IF there is one myth that must be resisted, and resisted with all the contempt it deserves in 21st century African politics, it is the desperate and unwelcome myth that a liberation movement, however much loathed, can unashamedly claim to have an inherent and unqualified monopoly over the governance of a country and that any dissenting voice, no matter how genuinely disillusioned, is a political charade whose only intention is to perpetuate a colonial past.
It is a calculated and arrogant way of pursuing politics and any leader who uses it as a justification for clinging to power at that moment turns him/herself into a tyrant.
At the very least, it is an insulting myth. Insulting because it presupposes that the people of Zimbabwe are so naive they needed Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Gorge W Bush, Barack Obama and the wider international community to tell them that the government of Robert Mugabe can no longer provide the very basics of life. Yet any other responsible government, anywhere in the world, would ungrudgingly consider it to be fundamental to good governance to provide food, health, education and personal security.
We did not need Tony Blair to tell us that scores of innocent, vulnerable fellow citizens were tortured and killed simply and only in order to secure allegiance to Zanu PF. The people of Zimbabwe do not recall Blair standing by as his security officers mercilessly pounced on opponents. Nor do they recall Brown looting our country of its resources and stashing them away in huge individual offshore accounts.
Nor was it Bush who hired the North Koreans to train the notorious fifth brigade with a view to killing, torturing, raping and humiliating men, women and even children. It was not Obama who bulldozed the only form of shelter many Zimbabweans had and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Indeed, since many cannot afford a television set, many in Zimbabwe will die not knowing what Blair, Brown, Bush and Obama even look like.
The truth of the matter is that it has become increasingly questionable whether there is much difference, if any at all, between the political system of Ian Smith which Zanu PF managed to “liberate” us from, and its replacement.
The terrible circumstances under which the people of Zimbabwe have been made to live are all part of the sad proof that life under a liberation movement is not necessarily better than life under colonialism.
Indeed, in Namibia, Swapo — a former guerrilla movement that led the country to Independence in 1990 — has been at the centre of gross human rights violations and in typical fashion has managed to downplay its extent. For Zanu PF, like Swapo, violence has become the automatic and standard response to dissent.
In South Africa, the ANC is unlikely to lose support any time soon mainly because it is viewed by millions of South Africans as the party that brought liberation to that country — and correctly so.
The liberation movement syndrome is as much alive there as it is within Zanu PF for they have now become their own supporters. The difference between the ANC and Zanu PF, however, is that while the former has enjoyed legitimacy since 1994 derived from free, fair and credible elections, the latter has constantly and consistently stolen the ballot and stolen it at monumental cost for the people of Zimbabwe.
When ANC members depart from accepted standards they are swiftly and openly rebuked. Indeed when Julius Malema attempted to be a little Mugabe, President Jacob Zuma effectively cautioned him: Not in South Africa, my boy! He described Malema’s behaviour as “unacceptable”, “totally out of order”, “against ANC culture” and deserving of “consequences”.
A single party — be it one with liberation roots or not — is more than welcome to rule for millions of years provided it has the genuine consent of the masses to do so. That is the basic idea behind democracy. Zanu PF does not, cannot and will never again have this sort of consent from the people of Zimbabwe.
To borrow the lyrics of international music icon Akon, what contemporary Zimbabweans are fighting for is, “a free, uplifting world”. Clearly, that world is not achievable under a Zanu PF government.
Having a single group of people hold an entire nation to ransom is not the way of today’s world. It is unwelcome because it results in a political landscape that does not offer citizens real and credible means to express themselves as the sovereigns of a constitutional, parliamentary democracy.
The only thing that distinguishes the traditional war of liberation from the current struggle is that while we fought against Smith and his alien allies yesterday, today we are fighting against one of our very own. It is a fight, however, that we seek to conclude through democratic means. Never shall we resort to the use of force in order to attain our freedom. Force, violence, intimidation, abduction and foul play are all tactics of the enemy. To resort to violence in this struggle would be to demean our freedom.
Let us continue fighting the good fight in the best way we can: peaceful demonstrations, gatherings, petitions and the myriad of other democratic mechanisms.
A liberation movement is not one that liberates its people and then, with fiendish pleasure, proceeds to oppress those very people for three decades and counting.
It is one that genuinely seeks to free the people from the vice of repression — whether that is repression by Smith or Mugabe. Accordingly, it can no longer be open to Zanu PF to regard itself as a liberation movement. If anything, Zanu PF is an oppressive movement that the people of Zimbabwe must now be liberated from.
=Psychology Maziwisa is the interim president of the Union for Sustainable Democracy.