Columnist/Opinion

Mr. Mnangagwa, please copy what is good and not what is evil!

by Tendai Ruben Mbofana

I always feel excited whenever I see good at work.

This morning was no exception.

It is not every time that one comes across news that brings so much positivity and optimism about the world.

However, today was one of those rare moments.

As I was watching the South African national broadcaster SABC, a huge smile formed across my face as I was gripped by a heightened sense of joy.

All the major political parties contesting in this year’s general elections were being given full coverage.

This morning alone, I watched the main opposition DA (Democratic Alliance), EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) opposition parties featured prominently without any bias or prejudice.

Julius Malema was there addressing huge crowds of his EFF supporters, and so was the DA’s John Steenhuisen.

The same applied to the smaller political parties, such as Patricia de Lille’s Good Party and SARA (South Africa Rainbow Alliance) led by Colleen Makhubele.

Why am I so jubilant about all this?

Is this not a normal thing that should no longer incite such excitement, particularly from a 50-year-old grown man as myself?

Is it not embarrassing that I am acting like a little child who has just been left alone in a toy store?

Maybe it should be embarrassing, but there is a reason behind this seeming childish excitement.

I am from Zimbabwe.

This is a country that has never witnessed a smooth democratic transfer of power since attaining independence 44 years ago.

In fact, the last time power changed hands in a relatively democratic manner was when the country moved from colonial to so-called ‘majority rule’ on the midnight of 17th April 1980.

I was only a seven-year-old boy at that time.

Today, I am 50 years old, and just as every other Zimbabwean, I have only known ZANU PF being in power.

Actually, until I reached 44 years of age, I had only known one man as the undisputed leader – Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

He was subsequently ousted through a military coup d’état by his own long-time protégé Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, who is now the president.

The bitter irony in all this is that the only time the country actually experienced regular smooth transfer of power – from one leader and political party to another – was during the colonial era.

The same system that ZANU PF waged a liberation struggle against – under the pretext of fighting for democracy.

In the course of only 40 years since the country was colonized by the British in 1890, there were at least eight prime ministers — from Charles Coghlan (October 1, 1923) to Ian Douglas Smith (April 13, 1964) – covering six different governing parties.

In ‘independent Zimbabwe’ we have only known one party (ZANU PF) for 44 years, and a leader forced out of power through the barrel of a gun.

Indeed, the colonial establishment was racially segregated, and the majority did not have much of a say.

Nonetheless, we would have expected the post-independence government to extend this democracy (which was largely confined within the white community) to the rest of the nation.

What we have, however, seen, in utter horror, is the total opposite.

Now, this unalienable right to freely choose our own leaders has been cruelly stripped from all Zimbabweans!

So, yes, it is perfectly understandable when a whole 50-year-old man acts so excited over watching real democracy at play in a neighboring country.

This is to be expected from one who lives in a country where the opposition, in particular a strong one, is regarded as an ‘enemy of the state’.

Not only are elections repeatedly rigged, but state institutions, which are supposed to be impartial and apolitical, are abused for the benefit of the ruling party.

This has been the case ever since ZANU PF gained power in a somewhat dubious fashion in 1980.

However, the situation became unbelievably worse after the establishment of a formidable opposition, the MDC, in 1999.

Since then, no matter under what name the party has operated, the ZANU PF regime has ensured that it was viciously crushed.

The police have been used to bar most opposition gatherings, and the military has ferociously cracked down upon any demonstrations.

The judiciary has played the role of persecuting opponents, and the electoral commission has done the bidding of ZANU PF.

State media has effectively been turned into a mere desk in the information and publicity department of the ruling party.

That is what makes watching SABC such a huge joy as it is in stark contrast to its Zimbabwean counterpart ZBC.

On ZBC, the main opposition is seldom featured, and the little coverage it receives is riddled with disgraceful bias and lies.

Yet, on SABC, strong challengers to the ruling ANC party – such as the DA and EFF – are awarded enormous balanced coverage, and even their rallies broadcast live.

The DA, a predominantly white political party, has never been brutally clamped down upon under the pretext of ‘protecting South African democracy from agents of apartheid’.

Nonetheless, in Zimbabwe, any real threat to ZANU PF is immediately branded ‘agents of the West seeking to recolonize the country ‘.

This has been used as justification for the horrendous despicable abuse of power by the regime. 

Never have I come across reports of the South African judiciary convicting or even jailing opposition activists on laws that do not even exist or without any prima facie evidence.

Yet, in Zimbabwe, that has become the norm – as witnessed with Job Sikhala and Jacob Ngarivhume.

The latter was sentenced to four years in prison for ostensibly inciting public violence – when, in fact, he merely urged Zimbabweans to peacefully demonstrate against corruption, which is a constitutionally protected right.

The former was found guilty of publishing false statements prejudicial to the state – a law which was struck down by the Constitutional Court some 11 years ago.

Never have I heard of the SAPS (South Africa Police Service) repeatedly denying opposition parties the right to conduct campaign rallies or citizens from peacefully demonstrating.

As a matter of fact, the SAPS perform their duties of protecting protestors and the general public with exceptional diligence.

The IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) of South Africa is a far cry from its sister in Zimbabwe, ZEC.

In all the elections held in South Africa, never have there been any significant disputes – leading to the winner always having legitimacy.

The same can sadly not be said about our Zimbabwe.

Both Mugabe and Mnangagwa have ruled the country through highly questionable electoral processes, thereby lacking legitimacy.

These are not simply allegations or my own personal opinions – but facts recorded by ZANU PF’s own friends in SADC, whose election observer report was quite unequivocal in its condemnation of the sham 2023 harmonized elections.

In contrast, there has not been any adverse report on elections in South Africa.

This then brings up a question pestering me.

Mnangagwa is disturbingly fond of referring to his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, as ‘his brother’.

If Ramaphosa is ‘his brother’, why does he (Mnangagwa) not learn from his good works?

Why can Mnangagwa not sit down with ‘his brother’ and ask how to practice genuine democracy?

Surely, who, in their right mind, would not want to emulate the good deeds of his brother?

Granted, Ramaphosa and his ANC are far from being saints.

If anything, they are also busy running down that beautiful prosperous country – through shocking acts of corruption and mismanagement.

However, their democracy is still something to emulate.

Instead of running to far away countries as China and Russia to take notes on how to not only suppress the citizenry, but also destroy democracy – Mnangagwa should just go next door to see ‘his brother’.

Of course, we all know the reason.

Those in power are fully aware of the egregious crimes they have committed against the people and nation of Zimbabwe.

In so doing, they are terrified of relinquishing power – as that could mean living out the rest of their lives behind bars and losing all their ill-gotten wealth.

They know that the people of Zimbabwe are angry with the ruling elite for the unimaginable poverty and suffering orchestrated through the massive looting of our natural resources.

They know that there are thousands of families who demand justice for their loved ones who were massacred by the ZANU PF regime.

For Mnangagwa and his colleagues, the only thing shielding them from the wrath of the people is holding on to power.

It is literally a matter of life and death.

That is why Mnangagwa would rather learn all the evil tricks of China and Russia than the good just next door in South Africa.

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com, or visit website: https://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/

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