VOX populi, vox Dei is a common Latin phrase loosely translated to mean “Voice of the people is the voice of God”. Sometimes this same conjecture is replicated as the will of the people is the will of God.
This expression was first used by Alcuin, an English scholar who was later described by Einhard, a Frankish scholar as “the most learned man anywhere to be found”. The phrase basically entails that desires and interests of a group of people are to be taken seriously and honoured.
It does not mean that the voice of the many is wise and good, but only that it is irresistible which is why some have argued that you might as well try to stop the tide of the Atlantic as to resist the vox populi.
The usage indicates that the phrase has long since become an aphorism of common political wisdom better put, a biting aphorism.
In local politicking, the maxim was made popular by President Emmerson Mnangagwa who first used it at his inauguration in November 2017 noting that the military assisted transition that took place and resulted in his ascendency to the throne was initiated by the people and their calls could not be ignored. To him, the citizenry’s calls for a better Zimbabwe are so important to the extent that he likened them to the Almighty’s own voice that can only be ignored at one’s peril.
The scriptures explicitly note that woe will befall those who cast a deaf ear to the voice of God because rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.
Those who do not harken to the voice of God will be delivered into the hands of their enemies (Nehemiah 9:26) or the hand of the Lord will be against them (I Samuel 12:14-15.)
To use the aphorism in the Zimbabwean context meant that the president valued the concerns of the people to an extent that whatever they say or plead will be quickly addressed because ignoring them would be as good as rebelling against God.
However, five years into the Second Republic, the promise of a Canaan flowing with milk and honey made in 2017 appears to be an unending mirage.
On November 24, 2017, in a packed National Sports Stadium, a bold declaration was made against corruption much to the excitement of the attendees.
“As we focus on recovering the economy, we must shed misbehaviours and acts of indiscipline which have characterised the past,” Mnangagwa said. “Acts of corruption must stop!”
Unfortunately, corruption has continued unabated. Several government officials and individuals close to those strolling the corridors of power have been embroiled in corruption scandals, but the political will to put these to book is lacking.
Auditor-General Mildred Chiri has published numerous audit reports that linked public officials to excessive acts of graft.
But if curbing corruption is not done as is the case now, some have been left to question whether the voice of the people has ceased to be the voice of God.
An economic turnaround was promised as people strolled into the Second Republic. Prosperity was to return; the country and its people were set to have their decency back and the nation returned to being the breadbasket of the region. But five years on, the economy is on a downward spiral. Austerity measures were billed to give back to prosperity, but it appears the economic suffering is on an upward trajectory.
Last month, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) noted that an average family of five required ZW$120 000 (about US$380) to cater for basic needs, an upsurge from ZW$98 000 (US$315) in April.
Last month’s figures are likely to have tripled considering how the exchange rate is spiralling out of control.
Analyst Jethro Makumbe believes that the axiom of the voice of the people being likened to the voice of God was a political gimmick made to hoodwink an unsuspecting populace.
“The needs of the people are not being met, and their rights squeezed. Never can we honestly say the people are in charge; rather our people are incessantly writhing under an unrelenting asphyxiating grip of the cartel and a captured regime?.” Makumbe said.
Political analyst Tanaka Mandizvidza added that democracy is grounded in responsiveness to the needs of the people through sound instruments of governance and policy making.
Philosopher Frantz Fanon in his magnum opus, The Wretched of the Earth, offered prophetic advice to African leaders: “The scandalous enrichment, speedy and pitiless of this caste is accompanied by a decisive awakening on the part of the people, and a growing awareness that promises stormy days to come.”
As service delivery continues to plummet, the voice of the people rises, desperately reminding political leadership that their voice is akin to God’s and cannot be ignored.