Zimbabwe was more mature as a 10-year-old than in its 40s!

BY Tendai Ruben Mbofana

The ruling elite are fond of telling us that democracy in Zimbabwe is still fledgling but maturing by the day.

They want everyone to believe that we are a young nation – fresh out of the entrapment of colonialism, still learning the ropes, and finding its footing.

Those in power repeatedly plead with both Zimbabweans and the international community to be patient.

In some strange way, the ruling clique are determined to make us believe that democracy in Zimbabwe is actually improving.

Well, all I can say is that this is a whole lot of hogwash!

As a matter of fact, democracy in Zimbabwe has been worsening since we attained independence in 1980 and is actually now on its deathbed.

Besides, how can a 44-year-old nation surely claim to still be fledgling?

I have been closely following South African politics, more so during the current electoral period.

I am impressed. Exceedingly impressed.

In spite of a few grievances expressed by some political parties, no one can deny that democracy in our southern neighbor is maturing fast.

Yet, this is a country that gained freedom and democracy only 30 years ago – a whole 14 years after Zimbabwe!

It is like a 30-year-old man who behaves far more maturely than his 44-year-old elder brother (who still acts and thinks like a spoilt irresponsible teenager).

Here, we have a South Africa where the opposition, no matter how strong, can freely campaign and participate in the country’s political landscape without any hindrances or attempts at clampdown.

Despite their ferocious criticism and attacks on the ANC government, they are never vilified and characterized as ‘unpatriotic’ – which is then used as a pretext for oppressive policies and brutal crackdown.

There were no political opponents locked up in jail on trumped-up charges or on laws that do not even exist.

The public broadcaster (SABC), all throughout the year, does its utmost best to be impartial – thereby providing balanced and fair coverage to all political players, as well as holding the government to account without fear or favor.

The electoral processes are always conducted according to the law and above-board – such that even those of us far away in Zimbabwe could easily follow the vote counting as everything was done transparently.

Furthermore, the governing ANC – regardless of its flaws and waning popularity – has so far, in the past 30 years, had four presidents who have all been elected democratically.

Who can doubt that democracy in South Africa is functional, healthy, and fully matured?

This is all a far cry from the deplorable embarrassing situation in Zimbabwe.

I will not even bother going into details on how opponents are ruthlessly repressed and persecuted, the opposition cracked down upon, and elections a huge sham.

I have written about these things on numerous occasions, and I hate sounding like a broken record.

Let us just say that the situation in Zimbabwe is the direct opposite of everything I wrote about South Africa.

However, this morning, I was pondering over the ridiculous claim of democracy in Zimbabwe actually developing.

I thought of the local songs we used to listen to in our youth in the 1980s and 90s.

There were such songs as Leonard Dembo’s ‘Chinyemu’, Leonard Zhakata’s ‘Mugove’, and Edwin Hama’s ‘Asina Mali’.

Hit song, Chinyemu by the late Musorowenyoka Dembomavara.

They were mostly written during the tough economic times of the ill-advised government policy of ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Program).

These musicians were so open in expressing the poverty and suffering of the ordinary citizenry.

Yet, in all this, there was never an outcry by the regime or attempt at stifling these songs and vilifying the singers.

They were never banned on the state broadcaster ZBC.

In fact, it is my honest opinion that Dembo’s ‘Chitekete’ album did not make record-breaking sales on account of the title track (as phenomenal as it may have been) – but because people were enthralled by ‘Chinyemu’, which directly spoke to their suffering.

This morning, nonetheless, I wondered how the same songs would have been treated by the ZANU PF regime had they been released today.

Would they have been received so positively and even allowed unrestricted airplay on ZBC as was the case in the 1990s?

We all know how the regime reacted to Winky D’s ‘Eureka’ album – which featured the pro-people anti-corruption hit, ‘Ibotso’.

They went ballistic!

Winky D was threatened with arrest under the so-called ‘Patriotic Act’, his songs were banned on ZBC, and his shows were repeatedly disrupted by the police and ZANU PF thugs.

So, why react so rabidly to music about the people’s struggles today, when 30 or so years ago, this was perfectly acceptable?

Does this not point to increased intolerance towards voices of dissent and disgruntlement at the hands of the Zimbabwe authorities.

In other words, is democracy in Zimbabwe not worse off today as it was in the 1980s and 90s?

As a matter of fact, I can go further.

I remember the ZBC of the same period.

Prominent government critics such as academics Shadreck Gutto, John Makumbe, Kempton Makamure, Ibbo Mandaza, and Bornwell Chakaodza were regular features.

They even hosted such programs as ‘The Nation’ and ‘Insight’ – where vocal anti-government activists as labor and student leaders Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, Arthur G.O. Mutambara and Munyaradzi Gwisai (Enock Chikweche) frequently appeared.

Yet, today, any dissenting or legitimate opposition views are never carried by the state-controlled broadcaster.

All news or current affairs programming is pro-government and anti-opposition – in flagrant violation of section 61(4) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

ZBC has been reduced to nothing more than a propaganda and praise-singing tool for President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.

In addition, Zimbabweans, in the 1980s and 90s, could freely exercise their right to peacefully demonstrate – in spite of this right not even entrenched in the country’s laws.

Yet, today, when this right is protected under section 59 of the Constitution, every attempt at participating in perceived anti-government demonstrations is barred by the police under the pretext of preserving public order.

Again, what does that say about the state of democracy in Zimbabwe?

Are we better off today than we were 30 years ago – or has the situation actually deteriorated?

It is indisputable that democracy in Zimbabwe is, in effect, going backward and retrogressing.

It is now actually on its deathbed.

It would appear as though Zimbabwe was more mature as a 10-year-old than in its 40s!

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

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