Just recently, Honourable (though am not convinced he should be called one) Terence Mukupe had a public debate with Tendai Biti on national radio. I believe such public debates are meant to share ideas aimed at national advancement not platforms to trade insults.
Unfortunately, both individuals used the opportunity to parade their competence in arrogance, intolerance and bullish behaviour. It seems a number of politicians in the country have also adopted the same. Coming back to the two’s public spat I am going to focus on Mukupe’s unfortunate utterances that Biti is on ARV therapy.
I understand it is not the first time such comments have been directed towards Mr Biti mainly by his political foes either on social media or other platforms. Whether this is factual or fictitious, that is not my focus. At the same time, my focus is also not on the background and context such comments were made.
My major concern is when such utterances are being made by political figures, some who are already public office-bearers and/or aspiring ones. The question is what kind of leaders are we voting into power? Are they really serious and genuine about fighting HIV and the stigma associated?
It appears if they ever talk about fighting such issues then it is mere lip-service. Although the said comments were directed at a certain individual, this is just a microcosm of what is embedded and obtaining in our society.
Remember, once upon a time another public figure Professor Jonathan Moyo insinuated the same regarding HIV during the alleged poisoning of then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Research has shown that labelling and stigma are some of the impediments in the fight against HIV.
Those infected might deliberately fail to share their status for fear of being stigmatised. Because of this they might even agree to have unprotected sex thereby infecting and spreading the disease.
Even others who are on treatment may also end up defaulting as long as they are in the presence of other people due to the labelling. I therefore submit that the 90-90-90 strategy as well as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will remain a conduit dream if we have leaders who are still behaving in such an unfortunate way towards HIV.
Mr Biti himself has also been caught offside on some instances through statements and comments that undermine the dignity of others. Being a politician should not be synonymous with superciliousness and bigotry. This has been the case with several politicians.
It should be known that every statement and move you make as a public figure will be scrutinised, and will be used by your foes to orchestrate your demise. More so, our mass media have not made the situation better as they continue to fuel hatred in an already volatile and polarised nation.
It suffices to say, therefore, that our country needs politicians who are committed to serve the people, politicians who can advocate for the poor and marginalised. Nation-building partly entails a leadership that promotes among the citizens socio-political convergence, tolerance and national healing. This appears to be absent in our country. Political polarisation has led to people ululate at or condemn others without listening to the message and its implications on the country.
I am of the opinion that the unprecedented proliferation and mushrooming of political parties in our country is not a sign of maturity in our democracy but rather a rise of avaricious individuals who believe that everyone can lead. It is puzzling that most of these “political parties” have nothing new in their messages or manifestos but are instead replicating each other’s philosophies.
Why is it not possible to put their similar ideas together and rally for a prosperous Zimbabwe? Finally, as national elections loom we expect the electorate to choose individuals who can show leadership, respect divergent views as well as uphold the rights of minorities and the voiceless.