LET us just imagine this scenario.
My son goes to a house in our neighbourhood, and claims to the occupants that I sent him to ask for some money.
What response are we to expect from this family?
I am sure it would largely depend on either of three factors.
Surely, the neighbour would be shocked by such an unexpected, clearly inappropriate and shocking request — especially, if we never had a close relationship, whereby I would ask for money from them.
It becomes worse if we are not even familiar with each other.
Furthermore, usually in such circumstances, there is always a high likelihood that I never sent my son, in the first place, and he was merely trying to dupe the neighbour of his cash.
The logical and most likely outcome in this case is that he will either refuse, outright, to give my son the money, or he can investigate whether the request is genuine, and why I elected such an approach.
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Or, on the other hand, if this sort of request is something common between us, and moreso, if sending my son for such a purpose was nothing strange, then the neighbour would not find anything untoward, and therefore, give him (my son) the money without any hesitation.
Maybe, there could be a third scenario, much darker and more unnerving, in that I am notorious in my neighbourhood, not necessarily for borrowing money, but as a menacing thug, who instils terror in all those who know me and, as such, denying my demands is a death wish.
This brings me back to my country, Zimbabwe.
It was most unsettling and extremely disturbing to read a statement by our police force, warning all those involved in abusing the President’s name — as they fleece and defraud unsuspecting people of their money and property — under the pretext that he had instructed them to do so, or they were close to the highest office on the land.
The first thing that came to mind, after hearing of this peculiar and undeniably troubling threat by our law enforcement agents, was: How is this even possible?
How is name-dropping able to succeed if there was nothing already gravely amiss with our country’s governance system?
According to my earlier illustration, let us say if someone were to go to a local businessperson, claiming that he was working on the instruction of the President to demand cash and goods for the ruling party’s presidential campaign.
Or, a suspect in a criminal case is arrested by law enforcement agents, on accusations of misappropriating funds from a public enterprise and the commanding officer receives a visit from an individual alleging to have been sent by the President to order the immediate release of the accused.
Maybe, a senior lands officer is given a call by a person saying as a close ally of the Head of State, he wants the official to provide him an offer letter for a particular farm.
What do these three scenarios tell us about the state of our country?
Firstly, why would the businessperson, police commanding officer, and senior lands official obey instructions that are undoubtedly unlawful?
The President clearly does not have the authority to demand donations in cash and goods from anyone, or order the release of a person from lawful detention, or demand the allocation of land without following procedure.
Why do those finding themselves in these situations comply with illegal instructions?
Would we be wrong in concluding that this is because the President is most likely already known for issuing similar orders?
Or possibly, this is a direct result of a regime infamous for its ruthlessness and barbarity — which have instilled so much terror in the population, including those who are supposed to be professional, to the extent that even clearly unlawful or improper directives are obeyed?
How else are we, the citizenry, merely watching from afar, expected to conclude?
It is extremely difficult for me to believe that such things would be possible in a truly democratic country, which honours and respects the rule of law and the citizenry fully understands their rights, and where the powers and authority of the State President begin and end.
In a normal country, a police officer turns down, in no uncertain terms, any such orders.
Furthermore, in a truly democratic country — those in power are aware of, and dutifully adhere to the limits of their legal authority — never acting beyond what is expected of their office, or instilling fear in the people they are supposed to lead, who end up obeying unlawful instructions.
Failure of which leaves the door wide open for opportunists who abuse the name of the President simply because they know it is doable.
That is where our problem lies in Zimbabwe.