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The citizen as a radical activist
Bill Saidi, The Standard
December 02, 2007

AS Christmas approaches and all Christians, and many non-Christians, prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, there must be a sense of the lugubrious among most citizens.

In terms of enjoyment, outside the spiritual edification of remembering The Nativity, this is not a season to be jolly for Zimbabwe.

There is not enough joy or money to go around - as naked a truth as the empty supermarket shelves.

This may be an exaggeration: the country is broke.

But picture this: a depositor goes to a bank to demand the money they left there for safekeeping. They are told there is none. Do they respond with a polite "Thanks. I'll come back when you have some."

The consolation, if you are a super-optimist who faces a firing squad - for stealing a chicken liver - with a smile, is there is little to buy, if you get the money.

Some people might think this citizen is entitled to bash something or someone.

Others might say the citizen should revise the conventional view that bank managers are part of the human race, and not three-headed monsters from The Deep.

If the country is not broke, then where is the money? Who is hiding it? Gideon Gono? He has identified the culprits, although it's hard to say most of it is the work of a bunch of under-30s found with Z$1.7 billion in Gadzema last week.

Is this country in a mess or is it not? December is not going to have much good cheer. But who, among the leaders, is worried that real people might not celebrate this festive season with a festival?

Not Zanu PF, not the president, who seems put off by any suggestion he might not make it to the Lisbon conference of the European Union and the African Union.

His most public comment on the crisis: be patient, give us time.

If, like me, you get the desperate feeling that we have heard this refrain before, don't be alarmed.

Meanwhile, Zanu PF - or a section of it, anyway -was worried about The Million Men and Women march in favour of President Mugabe.

Frankly, if any Million Men, Women and Children march should be held, it must be in protest at this "mother of all messes" we are in.

It should be organised by the Combined Harare Residents' Association (CHRA) and the Women of Zimbabwe Arise! (WOZA). Their record is spectacular and filled with heroism. The women, in particular, have scored so many successes they ought to be asked by civil society to write The Essential Handbook on Demos.

Incidentally, these two come immediately to mind as the near-perfect examples of the citizen as a radical, followed by the National Constitutional Assembly. Here, we are not counting the political parties. Their agenda is to replace the government.

You could say it is their own "regime change" strategy, without the external component.

The perfect citizen is radical in insisting on obtaining the maximum benefits from those they entrust with that responsibility, whether it is the city council or the government. This is a citizen who pays taxes and all the other bills from the service providers.

But they believe in taxes being linked, absolutely, to representation. In other words, in the case of Harare, Mutare and other urban areas now run by the Ccs - Chombo's commissions - they wouldn't pay anything, in protest.

The commissions don't represent the voters' wishes.

The radical citizen would engulf the providers of electricity and water in a permanent bubble of terror. There would be daily vigils at their offices, until power and water were supplied without interruption to all households.

They would run daily advertisements in the newspapers and in the independent radio and TV stations (wish-wish), calling them money-grubbing charlatans.

They would target the responsible cabinet ministers for special parodies in all the media. They would give them no rest, until they begged, on bended knees, to be let off the hook - by publishing in every newspaper, TV and radio station a full-page apology to the citizens and pledge to start earning their salaries by not knocking off until they satisfied everyone that nobody would be without water or power, unless they had been delinquent in paying the bills.

That is the radical citizen. . . ready to get bashed for what they stand for.

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