2018 elections: We’re not choosing our masters, but our servants

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It is always fascinating to my dear wife Tinta whenever I tell her that President Robert Mugabe is not my boss, but the chief of my servants . . . and it is true!

By TENDAI R MBOFANA

In fact, in any democratic country, the President is considered the chief civil servant — which is the true essence of his/her role — a servant of the people.

It is very unfortunate that over the centuries, since the inception of the concept of a republic, this position has been perverted to such an extent that it has more or less lost its original meaning.

When people in Europe first revolted against monarchies — which were not only unelected, but had ruled over them with an iron fist, as still happening in Swaziland — they wanted to put their own people in office, who would do what they instructed them to do.

The monarchies had been doing exactly the opposite, as they did whatever they wanted, with scant regard for the needs, desires, and aspirations of the people they ruled over.

They were not exactly without justification, as they were not chosen by the people — but, mostly, getting into office through brute force, and wars.

As such, they were regarded as God-sent, anointed, and, hence, their actions and decisions could not be questioned.

This led to the suppression of the people, as the monarchs demanded complete loyalty, as death was the result of any form of insubordination.

The monarchs lived extremely lavish lifestyles, as all the taxes from the poor and oppressed peasants, and the country’s resources and wealth, went towards the king and queen’s family, while the poor only got poorer.

The people finally decided that enough was enough, and the flames of revolution spread across many parts of Europe, and later to the rest of the world.

The concept of a republic was supposed to be the complete opposite of the monarchy.

The President, Members of Parliament, ministers and regional or local government leaders were all supposed to come from among the people.

The people were to choose some among themselves to be responsible for certain tasks in the running of the country. It is not very difficult to understand.

It is similar to a group of siblings or even friends, who decide to start a small-scale business. They then decide to choose who will be responsible for what, according to each and everyone’s talents and qualifications.

As such, if one of them is excellent with accounting, they can choose him or her to be the treasurer or accountant, while the one who is very good at leading and mobilising everyone to move and work together, can be made the managing director, and so forth.

The one appointed the managing director cannot suddenly see him or herself as the boss or master of those siblings or friends who chose him or her.

They are all still equal as they are equal shareholders in the business, and can remove the managing director anytime they decide that he or she is failing to fulfil their stated duties and responsibilities. That is exactly the same concept of a republic.

We are all equal shareholders of the country called Zimbabwe. None of us is more important than the other.

We then come together during elections to choose who among us we can give certain responsibilities and duties, depending on their talents and abilities, so that they can fulfil what we the stockholders, the people instruct them to accomplish.

That is why during election time, the prospective office-bearers approach their fellow citizens — the electorate — requesting that they be chosen to represent them. It is similar to a job interview.

We, the shareholders, elect whom we feel is the best candidate for the top job — and if he or she does not perform satisfactorily, we have every right to recall them through Section 97 of our Constitution, or simply elect someone else at the next election.
As such, all elected officers are answerable to those that put them in office.

So, how then can someone I put in office be my boss or chef? I am the one who gave them the job, and through my taxes, I pay their salaries — so common sense and reason would tell me that these people are my employees.

This is a concept that all Zimbabweans must appreciate when choosing and dealing with our elected officials — the one who puts you in office and pays your salary is your boss and master, and you are answerable and accountable to them. Period! It is not the other way around.

Any elected office-bearer who perverts that order of things is nothing short of a dictator, who would have usurped power from those who would have put him or her in office.

In fact, I strongly believe that in a democratic dispensation, any elected leader who usurps power from the electorate and starts acting as if he or she is the boss — or chef, as Zimbabweans are fond of saying — would have committed a coup, and should be charged with treason.

However, these dictatorships are now so common, as most of these elected officials try their best to return their countries back to the Middle Ages.

Nonetheless, we, the people, need to stamp our feet down and demand our powers back. We need to boldly hold elected officials accountable and answerable.

They are not our chefs, but we are their chefs. As some Zimbabweans also love to say in reference to their employers, “ndisu varungu vavo”, we are, in fact, their employers, and we need to show it.

As much as those in office love such terms as Head of State and Government, and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, these are just hyped-up phrases.

When these terms were first used, all they meant was that the President of a country was the chief servant, that is why we still refer to government workers as civil or public servants.

Additionally, we would have elected a president to be the head in charge of our protection and security, to ensure that we, who elected him or her, and our country, are safe.

This is not a position of overwhelming authority and power over us, but of responsibility for our welfare and security.

This same concept of accountability also applies to our members of Parliament, councillors, and mayors, as we, their employers, need to make sure they are answerable for their every action.

The sooner Zimbabweans understand this concept, the better for the country’s future. The people we elect next year need to know that they are there to serve us, not themselves.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Email: tendaiand tinta.mbofana@gmail.com.