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What sort of unity do we want?


THERE are a number of words that

democratic Zimbabweans are developing a healthy allergy towards when emanating from the mouths of our rulers. Independence and sovereignty are good examples of mantras regarded with justifiable suspicion.


At a time when the nation is wholly dependent upon the generosity of others for its most basic requirement — food — the concept of independence is at best questionable. Any discussion of independence should centre on how a once self-sufficient society has been rendered impoverished and helpless by its rulers. As for sovereignty, that has been hijacked to mean the sovereign right of those same rulers to sabotage the economy, abuse the law, and oppress the people.


Another of these misleading words is emerging to join the vocabulary of power which we should be equally suspicious of: unity.


You know that Zanu PF politicians have nothing to offer the public when they say we should safeguard our unity. We heard a lot of this just before Christmas when a day is set aside on December 22 to mark the 1987 accord between Zanu PF and Zapu. Like so many of the ruling party’s special events it is largely redundant now. The people of Matabeleland unambiguously rejected this cynical pact — and its chief beneficiaries — in the 2000 election.


Genuine unity can only emerge from democratic diversity, not the iron template of a self-serving regime. A nation that enjoys constitutional rights knows the value of unity. It is a unity that grows from respect for individuals and communities, not one forced down the throats of people by politicians with a record of power-abuse.


Zanu PF’s unity is a camouflage for imposed political conformity, one evident in the one-party propaganda of the state media. That is a spurious unity, one that divides the nation into rulers and ruled and shuts out dissonant voices. It has no genuine roots in society and only perpetuates the divergence between the privileged powerful and their subordinate subjects. It depends upon patronage and clientelism for its survival.


We see this kind of unity in the food handouts that go only to those perceived as loyal to Zanu PF. We see it in the pattern of land redistribution and every other corrupt scheme this government has devised for its own survival.


Genuine unity is born in the hearts of a free people. They will not need to be instructed by the Minister of Home Affairs on the nature of their nationhood. Their unity will derive from common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Nor will their racial or ethnic background prejudice them.


In the United States, where common values are the glue that unite a free people, there is no doubt that Greek-Americans and African-Americans have the same rights and duties as Americans of English or Irish descent.


The South African constitution is based on the same precept. One of Thabo Mbeki’s most memorable speeches referred to the rich diversity of his people’s origins.


In Zimbabwe, where racism is the common currency of ministers and their acolytes, unity is a weapon for exercising control and denying the very rights which the liberation movements promised in their founding principles. It is significant that those around President Mugabe now defining the lexicon of power have no connection to the liberation struggle.


It is their empty shibboleths that are being repeated by ministers, police chiefs and army commanders who don’t appear to have minds of their own.


Zimbabweans are united in demanding free and fair elections. They are united in demanding the restoration of their rights and an end to the brutal repression taking place every day. They don’t want robotic ministers, soldiers and policemen telling them what unity means.


It is time Zimbabweans repudiated the condescending lectures of failed politicians and their suborned officers. The unity a majority of Zimbabweans want is the unity of a free people — free to determine who should rule them and how, not the charade currently being played out by Mugabe’s minions.


The only meaningful unity we can have is one that respects diversity, tolerates difference, and cultivates civic rights. It is the very opposite of what Zanu PF is offering. Their unity, built on exclusion, intolerance, and repression, we can do without.