THE more things change, the more they remain the same (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose) is a phrase attributed to French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in 1849.
Candid Comment.Owen Gagare
He came up with the phrase a year after the French Revolution of 1848 — sometimes known as the February Revolution — which eventually led to Louis Napoléon Bonaparte being elected president of the second republic, with large support from peasants.
Bonaparte later suspended the elected assembly, establishing the Second French Empire, which lasted until 1870. He became the de facto last French monarch.
Earlier, the first French Revolution which began in 1789, had culminated in the rise of Bonaparte who grabbed power in a coup in 1799. He established the first republic, but people continued to be restive.
Karr, a satirical writer, came up with the phrase to express his cynicism that the winds of change sweeping over France would lead to genuine change.
Exactly 170 years later, Karr’s cynicism about change holds true in Zimbabwe.
There was unbridled joy following a protracted and bitter liberation struggle which led to Independence from British colonial rule in 1980, but the excitement has dissipated over the years.
Former president Robert Mugabe inherited the tactics, laws, infrastructure used by colonial oppressors to suppress the people, while implementing ruinous policies.
With Mugabe’s fall in 2017 following a military coup, which catapulted President Emmerson Mnangagwa to power, there was widespread belief that a new era was dawning. The notion was strengthened by Mnangagwa’s promise to usher sweeping political and economic reforms, which would put Zimbabwe on a growth trajectory. Amid growing international goodwill, Mnangagwa promised to fight corruption and ensure constitutionalism. It was sweet music to the ear. But no sooner had the coup happened than Zimbabweans got a rude awakening that the change was a mirage.
Six people were shot dead by soldiers in the streets of Harare on August 1, 2018 as protestors demanded the timeous release of election results. To date, no one has been brought to book for the cowardly act despite the recommendations of the Kgalema Motlanthe commission.
In fact, Zimbabweans have been subjected to more state-sponsored brutality since the shooting.
Seventeen people were killed in January while several human rights activists, members of the civil society, trade unionists and opposition politicians have either been harassed, arrested or abducted and tortured since then.
Just like the Mugabe regime, the Mnangagwa administration has squandered international goodwill and is on the verge of being regarded as a pariah state.
Cheap propaganda reminiscent of the Mugabe era, as well as clashes with diplomats have become the new normal, while pointing out the regime’s excesses or deficiencies is met with violence, intimidation or accusations of interference — just like during the Mugabe era.
Indeed, the more things change, the more they remain the same.