“We still have to get our independence in this country where one does not have to be told what to do . . . we like a situation where one does what he feels like doing.”
These words were spoken last week by Chief Jonathan Mangwende during the official opening of the new Murehwa Magistrates’ Courts whose construction was financed by the Danish government.
As if to confirm this, State media reporters who were at the event couldn’t bring themselves to report the speech; or if they did, it was completely edited out by their superiors.
Whereas the private media has been rightly accused of being insufficiently critical of the MDCs, State media editors will never be seen to be in the slightest bit overtly — or even covertly — critical of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.
“Although we claim to have attained Independence in 1980, we have not yet got fully independent,” the chief said to thunderous applause. The long-suffering audience of rural people enjoyed this rare glimpse into freedom.
Chief Mangwende closed with these words: “You know what you wanted me to say, but I did not say it. Go out and say what you think I wanted to say.”
The chief essentially summarised the democracy deficit in Zimbabwe where independent thinking can be a dangerous business. For that forthrightness, Chief Mangwende was reportedly removed from the presidency of the Council of Chiefs and replaced by yes-men. These words are timely as the country approaches harmonised elections, especially in view of the fact that Jabulani Sibanda, having been given free rein from the very top, is going around in rural areas preaching a one-sided gospel as if Zimbabwe is constitutionally a one-party State.
He has been incessantly lecturing rural folk on who to vote for as if they don’t have minds of their own.
Chiefs must find this particularly abhorrent and irksome because it goes against tradition where they hold court and all views from the community are heard and taken into consideration.
It is the replacement of this traditional democratic ethos with an aping and submissive mentality that Chief Mangwende lamented last week.
Zimbabweans at large should welcome this observation by Chief Mangwende because they have suffered enough at the hands of a strangulating officialdom.
The refreshing candour from Chief Mangwende is sorely needed if this nation is to move forward; it’s a breath of fresh air in a suffocating political atmosphere. For that, we say: “Bang on target, Chief Mangwende!” We wish there could be more like you to tell the nation to face up to its ills — not the same repetitive voices drowning out alternative views, which has led to oppression, resulting in the condonation of exploitation and corruption.
It does not take rocket science to see that it is plainly wrong and scandalous to be still subjected to this 33 years after Zimbabwe was born, making Independence Day to be observed this week a hollow event.