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voters in the name of sovereignty
December 07, 2007
A FEW days ago we saw
hordes of poor peasants brought to Harare ostensibly to show solidarity
with the aging President Robert Mugabe and to send a clear message
to the so-called agents of regime change and their principals that
the 83-year old leader is solidly in power and still supported by
Although most people
who took part in the "million man march" were manipulated
and bussed from the rural areas, it suffices to argue that the majority
of those who participated felt good to be sponsored to come to Harare
for the march.
The majority of the people
who thronged the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield last week to show
solidarity with Mugabe whose candidacy is seriously contested are
perhaps the hardest hit in this sinking economy.
It is surprising that
these people, who cannot afford health care, tuition fees for their
children and an average standard of living still toyi-toyi in defence
of Mugabe's life presidency agenda.
These people hero-worship
political leadership, sometimes likening even the most cruel and
incorrigible of leaders like Mugabe to God, Messiah or Son of God
even when policies pursued by such leaders are as calamitous as
These people lack sophistication
and are prone to manipulation by the political elite who often give
them marijuana and large volumes of opaque beer to behave in a crazy
manner. These people - normally referred to as the "masses"
- are averse to change, preferring the status quo than a future
that they do not know. They are literally frenzied by charismatic
leaders whose policies do not go beyond rallies and political sloganeering.
Even though these people
live a life of poverty they still do not care much about their misery.
Such people do not think of education, food, health and decent housing
It was not only the lumpen
elements and peasants who attended the march. There was also a sizeable
number of the middle class and the elite who attended, but suffice
it to say that these are the people who have benefitted immensely
from Mugabe's patronage through subsidised fuel, farms and the agricultural
inputs scheme started by the governor of the central bank.
Some of them run businesses
which are being sustained by taxpayers' money through loans from
the governor. They are the greatest beneficiaries from corruption
through the tenders they are awarded by various government departments.
By going back to the
Zimbabwe Grounds, 27 years after Independence, Mugabe wanted to
invoke the nostalgia of 1980 when he was still popular after having
led the war against colonial rule. There is overwhelming evidence
that after 27 years of independence Zimbabwe Grounds has become
symbolic of state repression and dictatorship.
As much as we remember
Zimbabwe Grounds as the venue where Mugabe delivered a great speech
in 1980, we also remember that it was at the same venue on March
11 this year when the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was savagely
attacked by Mugabe's henchman and barred from addressing his supporters.
Some of us, who were
involved with the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, vividly remember how Zimbabwe
Grounds and Highfield became a war zone on March 11, as agents of
Mugabe's regime brutally brought down a peaceful gathering of Zimbabweans
who were trying to find a solution to the problems we face as a
We also sadly remember
Gift Tandare, one of the youths who wanted to go to Zimbabwe Grounds,
just like the "million man march" but was gunned down
by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. His only crime was being
a district chairperson for the National Constitutional Assembly
and a member of the MDC.
Close to three decades
at the helm of Zimbabwe, President Mugabe has turned a country that
was once the bread basket of Africa into a pariah state. The speech
that Mugabe delivered at the Zimbabwe Grounds does not show a policy
shift in Zanu PF and its readiness to work with other players for
the common good of the country.
Despite the deepening
national crisis, Mugabe still talks about the MDC as a creation
of the British and makes claims to sovereignty as if the word "sovereignty"
means nothing except Zanu PF. When Mugabe's hold on power is under
threat, he quickly reminds us of the need to claim our sovereignty
as if sovereignty means always having Mugabe at the helm of the
country. I am afraid to say that sovereignty does not only mean
political independence but that it means total freedom and the ability
of Zimbabweans to have total control of their lives. The people
of Zimbabwe do not have this freedom, their lives are held to ransom
by Mugabe. The people do not have rights, it is Mugabe who defines
what rights (if any) people should enjoy. In other words Mugabe
is the rights giver and the rights taker or at least he sees himself
The Sunday Mail's Munyaradzi
Huni reported that: "The President later talked about the MDC
as a British creation, designed to thwart the land reform programme.
He spoke about how the three British political parties had agreed
to contribute funds to the Westminister Foundation to sponsor the
Since we attained Independence
in 1980, Zanu PF has been funded by foreigners but because of a
poor human rights record, particularly the violence perpetrated
against MDC activists since 2000, most of the Western philanthropists
that used to fund Zanu PF severed their ties with a brutal and arrogant
regime that they did not want to associate with. Mugabe's utterances
at the Zimbabwe Grounds are meant to mislead the people so that
they give him a fresh mandate to govern.
The MDC is a Zimbabwean
political party, founded by Zimbabweans and pursuing a purely Zimbabwean
agenda of liberating the minds of people who still think Mugabe
should be life president.
We have, for a long time
now, been told lies that the reason why the economy is sinking is
because of the MDC and its Western allies.
Claims to sovereignty
and non-interference in a country's domestic politics do not stand
the test of time especially with a well accepted and growing global
human rights movement.
Mugabe's project of life
presidency is the biggest stumbling block to our country's search
for a future that is based on respect for human rights and the rule
of law. The usual tirade against the British does not get us out
of the stinking poverty in which the country has been plunged.
Our expectation was that
if Zanu PF was sincere about the on-going dialogue mediated by South
Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, Mugabe should have risen above party
politics and told the delegates why his party and the MDC are currently
involved in dialogue.
Mugabe should have preached
tolerance, as well as hinting at a paradigm shift within the ruling
party and the thinking and way of doing politics. We expected the
president to take the opportunity to extend an olive branch to the
opposition and other Zimbabweans who want to see things improve
in our country.
It was pointless for
the president to be abrasive and fire unnecessary shots even at
the British premier Gordon Brown.
Mugabe missed a golden
opportunity during the "million man march" at the Zimbabwe
Grounds to explain to the poor peasants why it is necessary for
both parties to engage in political dialogue and for these talks
to be as inclusive as possible.
From Mugabe's tone, the
lesson we draw is that the ongoing dialogue is meaningless and will
not take Zimbabwe into the future.
* Phillip Pasirayi is
a human rights activist.
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