It was Hitler who said, “The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.”
By Paul Kaseke
This week, I want to explore the role of the Zimbabwean citizen in the coming elections.
I have noticed a worrying, but increasing trend by citizens to attack each other in the name of their parties, especially, on social media forums.
Some of these attacks are mild, but most are crude, shameful and alarming. Name calling is how “politics seems to be done,” but we miss the bigger picture, which is constructive engagement with proposed policies, proposals or views by parties and candidates in general.
It’s almost as if the very effect of the ex-President Robert Mugabe administration, marred by characteristics of a totalitarian government, have been passed on to most Zimbabweans.
If we think about it, we have become that which we have despised. Hitler knew all too well what he spoke about when he set out the ultimate strength of the totalitarian government as being able to create disciples or followers of the very same system the citizen detests.
If this is what Mugabe set out to do then without a doubt, he should receive an honorary doctorate for this because from the looks of things, he, together with his colleagues in government, have achieved this.
We are unable to disagree respectfully without name calling or threats, but what is more concerning for me is that this is the kind of intolerance that unleashes violence.
The scary part is of course that the political leaders people so viciously defend are not the ones that get their hands dirty. I have always maintained that these leaders can sit together in a room and joke with one another.
We have seen how MDC-T president and MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa interacts with President Emmerson Mnangagwa or Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga at public forums – each of these individuals can enjoy a friendly chat with a member from the other side of the political divide.
They understand the nature of politics — it’s a game, but it does not change that we are all Zimbabweans at the end of the day.
It is rather disconcerting then that we spend time attacking people emotionally, verbally or even physically when the leaders themselves are at peace with each other.
Of course, during a campaign season, things are said at rallies and political shots are fired at the competing parties, but that is what politics is like. Nothing is really personal, but alas we have missed that and insist on making everything personal and defending politicians we have probably never interacted with personally.
How sad is it that we hate each other and vilify each other over political choices for leaders who will probably never know our names, let alone what we look like? Not that hatred is ever defensible, but surely people’s political views should not be enough to go to the lengths we go to in defence of our political leaders.
Aside from the vitriol, we must guard against a repeat of the 2008 electoral violence, which was perpetrated by citizens against citizens. Whether the said violence was under the dictates or instructions of the leaders is neither here nor there.
The fact is that it is the citizen who was used to harm and injure fellow citizens. Whatever the motives or rationale, it comes down to ordinary people like you and me. Therefore, we must be careful about how we show our support for leaders.
We must choose right from wrong. We must know when an argument should stop, because it has crossed the line. We must know when to abandon political campaigning or patronage in favour of nationhood and love for the common good. We must ultimately refuse to be tools of hatred and violence.
Never again should we see our politics resulting in death. We should be beyond that now and our political maturity will indeed be tested in the coming months.
As I have written previously, we need to abandon narratives that seek to paint commentary and views as black and white, because that is just narrow minded and shallow.
If I for example, criticise the government, as I have done on many occasions, that does not make me anti-government or an MDC supporter. It also follows that a criticism of Chamisa’s approach on a matter does not make me a Zanu -PF supporter.
One can objectively criticise or scrutinise something without having a sinister agenda for doing so or belonging to a political party.
Those of you who have followed this column will know there is no sacred cow or hallowed individual who is immune from criticism or analysis here. We do so without fear and favour, because that is ultimately what democracy is about — the freedom to think, think differently and express same respectfully.
I hope and pray that as a nation we can grow to a point where our political differences are less significant than that which unites us — our nation.
Our common heritage symbolised by our flag ultimately makes each of us family regardless of race, creed, gender, tribe, language, religion or political affiliation. We need to be more mature than the petty politics that has claimed many lives before.
In fact, we owe it to every single victim of political violence, to ensure that the 2018 elections are violence-free.
The late Bra Hugh Masekela has a song that has been brought to the fore after being used by the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to end his maiden State of the Nation address. “Thuma Mina” which literally translates to “Send Me”, has become a call to service but in our context, may I suggest that when the call to violence, hatred, destructive politics, smear campaigns and intolerance is made, we collectively respond “Don’t send me”.
Let’s be counted as people that have convictions and differences, but who refuse to use hate speech or violence to resolve those differences.
Let’s instead use our differences to bring us together, because at the end, what binds us together is stronger than that which separates us …just saying!
Paul Kaseke is a legal adviser, commentator, analyst and former law lecturer with the Wits Law School & Pearson Institute of Higher Education (formerly Midrand Graduate Institute). He serves as director and current group chair of AfriConsult Firm. He writes in his personal capacity. You can give him feedback via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @paulkasekesnr