While Chihuri is entitled to his views in terms of the constitution and laws of this country, he must be reminded that it was the political and socio-economic conditions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, as well as countries like Yemen and Syria in the Middle East, which led to popular revolts against their leaders and governments.
It was misrule and poverty which forced people in those countriesto take to the streets and overthrow their governments in some cases. It is not like people in those countries are inherently rebellious as some would like us to believe. People often revolt against leaders and governments because of their oppressive conditions, not because they hate the leaders or governments.
The Commissioner-General expressively quoted scripture, citing 1 Samuel Chapter 15 v 23 in which the Bible equates rebellion to witchcraft. He forgot to put the scripture in its proper context and further neglected to mention Proverbs 29:2 which states that “when the righteous rule the people rejoice but when the wicked rule the people groan.”
Chihuri conveniently forgot the account in Exodus where God heard the cry of his people because of the oppression of the Egyptians and how God used Moses to set his people free. In short he expressed a gross lack of appreciation for God’s concern about injustice and oppression. Instead of a repressive system we need a just developmental state founded upon democratic principles, human rights and rule of law.
The people of North Africa would not have taken to the streets if their fundamental democratic and human rights were respected. They would not have called for the removal of their governments if their leaders allowed them freedom of expression, assembly and association.
They would not have turned against their governments if they worked for, and not against, their people. In Tunisia the masses would not have turned against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali if the he had not oppressed, suppressed and failed to govern the country properly resulting in the economy deteriorating and standards of living falling. It was repression, poverty and resultant anger which drove people in those countries to the streets.
The people of Egypt would not have taken to the streets if President Hosni Mubarak had not turned Egypt into a personal fiefdom, modelled along the lines of a fascist-style police state. Indeed, the people of Libya would not have rebelled against Muammar Gaddafi if he had not reduced the country to a personal farm were political parties and political activities were banned and dissenters suffered brutal repression, including harassment, violence, torture, disappearances and murder.
In short, the so-called rebellion of the people of North Africa was only a symptom of underlying problems or a popular reaction to dictatorship, misrule, corruption and oppression. The demonstrations were a mere reaction by the people to how they were governed. Chihuri should not worry about the people of Zimbabwe engaging in an orgy of riots and violence if he thinks the country is governed properly and people are happy.
He should not worry if people can express themselves freely through the ballot. The people of Zimbabwe expressed themselves peacefully and democratically when they rejected the Constitutional Commission draft constitution in 2000. They expressed themselves clearly in the 2002, 2005 and the 2008 harmonised elections which Zanu PF lost.
They also wanted to express themselves peacefully during the June 2008 presidential election run-off, but were subjected to savage brutality. Given a chance, the people of Zimbabwe will express themselves clearly, peacefully and democratically in the next elections.
Our leaders should desist from North African-style leadership if they do not want North African-style uprisings. Whether or not the revolts were right or wrong (although people have a right to free themselves from oppression like Africans did against colonial regimes), or whether the killing of Gaddafi was right or wrong, is another matter altogether. What is important to understand is that the conditions in which people live force them to resort to certain measures to free themselves. History and even current events show this.
If the leaders of North African countries had respected the people they governed and governed for the good of the people, they would not have been victims of “a force more powerful” than tanks, repressive legislation and police states. A responsible parent cannot blame a child for crying and lashing out when he/she is hungry. Rather they should address the plight of the hungry child than scold or intimidate him/her.
People everywhere yearn for freedom from oppression. Freedom is a universal and fundamental right. People always fight to secure their freedom; it doesn’t come easy and cheap. They yearn to be free to receive and impart information as guaranteed in the constitution; they yearn for the right to associate freely without being intimidated; they yearn for freedom of thought and opinion without being abused or called names for daring to think and challenge the status quo.
There is no need for governments in any part of the world, including Zimbabwe, to be afraid of their own people. Governments should be elected by the people for the people, not as vehicles of sectional interests or personal aggrandisement. As long as governments govern in the interests of the people and allow them to exercise their rights without undue restrictions, there would be nothing to fear, except fear itself.
It must be stated that there is nothing inherently illegal, criminal or sinful about changing a government peacefully or changing a regime through constitutional means. Mass uprisings are a sign that all avenues of democratic expression would have been blocked. In fact demonstrations are part of the democratic process as governments should allow their citizens to express legitimate grievances and discontent. What is perhaps criminal is the North African-style of leadership, not the reaction to it Commissioner-General!
Nkomo is a political analyst and CEO of Habakkuk Trust and writes in his personal capacity. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.