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New city: Making gods out of mere mortals

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It is not in doubt that one of the most topical issues that sparked debate in this country last week was the disclosure by Local Government  minister Ignatius Chombo that Zimbabwe plans to build a new capital city at Mt Hampden, in President Robert Mugabe’s rural home district, Zvimba.

Comment by Tangai Chipangura

Within minutes of the news being splashed on the various NewsDay news platforms, several hundred people had responded, in many different ways.

There are those that agreed with the plan — their reasons ranged from the need to decongest city traffic to the necessity to go along with the trend where having separate political and economic capitals is becoming the in thing in the modern world.

Those that found the idea unacceptable and suspicious complained about lack of transparency, questionable feasibility and political bootlicking madness. They also questioned the curious choice of the location of the proposed new seat of government.

Chombo took quite some effort to justify the Mt Hampden location by explaining the decision was instructed by fundamental historical facts where two messengers, sent by celebrated colonialist champion, Cecil John Rhodes, to raise the British flag at Mt Hampden, lost their way and found themselves at the Kopje in Harare, resulting in the construction of present-day Harare in the 1890s.

So, according to Chombo, our government has now found it appropriate to fulfil the wishes of our colonial masters led by Rhodes – the people who stole our land and drove our ancestors into slavery and poverty. Wishes of the same people whose repression of the black person required no less than three (or is it four) Chimurengas, to reverse!

It is not difficult to understand why, therefore, many readers dismissed this Chombo explanation for the location of the new capital and to buy instead, the geographical association between the site of the new city and Mugabe’s rural home, Zvimba.

Chombo’s colleagues in government say Cabinet has not discussed this issue, let alone agreed; but the Local Government minister claims the project has already started. Construction of a new Parliament building is already underway, he said.

Ministers from the other side of the inclusive government said the idea was solely Chombo and Zanu PF’s — evidence of Mugabe hero-worshipping taken too far — bootlicking gone awry.

The arrogance and impunity with which Chombo has literally taken the country’s cities and towns into his pockets, make him a perfect candidate for such apple-polishing monstrosity.

If the reason for the building of the new capital is indeed, as appears to be, an attempt at making our leaders little gods, then we should be very afraid. We stand in danger of transforming our good leaders into incorrigible tyrants — blind to danger, deaf to advice and impervious to common wisdom — creating “brothers to the Moon and cousins to the Sun” out of mere mortals!

Respect and recognition of good work is acceptable everywhere, but we should avoid falling into the political bad habit of seeking personal favours from leaders by transforming them into gods or living legends or saints.

The late Idi Amin — that Ugandan despot — fell for this obsequious flattery until he believed he was his country’s messiah.

Closer home, we have had the likes of the late Tony Gara and other good-for-nothing political clowns seeking to equate Mugabe to Jesus — showering him with hyperbolic praises. There are others too in the MDC parties that worship their leaders in ways that risk transforming them into little human political gods.

The tragedy of such foolishness is that weak-minded leaders are so infected by this praise-singing and sycophantic flattery they begin believing they are indefatigable holy cows — not fallible humans who must account to the people that voted them into power.

This “dear leader syndrome”, according to one political observer, was the source of Julius Nyerere’s tragic economic ruin of Tanzania.

While Nyerere’s Ujamaa economic policies (his slogan was “democracy is a luxury that we cannot afford”) dragged his country into an economic cesspit between 1976 and 1986, the Tanzanians, led by praise-singing bootlickers, continued to shower him with praises, calling him “Mwalimu” – the wise teacher.

Up till today, Tanzania has not fully recovered from this Mwalimu’s obviously unwise and toxic teachings! What Zimbabweans should guard against are the dangers of transforming our leaders into demi-gods by unrestrained bootlicking of the kind we are witnessing.

We are free to call our leaders all sorts of comic praise names like “Cremora”, but as soon as we start telling fallible beings they are “True Sons of God”, “Angel Gabriel”, “second Jesus” or equating them to Biblical holy men “walking through the walls of Jericho”, we must know we are heading for disaster.

We encourage our leaders towards dangerous hallucinations where they drag our countries to the dogs – dancing and laughing all the way!

  • tangaic@newsday.co.zw

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