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July 30 gives Zimbabwe opportunity to break from past

Opinion & Analysis
The upcoming election is a great opportunity for Zimbabweans in general, for the current political leadership and even for the ousted dictator, himself, I will explain why.

The upcoming election is a great opportunity for Zimbabweans in general, for the current political leadership and even for the ousted dictator, himself, I will explain why.

Charles Kangai

Of course, for the masses, the election is a good opportunity to cast their votes and decide in what direction they want their country to go. Zimbabwe is a country that has a lot of talent and potential. Zimbabwe belongs to all and not to a syndicate of individuals. The genius in Zimbabwe has unfortunately been suppressed by an autocratic government over the years, especially during the dictatorship of the uninterrupted 37 and half years after independence.

This has led to a situation where a country, which should be one of the richest in the world, is now one of the poorest, with our young people being denied the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations.

The election is also a great opportunity for the current leadership, whether they lose or win the election, especially if they lose, for one very important reason: Zimbabwe has never in its history ever had a peaceful transfer of power.

The leadership now has a golden opportunity to break with the past and avoid the temptation of rigging the election using systems that were put in place by former President Robert Mugabe. Imagine if President Emmerson Mnangagwa (ED) loses the election and gracefully concedes and congratulates the winner. He would make instant history. He would become a greater statesman than if he had won the election, because he would have given the Zimbabwean people something no one ever gave them before – their country! He would truly go down in history as the man who gave the country back to the people. Think about it! He would be credited with being the man who finally drove out the ghost that has haunted Zimbabwe for more than 100 years.

If a peaceful transition of this kind were to happen, Zimbabweans would have tasted what it is like to have a democratic and free country and there would be no looking back. This would be a watershed election that people would remember for generations, even centuries. This is why I think Mnangagwa has a golden opportunity. The real losers would be those who want to run Zimbabwe like a mafia: intimidating, killing, amassing money and wealth by extortion. May these people be consigned to the dustbin of ignominy and disgrace! These people are currently publicly campaigning against ED and they are peddling a vendetta campaign using social media as well as the news media. Their concern is only revenge for the ousting of the dictator who let them plunder and loot; they do not care about the people of Zimbabwe. Of course, if ED wins the others should gracefully concede too.

As for Mugabe, he too might have an opportunity to make some amends for his wrongs. Of course, the wrongs he committed are so big that he can never fully make amends, but he can at least clear the air by publicly apologising for what he did to Zimbabwe: two generations of talent lost, impoverishing of a country that was once the bread basket of Africa, consigning more than four million Zimbabweans to being refugees in other countries, dividing the people, intimidating and killing, corrupting and brutalising the minds of the youths, engaging in widespread kleptocracy all by himself and his family and close associates, 40 years of development lost, an unknown number of people who died from deprivation, hunger and even diseases like cholera! He could at least help the country move on by acknowledging honestly and openly that he was ensnared by the allure of, and the lust for power and money and by his deluded belief in his own imagined greatness. He is indeed a living example of the wise saying that “power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

If he does apologise and is sincere with the apology, he could return to the people everything he stole and apologise in person to the families of those who lost loved ones by the violence he orchestrated.

Then the people might even pray for him, as otherwise the gravity and seriousness of the crimes he committed must surely be a terrible burden on his soul. He reminds me of Jesus saying referring to the gravity of what Judas Iscariot had done: “I tell you, for such a one it would be better if he had not been born.”

Looking even beyond the elections, I would like the political and social atmosphere in Zimbabwe to change. We have had nearly 40 years of a bombastic approach, or manyawi or hatibviri attitude to politics.

Sekuru Chaminuka spoke against this in the 19th century and they killed him. He said: “Okay, you can kill me, but some foreign people will come after me and defeat and conquer you”. That is exactly what happened. Let’s all try to be humble and good. Leaders and those in public service should be there to serve the people and not be their masters. That is how things work in developed countries and that is why those countries have developed and Zimbabwe has not. As I mentioned before, a country that has an autocratic rule is really very weak, because the power is so centralised that it is easier for an enemy to pinpoint and assassinate the people who are at the centre of power. Nowadays there is advanced technology so that the movements of anyone in this world can be tracked by people who know how even to a hut in the countryside.

Satellites allow a person in London to see a tree in a small village in Buhera, the cattle grazing about and the people there. There are people who have already mapped the locations of ammunition dumps and key communication posts in all the countries in the world. Somewhere in the world, there is a database that knows where you are right now and if you have a mobile phone or computer with a camera, chances are that the camera at some point has taken a picture of you without you knowing and sent it to some database somewhere.

The only happy and safe way forward is to take the people as the masters, accept election results without rigging and leave people to vote for whoever they want without applying undue pressure on them. They know what they want so let them choose! Do not try to force them to change their mind!

I want to hope that the practice of using intimidating slogans like pasi na nhingi (down with so-and-so!) be outlawed as a crime against free speech.

Let people express themselves. Do not suppress the genius and creativity within people. The greatest asset in any country is its people and their creativity. Their ideas, when allowed to be expressed freely, create progress and development in a country. I have studied the lives of a lot of western scientists, great artists and philosophers from the last few hundred years and in almost all cases you, will find that they had the freedom to express themselves and that is how their ideas grew and brought benefit to everyone.

Lastly, but by no means least, would it not be great if our leadership would start every day by sitting with their office staff for a few minutes every day to remind themselves that they are there to serve the people? Perhaps they should even finish this short reminder with an inspiring reading from the Bible or other holy text and a prayer.

At the end of the day you would have done your best and you can lay the fruit of your actions at the feet of the Lord, without making your own selfish ego a part of the equation. Mahatma Gandhi used this formula and I am told that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also has this habit. Happiness does not come from wealth, especially looted wealth, nor does it come from the victory of rigged elections, but it comes from doing the right thing and having a clear conscience. Another saying by the wise ones goes: “If wealth is lost nothing is lost, if health is lost something is lost, but if character is lost everything is lost!”

 Charles Kangai writes in his own capacity