THE drama unfolding in the Commission of Inquiry into the post-election violence continued to attract attention. The testimonies last week were a mixture of different sets of truths, politically-positioned views and the sensationalisation of issues. It was down to which party one spoke on behalf of and not anymore the truth of how and why people lost their lives on August 1.
Develop me: Tapiwa Gomo
In all this drama, one thing was clear. Most of our people are unable to stand by the objective truth. Those who testified either spoke on behalf of power or against it.
While for the past two decades, this has been described as political polarisation, but what transpired last week had a lot to do with protecting the interests from the status quo or grieving their loss. Interests reveal character.
Much of this surprising drama came from either the former or current ruling party sympathisers. The former took to the podium to settle scores with the ruling party and its system, while the latter did so to protect the little morsels they access from the same, but at the expense of human dignity. The truth and bigger picture were lost, a clear sign that as a nation, if some of those who occupy vital positions in our society can be manipulated to compromise the truth and human life over trivial gains, we are still remote from the mind-set needed to usher the country into that middle-class economy.
The current leadership of the ruling system will capitalise on this as an example of an improvement in affording people their freedom of expression. Expression of deceit to conceal the evil acts of power is not freedom of expression and neither is the expression of anger against the ruling party at the expense of the objective truth nor emotionalism.
Freedom is the cornerstone of any progressive society as it affords the society the ability to be honest with itself, to conduct checks and balances and hold its institutions of governance accountable. Freedom begets honesty, truth and confidence which enables unhindered creativity, progression and growth. This is the foundation upon which development is built.
What the nation heard last week in that commission of inquiry demonstrated that power is in control of the mind-sets and defines the truth. Those who gave testimonies attempted to recast the concept of freedom of expression, largely deriving from their interests than the truth. In that scramble, the objective truth was shoved, twisted and skilfully moulded to suit the interests of those with the power to shape it. As the nation is aware, the status quo struggles to be developmental and yet it has so much control over how people view the world around them.
Freedom is not given but acquired. It is an inspiring ideal, fundamental to the concept of human dignity and visions of a rewarding and meaningful life. Its appeal and ability to unite and inspire, have always been the powerful political weapon to foster change and economic development. And in our case, it should a be a basis for a call for change and development.
Some among us have sold their souls and have used the commission to justify the status quo for trivial and perishable gains. The Jim Kunaka flirtation with the ruling party should have taught some of our young ones never to compromise the truth, as the ruling party can hire and fire once they lose interest in an individual. On the bigger picture, we do not need to be reminded that when a ruling system is put under pressure, it capitalises on and monopolises the concept of freedom. The ruling party has used the language of freedom as a tool of control, justifying poverty, eroding democratic spaces and lending legitimacy to its autocratic tactics since 1980.
Whoever said most people are opposing the system to join it and access its benefits and not to change it was right. The nation can change the situation by changing their thoughts and mind-set. The more the nation understands the limits imposed by power on their freedom, the better placed it is to break the limits. The gullibility shown last year when all and sundry joined the ruling party and the army to topple former President Robert Mugabe is a clear indication that we are less free to pursue the change agenda than we like to think.
The MDC has been performing better in elections in its attempts to constitutionally remove Mugabe, but that has not resulted in change. It simply shows that the nation is not free to change the political situation. It is through understanding the freedom we lack that we are able to develop the freedom we possess. This ignorance of our limitations over the decades has left the nation more vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation and denied the country development.
Confronting these limitations to freedom will expose a number of the illusions in our political system, surrounding citizen rights and responsibilities, justice, political democracy and the economy.
Some of these illusions have remained because they advance the interests of the status quo while offering false comfort. There is a price to everything. The way power defines freedom shapes the people’s view of their world and their vision of the future. Our view of the world is impaired by power.
Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa