HomeOpinion & AnalysisCde Ngwena, change your tune

Cde Ngwena, change your tune


THE more things change, the more they stay the same.

By Conway Tutani

Turbulent changes – such the fast-tracked political rise of First Lady Grace Mugabe — do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo – as seen in the recycling of Shuvai Ben Mahofa into the Cabinet at the ripe old age of 74.

Things may seem like they are changing, but really all that’s being done is repeating the same things other people have done in the past.

Does the Rhodesian regime exist today? No. Does political repression exist today? Yes. It takes such changes to realise that things are still the same.

White Rhodesia evicted the Tangwena people from the fertile Gaeresi Ranch in the 1970s. Today the black government is evicting Mazowe villagers from the gold-rich Manzou Farm. That is why Zimbabwe today is almost like a carbon copy of Rhodesia. The Rhodesian regime treated blacks as an underclass politically and economically while the minority whites had all the privileges.

Today, the ordinary Zimbabwean can only watch as those at the top pamper themselves with favour after favour politically and economically while saddling the taxpayer with all the expenses, the latest of which could be a bill of $1,3 billion incurred by former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono on behalf of the ruling class.

Remember how Gono ruined the overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans’ lives in the service of the negligible, but powerful minority of his “principals”?

Now, the focus in on ensuring an unhindered rise for First Lady Grace Mugabe instead of the long-suffering people. In true democracies, such self-preoccupation among leaders would disastrously cost them votes, but here people are herded to rallies to sing praises of their tormentors.

The Rhodesian contempt for blacks is no different from the disrespect for ordinary people shown by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa last weekend when he addressed a rally which turned out to be for intimidating villagers to vote for his wife Auxillia to take over his parliamentary seat.

Mnangagwa said: “I therefore ask of all the 12 wards in Chief Chirumanzu’s area that you should go to the polls with the headman in front, (Zanu PF) district chairman following behind with the people and the councillor should also come, then go and vote.” This is rigging by coercion. Are they scared of the possibility that if the election is free, the result would be different?

White Rhodesia also went through the motions of elections. The result was a foregone conclusion because only about 5% of blacks were qualified to vote based on ownership of rateable property and secondary education whereas blacks were not treated as permanent urban residents and the few secondary schools could only take in the smallest number of students. These were deliberate bottlenecks. That was pre-rigging by exclusion.

Mnangagwa basically told the people that his wife was entitled to their vote without question. What he said was not new. He was merely restating the normal practice in the ruling Zanu PF. Such words can only come from people who don’t give a hoot about voters, who don’t give a hoot about democracy.

They have been doing that for so long and getting away with it. To them, ordinary people are just numbers, not people in their own right. It’s like a roll call of prisoners. It’s like a cattle head count at the dip tank. This is as contemptuous as the Rhodesians were, but it’s even worse because it’s being done on their own kind. It’s all the more sad that Mnangagwa, besides being Vice-President, is also the Minister of Justice and a trained lawyer. One would expect him to be uncompromising on the law and rules.

But shouldn’t the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) read the rule book to Mnangagwa and Zanu PF before the by-election and not react limply after the effect? The Electoral Act says: “Subject to the Constitution and this Act, every election shall be conducted in a way that is consistent with the following principles – the authority to govern derives from the will of the people demonstrated through elections that are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and properly on the basis of universal and equal suffrage exercised through a secret ballot . . .”

What secret ballot is there to talk about if voters are lined up behind the headman and Zanu PF district chairperson?

The Constitution of Zimbabwe allows universal suffrage, unlike the Rhodesian ones. The Rhodesians deliberately drafted their constitutions to bar blacks. There was no pretension of universal suffrage or semblance of it as their intents and purposes — unsustainable in the long term as they proved to be — were spelt out clearly. Perverted as it was, at least they stuck to their Constitution. The rules of engagement were there.

But today we have a government that forces people to vote against their will in contravention of the Constitution.

Where is ZEC in all this? Has it been compromised like the courts in white Rhodesia which invariably ruled in favour of the status quo? Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

As if that was not bad enough, Mnangagwa boldly stated: “We know that each polling station has its own results, we will want to know from each polling station where the people would have come from and how did they get in. What we might fail to know is how death will come, but anyone who is voting we can trace the pattern because they have one. Nobody comes to vote in the same manner death comes, for death you cannot build a fence to keep it out, but a person who votes we can tell if they are for us or not with us and those who are not ours we will fence them out.”

It can’t be more explicit and blatant than that.

This shows the blacks in power today merely took over from whites, they did not free us. Like the Rhodesians, they don’t care how they win as long as they win. These thuggish political tactics have alienated most of the popular support Zanu PF once enjoyed. Still, they – like Rhodesians — show no intention of reforming.

That’s why Mnangagwa is as keen as always to show the world that “this is the way we do it”. Yes, Mnangagwa’s fierce reputation precedes him. He takes delight in it and it seems he doesn’t want people to get this image of him as Ngwena (“The Crocodile”) out of their minds. But it’s not only wrong, but misguided to think that you are a super somebody just because you are feared.

To exarcebate the matter, Mnangagwa, newly-appointed as he is, could also be too eager to impress his hard-to-please boss President Robert Mugabe that he has lost none of his fierceness.

You have to choose what defines success, don’t allow someone else to do that. Trying too hard to endear yourself will result in gaffes like Pamberi nemhandu (Forward with sellouts) and other more serious blunders. Remember the brouhaha when someone referred to Auxillia as Acting First Lady? Some people are just implacable no matter how hard you try. It has to be themselves and no one else. But no person is better than another person based purely on status.

That said, the Honourable Vice-President ought to be reminded that fear can only grow in darkness. People – including the poor villagers who saw the “mobile car showroom” at his rally despite the “evil” sanctions imposed by the British and their allies – are not in the dark about what’s happening around them. They are seeing the light – ask the Mazowe villagers and the Tangwena people before them.

Cde Ngwena, you need to change your tune.


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