HomeOpinionCivil society's double standards inimical to change in Zimbabwe

Civil society’s double standards inimical to change in Zimbabwe

By Brilliant Mhlanga

THE recent National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) saga got a lot of independent thinkers talking about the future of civil society in Zimbabwe.

Interestingly, they were all singing the chorus that Lovemore Madhuku had erred, therefore he should resign. At least this was the final call by some notable colleagues in the opposition.

However, the discord is on the genesis of the disease in the civil society movement as a whole in Zimbabwe. In my view, the problem stems from the founder syndrome in civil society. This also explains why there was a deafening silence from other civil society leaders about the NCA predicament.

A closer analysis would further show that the deafening silence about the Madhuku issue by the mainstream civil society in Zimbabwe was a result of their celebrated double standards when issues of relinquishing positions are concerned.

It would appear that someone somewhere in Zimbabwe ejected political principles and morals through the window and locked the door never to have them back. I am not sure whether we really need to blame Mugabe for everything, even loose political morals displayed by the civil society leaders.

This article is a direct challenge to civil society, especially those organisations that used to meet at Meikles Hotel in 2003/4 to discuss the creation of a long-lasting strategic alliance. These included a lot of people from various organisations and regions of the country.

The major thrust at these meetings was to forge alliances rooted in democratic principles and to challenge Zanu PF from a democratic grounding. It never was on the cards to challenge Zanu PF as its offshoots seeking to polish its undemocratic ideals or to parallel its violent activities.

The focus was to shun by any means necessary all undemocratic tendencies. Everyone in civil society agreed and undertook to abide by those principles. Now, where are the voices?

Everyone has chosen to be quiet, even when Madhuku openly agrees in his interview with SW Radio Africa that there was violence at the NCA’s delayed annual general meeting. No one from civil society had the temerity to stand up and remind Madhuku that violence is violence, whether meted out to one individual or even the threat of it is considered undemocratic in this era.

No one could remind Madhuku about the spirit of “love” and “principles” for a revolutionary, and also that a civil society is considered “civil” due to the fact that members are drawn from various private groupings and the generality of the citizenship.

This advice was supposed to be followed by the view that any attempts to arm or militarily radicalise a section of the civil society movement, be they male or female, young or old, is considered uncivil and will never be within the ambit of being civil, law-abiding and upright.

I have witnessed the radical militarisation of the youths in civil society under the guise of mass demonstrations meant to push the democratic envelope. I have experienced the pain of being lowered to a potential stone thrower when the leaders embark on what they call “capacity building drives”.

This move is not going to help Zimbabwe progress into the future. It is also inimical to the creation of a positive society founded on values of tolerance and acceptance of divergent views. If anything, civil society is showing double standards.

The concept of “civil society” in Zimbabwe has been diluted by capitalist ends with most leaders seeking to view the whole democracy and human rights idea as an industry for making money and improving their CVs. This unfortunate development has been aggravated by the founder syndrome together with the “executive directorship” crusade which was spruced up by the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill (NGO Bill 2004) — a Zanu PF move aimed at crushing the civil society movement.

With the advent of this Bill, which is still pending, a lot of clumsy individuals turned people-driven organisations that were established through trusts into individual organisations run by an executive director. These overnight developments that were a subversion of respective organisational constitutions, with the NGO Bill as the excuse, meant that terms of office were extended for as long as the executive director’s contract with God runs on earth.

Interestingly, today it is Madhuku who has caused a serious chorus by twisting the NCA constitution inside out — a thing he has always done together with other leaders in various organisations, which is why they cannot criticise him. Strange bedfellows!

I will not elaborate on this issue, as this topic requires a separate focus someday. I have knowledge about the goings-on in a lot of organisations that were said to be people-driven during their inception stages, but later personalised. I also have names of these organisations.

In short, I would describe these characters as downright wicked because they must know in their hearts that their cause is wrong, and yet refuse to acknowledge it. They suffer from the lie in the soul.

They are engaged in pursuing their own interests or interests of their class, in gratifying a lust for power through discreditable forms of conduct. They form a class which in Freiran description would be seen as wallowing in the shadow of the oppressor which lingers in their minds and hearts, yet at the same time struggling to point fingers at the evils of the Mugabe regime.

In reality they are worse off than the ruling party, as they are beneficiaries of a system that swindles the ordinary people of their lives, rights and property by claiming victimhood at the expense of the masses. They have resigned to the role of being official and perennial civil society leaders, a role they have embraced for as long as it helps them to cause serious retardation to any meaningful democratisation process in Zimbabwe.

The civil society in Zimbabwe has internalised the image of the ruling party, its tactics and general guidelines, and is therefore fearful of freedom and any meaningful change. This explains the reasons for their quick move to scoff at any suggestion aimed at influencing change in Zimbabwe. Their fear of change is based on the fact that freedom would require them to discard the Zanu PF culture and replace it with autonomy and responsibility.

Most of them have even
forgotten that freedom is acquired by conquest and not by gift because they are like a short man who gets himself elevated to a higher position to aid his retarded view but have now decided to block the rise of the same people who elevated them lest they take away their limelight.

This forms the crisis faced by the civil society movement in Zimbabwe. It becomes imperative therefore for all civil society leaders, including Madhuku, to understand that the nefarious claims that power resides only in those who are in the ruling elite (Zanu PF) is a monumental scandal.

Zimbabwe’s crisis has its genesis from such warped lines of thinking perpetrated by an irresponsible leadership who fail to realise that power resides in the people who thrust them up in those offices.

Otherwise they seem to be confirming the view that elites give way to elites and that history is a graveyard of aristocracies. Following this view we may see them as emulating the activities of a ruler who sees himself as a shepherd who fattens the sheep for the good of the shepherd.

What a shame to democracy!

* Brilliant Mhlanga is a human rights activist.

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