We are acutely aware of Zimbabwe’s elaborate political system of manipulation, intimidation and disempowerment. Zimbabwe’s independence has set free dictators but enslaved the people. It is a system that handsomely rewards conformists but shows little tolerance for independent thinkers.
If Zimbabweans are to turn the system on its head, they need to be clear on where they want to be and set their goals right. One cannot hold democratic aspirations while retaining reverence for a dictator’s behaviour in arrogantly denying a journalist their right to execute their role; it is either one or the other, not both.
The disdain shown for a Nigerian journalist (Adeola Fayehun) of the famed ‘Keeping it Real with Adeola’ programme on Sahara TV by a section of the Zimbabwean public on the social media for having the guts to confront President Robert Mugabe when he attended the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria must be worrying for those yearning for real political change.
Free press is exactly that, it is free from the handles of dictators. No sane person would expect media laws by dictators to form the base of the free press that threatens with bright light the dark alleys within which dictatorships operate. Arguing that Adeola’s interrogation of the President was crass and disrespectful without offering a ‘respectful’ equivalent and conveniently ignoring the fact that dictators are often allergic to hard but honest questioning is farcical, to say the least.
We are perhaps used to Mugabe eloquently answering his own questions and it came as a surprise that, for a change, someone did their journalistic duty properly, asked a question of public interest and insisted on Mugabe answering it.
Zimbabweans’ problem lies in the acquired cowardice that sees people readily stooping to ingratiate dictators in power. The subordination of a significant section of the Zimbabwean population and the related grotesque exaltation of President Robert Mugabe highlights the worrying impact of a highly politicised education system.
Whether by coincidence or design, ZANU PF’s earlier politicisation and a heavy investment in formal education in the 1980s has paid off. Our highly schooled individuals are not averse to seeing things through the ZANU PF moral and political filter.
The education system is an equivalent of an insidious mental enslavement factory that promotes concordance; it does not endorse independence of thought or permit political creativity beyond set state parameters; the system has instead largely created a dangerously stupefying conformity. Good education is essential for freedom and liberty but the Zimbabwean education system is turning out to be the malfunctioning master-key that has been conveniently passed on to this generation hoping to unlock the door of freedom.
Our expectation is for education to produce independent thinkers yet what is apparent is that ours is a disingenuous by-product of a systematic political interference that has not stopped producing well-read arrogant conformists whose closest attempt at a rebellion against dictatorship has been finding the nearest exit out of the country if not creating inferior dictatorships such as the MDC-T.
Very soon, Zimbabweans will have to make a choice, either be content with staying safe, do anything to keep out of harm’s way while sacrificing their liberty and freedom or stand up for what they believe in and risk being temporarily knocked down from time to time knowing there is a chance of picking themselves back up and that those flattened by conformity stay down for good. Yes, there have been demonstrations against the government but those have been largely disorganised and sporadic at best.
Instead of an attack on an innocent journalist doing their job, we need to ask ourselves: Are we so ignorant that we are not even aware we are? We are yet to accept that we constitute perhaps the most arrogant well-read cowards in modern African politics. We are where we are because many of our highly learned and influential citizens will readily sacrifice their ambitions and values if that assured them rewards of power though keeping them from the source of power.