime he did not commit.

Phillip Chiyangwa, who has never received a government salary in his life, must be wondering what idea Manheru is talking about when he was arrested for espionage notwithstanding the fact that he was not a State actor.

Surely it must be self-evident to the minds that framed the charge that the Official Secrets Act must only apply to people who have taken an oath not to disclose government secrets to third parties?

Today, Chiyangwa is being told by a party of liberation that he is not free to add his name and face to the contestants for provincial party posts because he is guilty as charged.

No court of law has convicted him and yet the party Manheru credits with wisdom has already condemned him.

Surely the struggle for freedom, justice and democracy was meant to allow people like Chiyangwa to contest for any office without let or hindrance?

Only the voters must decide and yet it would appear to Manheru we should rather focus on MT’s alleged character flaws or disputed facts in his book to decide what kind of Zimbabwe we should have.

The starting point should certainly be an assessment of the actions and choices made over the last 32 years.

The focus should not be what MT’s shortcomings are because even according to Manheru’s version he has yet to taste real power.

Instead we should focus on the ideas of Zanu PF to understand why so many would find refuge and economic progress in foreign states and more importantly why people would be afraid to engage in the battle of ideas when they know better given what has happened to many who have chosen to see the world differently from the rulers.

As I look back on my own journey, I am also compelled to add my voice to the unacceptable political morality that would suggest that the end justifies the means.

In examining the preamble of the Reconstruction Act, a law used by the rulers to assume the control and management of SMM Holdings (Pvt) (Ltd) (SMM), I thought it would be beneficial to share the text so people can begin to understand why MT would find no better title than In the Deep End because the rulers can and have been ruthless in executing not the mandate of the people, but the desire to remain in power.

The preamble reads as follows: “The Act shall apply to all State-indebted companies, including those formed or incorporated before the date of commencement of the Act and regardless of when they became indebted to the State.”

In the battle of ideas, I have no doubt Manheru would find justification for a law that applies retrospectively. If this is what independence was meant to produce, then we must begin to debate the real question which is whether the rulers are fit to govern.

It is true that for any idea to be converted into law the consent of the President is required.

In this case, the Act was passed when Zanu PF dominated all the organs of the State and, therefore, it is legitimate to ask Manheru in his next instalment to provide a sound explanation on whether a regime capable of producing a law that applies retrospectively is what the liberation struggle was meant to produce and to what legitimate national interest.

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