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 dictators; 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 political change.
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. Zimbabweans’ problem lies in the acquired cowardice that sees people readily stooping to ingratiate dictators in power. The subordination of Zimbabweans and the related grotesque exaltation of President Robert Mugabe highlights the worrying impact of a highly politicized education system. Whether by coincidence or design, ZANU PF’s earlier politicization and a heavy investment in formal education has paid off.
The system is an insidious mental enslavement factory that promotes concordance; it does not endorse 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 not to be the master-key that unlocks the door of freedom. We expect education to produce independent thinkers yet what is apparent is that ours is a 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.
Zimbabweans will have to make a choice: either obsess 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 disorganized and sporadic at best.
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.