Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma was arrested, detained and later released for the umpteenth time on Wednesday, this time on allegations of undermining the authority of President Robert Mugabe at a rally at Manhenga business centre, Bindura, a few months ago.
Mangoma allegedly told the rally that “Mugabe die, Mugabe go”.
The offence against the minister, like several Zimbabweans who have been arrested for allegedly ridiculing the President, is not only archaic, but an affront to democracy and a serious violation of our Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech.
Mugabe, as the country’s most senior civil servant, should not be protected from criticism and cannot be immune to ridicule by fellow politicians, especially at rallies where politicking to woo support is the common thing.
After all, Mugabe is a master of ridiculing his opponents. Is he not the same Mugabe who some few years ago described Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as a “complete ignoramus” and a “tea boy”? Remember Mugabe’s days as Prime Minister when he called the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo as the “father of dissidents”? The President has also used intemperate language against the late Ndabaningi Sithole, Simba Makoni and Jonathan Moyo, just to mention a few.
As a nation, we don’t need an imperial president whose decisions and demeanour cannot be subject to scrutiny by promulgating laws to protect bad governance and behaviour under the guise of undermining someone’s authority.
We need servant-leadership, not monarchies and kingdoms where the subjects are expected to meekly toe the line without raising a finger. Servant-leadership simply entails that leaders need to serve the people by, among other means, not crafting draconian laws to stop citizens from questioning their governance ethic or calling for their ouster.
There are two distinct roles for servant-leadership – one of vision and the other of implementation. This entails that once a leadership lacks vision, like that of Mugabe and Zanu PF, the electorate has the fundamental right to call and execute regime change and this cannot and should not constitute an offence. It cannot be equated to ridiculing or undermining the authority of the President. Such colonial laws do not broaden and entrench democracy. They are antithetical to the democratic ethos and should be abrogated for the good of Mugabe and the nation at large.
We have several laws on our statutes which should be repealed or amended, among them the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Broadcasting Service Act and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which inhibit people’s civil liberties.
Zimbabweans should demand legislative reforms now and assert the right to be governed well!