CONVERSATIONS WITH MAWERE

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- Mutumwa Mawere -

Business Class: Government of the people, by the people and for the people

Posted on September 22th 2015

GovernmentONE question that is rarely asked particularly in many post-colonial states relates to the construction, operations and purpose of a government and its human actors. In the beginning of time, there was no institution called a government yet in the course of human civilization, this institution has been presided by many men and women who have never paused to reflect on its true purpose.

The last human experiment with far-reaching global consequences was the rebellion of the settlers in the then thirteen states of the USA in the form of a positive document declaring the fundamental but not new values, principles and beliefs that they needed to bind themselves in traversing the untrodden path of self-rule.

Given the history of colonial control, it was unmistakable that the settlers who felt oppressed by the Imperial King and insensitive Imperial Parliament had to dig deep into their moral compasses to think outside the box about the kind of society they wanted to create to replace the unconstitutional democratic order.

The challenge of creating a society that delivers the promise through man-made institutions like a government of safety and happiness is not unique to the American rebellion. We all know that the purpose of a government, like any corporate juristic person, is to deliver the promise to humanity of a society in which the weakest person feels protected. In the animal kingdom, there is no purpose of a government precisely because the strong animals do not need the protection of artificial characters like a government.

Unlike the Rhodesian rebels, the founding fathers of the USA, including Jefferson who owned slaves, had to deal with the issue of human identity and purpose. They had no choice but to declare a self-evident truth that all men are created equal. They also had to deal with the issue of slavery, albeit as a matter of convenience but from the foundation of the new state, it was obvious that the long arc of the moral universe would always bend towards equality of all men and women. By accepting and incorporating the unqualified and universal idea of equality, the real purpose of government became self-evident even to the intellectually challenged.

It was not accidental that the Rhodesian Declaration of Independence, ratified in November 1965, but based on the American declaration deliberately omitted the phrases "all men are created equal" and "the consent of the governed" because the consequences were self-evident. Equally, the idea in post-colonial Africa, including Zimbabwe, of creating artificial boundaries between citizens like the conferment of superior status to liberation fighters and indigenous persons is not dissimilar to the idea that informed the UDI rebellion.

The moment one accepts the inequality of human beings then one must know that the consequences on happiness and safety are as predictable as they are inevitable. The idea of equality of men linked to creation is a fundamental building block to representative democracy. Indeed, the human experience would not be whole if all men and women are the same. Diversity necessarily had to feature in the art of creation.POWER

To this end, one cannot imagine a world in which human beings in life can prosecute a productive and secure life without interdependency and mutuality. Even the American rebels were acutely aware of the injustice inherent in the commoditization of human beings in the form of slavery but for self-serving purposes chose to be blind to the true purpose and meaning of human life. Like their Rhodesian successors, they sought to pretend that black humans, because of education and other artificial barriers, were not worthy of the unalienable rights that only the creator could confer on humanity.

In the case of the Zimbabwean post-colonial drama, it is striking that even those who seek to provide an alternative idea of a government have also declared their unwavering commitment to the values, principles and ideas of the liberation struggle without fully applying their minds to the logical consequences where a government of the people, by the people and for the people becomes subjected to partisan interests and whims.

The American rebels understood that to secure the rights given by the creator equally to humans, it was necessary to institute government among men and such institutions would naturally derive their just powers from the consent of the free humans so governed. It was also self-evident then, as it must be to all rational persons, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people subjected to such tyranny to alter or to abolish it and - more importantly - institute a new, responsive and accountable government.

The connection between equality and the independence and sovereignty of human beings is a direct and causal one. It is also self-evident that even President Mugabe, for instance, is blind to the toxic effects of his administration. Contrary to the assertions of many that he has constructive knowledge of everything taking place in the country, he is after all just a human and mortal being.

The fact that President Mugabe genuinely believes that he has been God-send to deliver the promise of safety and happiness to helpless and illiterate Zimbabweans is also not accidental given the artificial world that he has been living in for the last 35 years. The reality of Zimbabwe is unknown to him and there can be no human process for him to know about the aspirations of persons that are not close to his personal network. No sane person can accept the proposition that President Mugabe's personal network is inclusive of the national network.

R MugabeThe people who have benefited from the organs of state have tended to be connected people simply because human beings are capable of liking and disliking and whenever a human being is armed with too much power, unintended danger always follows. The need to lay the foundation of an accountable and responsible government on inclusive, cohesive and progressive principles and organising the government in such a people-centred manner seems more likely to end the nightmare of independence than a focus on the limitations or otherwise of single individual by the name of President Robert Mugabe.

Believe me or not, President Mugabe strongly believes that there is no moment in the post-colonial dispensation that he has sought to illegally assume or steal the peoples' power. He argues rightly or wrongly that his legitimacy lies in the consent, acquiescence and silence of the people so allegedly oppressed but when it comes to election time, return him into power. He has also consistently argued that it's not for him to select his successor for his power derives, as it should in his perspective, directly from the governed. Nobody has been able to convince him that the people of Zimbabwe are gullible and have been reduced to participating spectators.

President Mugabe also, rightly or wrongly, believes that he has discharged his responsibilities to the people of Zimbabwe as the creator and, more importantly, the governed would have expected him to. The role of the state and its actors then necessarily becomes one of the issues that ought to be debated even with President Mugabe and his colleagues if real change has to be secured in Zimbabwe.

The silence, fear and acquiescence of the majority of Zimbabweans who participate actively in elections is often used to provide a credible defence to anyone who challenges the manner in which the state has been abused. It is clear that President Mugabe believes in a benevolent state in which state actors pretend that they can assume the role of the creator by using the state to deny or allow access to materials that were created outside the knowledge of men and governments.

Although he was not the original author of the words: "government of the people, by the people and for the people," on 19 November 1863, at the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Abraham Lincoln, made a historic short speech which ended with the above-mentioned words. These words have been quoted ever since as the best vindication of representative government and, often, proof of American exceptionalism.PEOPLE

The words came from a theological source by John Wycliffe in 1834 who believed in the centrality of the bible and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people was a concept with political, religious and educational implications. Independence promised that free and equal men would be able to make up their own minds similar to the case in respect of theological questions and that they would also be better suited to independence in secular and political affairs.

A causal and positive relationship has existed between civil and religious liberty right back to the fourteenth century. One of the ideas is the notion that freedom of conscience is inseparable from civil liberty and that personal and not state responsibility in spiritual matters automatically implies individualism in secular affairs.

It is clear from all available indicators of human progress that the post-colonial experience has been a nightmare for the majority of Zimbabweans to give any self-serving leader the luxury and comfort to pretend that a conspiracy of a few and diminishing white citizens and their kith and kin has been at play in undermining the promise of safety and happiness that the post-colonial administration was meant to deliver.

The link between individual independence and self-determination and the promise of safety and happiness is a direct one. When some citizens are placed in special boxes simply because of the past and other artificial barriers then one must know that the creativity and innovation of individuals at their personal levels is limited and undermined. The removal of artificial barriers has, in the course of human history, unleashed the creative genius of the individual.

AFRICAIndeed, Africa, for instance, has lost its brain trust because of the appalling conditions that have characterised the post-colonial era largely from the mistaken understanding of the proper role of the state. Most leaders are the loneliest people for they rely on self-centred advisors who have no real incentive to tell the truth. It is often convenient and career rewarding to tell the leader what he or she wants to hear. Equally, we all know who have been singing for their suppers yet rarely do we, as citizens, have the courage to be the voice that is often missing.

It may be politically convenient to point a finger at a single individual as if he is a little God but in reality people always get the government they deserve. It is only when people go back to the philosophical foundations of a government that they can begin to appreciate their culpability in creating the mess. Even bankrupt governments still pretend that they are financially sound yet the people whose incomes are misdirected are afraid to speak their minds.

The issue of fear cannot and should not be taken lightly, not least because people like President Mugabe believe that if it ain't broken don't fix it but also that the failure of the opposition to capture the imagination of the so-called oppressed confirms that everything is as it should be.

Finally, the basis of the construction of a government is no different from the construction of a company. A government is merely a vehicle for citizens to manage their affairs and, as such, is incapable of being owned by the people who use such institutions. A government can only fail to deliver its promise when its owners fail to exercise vigilance as has been the case in many poor nations where democracy has been sufficiently undermined using state power.

Comments

Comments by shiku (2016-06-01 05:30:07) from Zimbabwe

I rumor has it that you were arrested for stilling in your host country SA. As someone who talk so much about how bad the rule of law in Zimbabwean is, don't you think that your readers deserve to know how you became jailed out side Zimbabwe?

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