Greed, supremacism, arrogance, selfishness, and intolerance have destroyed Zimbabwe. But we can trace all that back to pre-independence; gigantic errors and misjudgements were committed when the liberation movement waged an armed struggle against colonial monsters, we did not invest in lessons on how not to be monsters. Instead we were taught to fear the white monster but not the black monster. We ignored the importance of investing in a war for establishing strong public institutions hence paid less attention in an education on how to build a monster-phobic governance system. We were content with a cheap political option of othering with an identified common enemy being the white minority and ignored the reality of the existence of inter-movement political differences; nobody cared about the importance of protecting freedom of speech and learning how to engage in civil discourse.
Just as in other liberation movements, there was no political strategy to ensure an effective transition from a guerrilla movement to an effective civilian government and/ or political party system. There was little to no investment in an intelligible public political education neither was attention paid to civilian participation nor were safety guarantees prioritised, instead wave after wave of propaganda was dished out to a partisan public. Today the same freedom fighters have turned into monsters terrorising their own people.
It may sound harsh, but it is true that Zimbabwe is one of those countries that went from barbarism straight to decadence skipping over civilisation. Instead of creating systems to protect civilians from power and poverty, politicians protected themselves from the consequences of law so they could hurt and harm at will. Tribalism and racism, among other forms of othering have become not only a viable political marketing tool, but a guarantor of power. Racial and tribal discrimination is normalised, journalists are killed for doing their jobs and opposition leaders are detained without trial.
Perhaps the biggest failure at independence was the failure to review the power balance between the armed wing and the political wing and draw legal provisions so the military was submissive to civilian authority. By default, power was left in the armed wing who have literally become kingmakers, and the political elites with strong ties with that wing of ZANU PF are beneficiaries.
When a political system serves the military, the political elite and the majority tribe interests while marginalising certain population groups it is a political fraud. The current scenario goes against all that the liberation concept was about: power to the people and equality before the law. Our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters fought for the future, but we are stuck in the past with no end in sight.
Zimbabwe’s liberation movement fought political marginalisation of the black population only to replace it with an extreme version of it; crucially, this bought its legitimacy from the fact it is a creation of a black leadership, it is a brutal regime that legitimises the marginalisation of certain population groups because of their tribe and/ or race and/ or gender.
Independence in Zimbabwe is no less than a crime scene; selective justice is normalised, access to political processes is tribalized and denied to certain population groups, security services are appropriated by the ruling party, threats by senior political leaders to political opponents have become legitimate political interventions.
How then do we teach the youth of today that crime does not pay when all they see before them is crime paying very well? They see a political leadership that has never been held accountable to the country’s laws; basically, they see wealthy criminals leading government and government institutions; daily they witness payment of bribes guaranteeing access to what should be free public service.
Ethics and oversight were eliminated as early as 1983 when in pursuit of absolute power Mugabe used the 5th Brigade to crush opponents in Matabeleland; tens of thousands were killed between 1983 and 1984 leading to the 1987 unity accord with PF ZAPU. We learned that crime does pay, Mugabe and his ZANU colleagues got what they desired, political power and control with no significant challenge, and nobody has faced charges for the brutality of that time.
Lesson from the forty-two years of Zimbabwean independence is that the less a society invests in peace and order, aggression and chaos are emboldened. It is very clear too that a political system founded on othering is eventually dangerous for all as anyone can fall into the ‘other’ category at any time.
Decadence is the base of politics in the independent Zimbabwe; and by virtue of our silence and compliance, we have become collaborators of the ZANU PF monster—bullies who would rather kill than democratise power. Greed for power and tribal supremacy has driven the party into a killer organisation with hate and engulfed in fear. A political fraud is what Zimbabwean independence truly is, and this is the institutional deception Matabeleland must break away from. Where is freedom and independence when we are not free after expressing our freedom, when the patriotic act of critiquing our government is turned into a punishable offence?