SOME people have asked why I appeared as though I was not particularly enthusiastic about the forthcoming harmonised elections in Zimbabwe.
This deduction seems to have emanated from my apparent shunning of writing much on the whole affair.
Quite understandably, there are those expecting me to delve deeper into such topical issues as the shambolic voters roll, exorbitant candidate nomination fees, the sinister role of Zanu PF-aligned Forever Associates Zimbabwe and even double candidacy by the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).
Indeed, those are undeniably very pertinent issues, central to any democracy, which need to be addressed with the seriousness they deserve.
We can even challenge the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) itself, which is supposed to be an independent body — considering how it has made quite a number of dubious decisions.
These include the skewed delimitation of ward and constituency boundaries, refusal to avail the voters roll, questions surrounding missing names of registered voters, and allegations of numerous people being moved from one constituency to another without their knowledge.
Clearly, there is plenty to write about.
Yet, I have not!
- RG's Office frustrating urban voters: CCC
- Fast-track delimitation, Zec urged
- 'Political parties must not be registered'
- Zec to address nomination fees outcry
Well, the reason is quite simple.
As far as I am concerned —as much as elections are an integral component of any democracy — they mean absolutely nothing when the citizenry does not hold its elected leaders to account.
It is the height of folly to think elections are the panacea to the myriad of challenges we are facing in Zimbabwe.
Let us remember that there are no saints in politics.
Each and every politician is in it for their own power ambitions.
I honestly do not believe there is anyone who wakes up in the morning and says, in all sincerity, “I’ve decided to run for public office because I want to improve the lives of the people”.
Only in a fiction movie can that happen.
In real life, politics has always been about power and the control of resources.
The citizenry only becomes a factor due to the nature of democracy — which dictates that, in order for one to achieve those power objectives, he needs to receive popular support in an election.
Quite frankly, had there been no need for voting, most (if not all) politicians would never have uttered such words as “the people” in their entire lives.
Besides, why would these politicians fight each other — if all they desire is to help us have a better life?
Let us say, there is an elderly lady struggling to carry a heavy load, and there are three young men more than willing to assist.
What sense would there be if they fought among themselves for the opportunity to carry the load?
If politicians were genuinely for the interests of the people and nation, there would be absolutely no reason to fight for this privilege.
The fact that there are so many power struggles — characterised by heinous acts of violence, court challenges, propaganda and backstabbing — is a clear sign that this has very little, if any, to do with the ordinary citizenry.
That is why, even in the most advanced democracies, tough checks and balances are in place, designed to hold political leaders to account.
In so doing, there is separation of powers — whereby the Legislature, Judiciary, and Executive arms of government hold each other accountable.
They are not captured or in place to serve the interests of the Executive or ruling elite.
In some countries, such as the US, South Africa and even Zimbabwe, they have gone further by prescribing presidential term limits.
This is all done with the knowledge that politicians are in it for money and power, and if left unchecked, will easily become dictators.
In fact, such strong institutions are what prevented then US president Donald John Trump from turning into a 21st century Adolf Hitler.
Who can doubt that, had the US been Zimbabwe, Trump would have easily amended the Constitution to remove these presidential term limits?
Furthermore, he could have succeeded in refusing to concede defeat in 2021 and arm-twisted the electoral body into declaring him the victor over his rival Joe Biden.
Only strong, unbiased institutions prevented that from taking place.
Nonetheless, the most powerful tool for keeping leaders in check are the citizens themselves.
Which explains why, in nearly all genuine democracies, freedoms of speech, expression, demonstration, Press, assembly, and association are jealously guarded under their Constitutions.
Nothing under the sun beats the people themselves, making sure their political leaders are answerable for their every actions and decisions.
Without utilising this potent weapon, we can never talk about democracy.
Which brings me back to our issue.
Let me be brutally honest, as long as we (the people) do not hold our leaders accountable — it will not matter who is in power. That is why I am not really interested or excited about the forthcoming harmonised elections.
I sincerely believe that had we held the Zanu PF regime answerable to the people, it would not have turned into the monster it is today.
However, from the day they gained power at independence in 1980, we treated them as heroes and demigods who could do no wrong.
Even when they were busy massacring tens of thousands of innocent unarmed civilians
— barely two years into independence — most Zimbabweans cast a blind eye and behaved as if all was well.
As the years went by, the ruling elite became more and more emboldened and comfortable in their positions as they embarked on a grand looting of our resources and all manner of corruption.
Again, we did practically nothing to stop their nefarious conduct.
Today, those in power can do pretty much what they feel like, without any fear of backlash from the citizenry.
This has resulted in millions of Zimbabweans being thrown into abject poverty as billions of dollars worth of national resources are pillaged.
Who, in all this, is to blame?
The billion-dollar question is: Even if we had a new government in power after the August 23 harmonised elections, what would change for the man, woman and child on the street?
Will we not simply repeat what we did in 1980?
We will celebrate, with overwhelming excitement, the “dawn of a new Zimbabwe” while hailing those who managed to remove Zanu PF from power as heroes and demigods.
After which, we will look aside, or even support them, as they consolidate their grip on power — most likely through weeding out and purging any opponents, branded as Zanu PF remnants sabotaging the new government's programmes.
As we allow them to do all that, our new leaders will become more and more dictatorial until we have lost control over them, as they turn the tables and control us, instead.
Soon, we will be back to complaining that we are suffering under brutal oppressors. Of course, diehard supporters who will be in agreement will fiercely defend such anti-people policies.
The vicious circle will just keep continuing.
Why should we be surprised since every politician is inspired by the love for power and control of resources?
As such, it is incumbent upon us, as the citizenry, to always hold our leaders to account without fear or favour, no matter how menacing and brutal they may be.
In fact, our apparent indifference to these acts of repression, even supporting and defending them, is the reason we ended up in this mess at the hands of Zanu PF.
As long as we continue with that attitude, we will create another kleptomaniac dictatorship in whatever political party comes to power.
In other words, I really do not place any hope in any opposition party that is elected into office after the elections — as long as we, the people, cannot hold our leaders to account.
That is exactly the kind of people we are. We allow those we support to get away with practically anything.
In a democracy, leaders are usually questioned and placed under close scrutiny by their own political party members.
That is why in Britain, several prime ministers (Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss) were forced to quit under various accusations.The were not hounded out by the opposition Labour Party, but by their own Conservative Party.
In Zimbabwe, it is completely the opposite.
The party in charge — whether at national or local government level — is seldom made answerable by its supporters and members.
As a matter of fact, the supporters defend anything and everything their political leaders do — even blindly buying into the never-ending excuses for their abysmal failures.
Anyone who dares question is branded an enemy and subjected to condemnation and insults at the hands of diehard party sycophants.
That is why it is so easy for people to categorise people like myself, albeit erroneously, into all manner of political camps.
When I criticise the ruling Zanu PF party, I am labelled a CCC supporter — and when I question opposition-run local authorities, I suddenly become Zanu PF.
That is absurd!
This is a troubling sign of a nation that is averse to holding its leaders to account.
Thus, it is not shocking at all that we end up with leaders who ruin our lives — pushing us into depths of poverty and suffering.
So, what will change even if another political party takes over the reins?
I repeat, politicians are not in it for us, but for themselves.
Sitting back and lamely expecting our politicians to naturally do what is good for Zimbabwe is the height of naivety.
It is not hatred to hold one’s leaders answerable to the citizenry.
If truth be told, I have absolutely no hard feelings or ill-will towards President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF.
What I do is merely what is expected of any responsible citizen including Zanu PF supporters themselves.
That is why I never spend a lot of time on social media attacking or mocking him and his party.
I just post my articles, and that is it!
We should place the interests of the nation ahead of any political party.
Therefore, as long as we are not prepared to hold our leaders to account, we should never expect anything to change in Zimbabwe, regardless of who wins the elections.
That is why I am not enthusiastic about the whole electoral process.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author and speaker. He writes here in his personal capacity.