Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
Democracy is belief in political freedom and equality, it is the core principle that this country’s political system is anchored on.
Although the textbook model of democracy is impossible to achieve in a world where humans are inherently selfish, the highest attainable requirements of this system should be satisfied.
A conversation on democracy which overlooks freedom of choice is porous and cannot be admitted into sober discourse. Current events in Zimbabwe’s politics present a curious case where a few people in exercising their democratic rights, diminished the freedoms of many others.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and losing council candidate Evan Mawarire called their constituents to stay-away from work in apparent response to fuel price increases.
It was within their rights to call for action which they deemed fit to communicate their grievance, in a legally permissible manner. Except that, the described action on paper and the manifestation on the ground were gulfs apart.
The stayaways, curiously prefixed “Shutdown Zimbabwe” were violent. If people had heeded the call to stay away, roads were supposed to be empty, but instead sights from Epworth, Kuwadzana and Chitungwiza suggested the opposite.
Roads were barricaded, motorists turned away and strategic buildings were set on fire. There is no euphemism that can gloss over these acts of criminality, the nation witnessed acts of banditry and intimidation.
As a result businesses had to close, not because they resonated with ZCTU and Mawarire’s idea, but because they wanted to protect their investments. Commuter omnibuses were threatened with arson and as a result many operators had to ground their fleets limiting the majority of workers’ ability to move around.
Schools issued statements, pleading with parents not to bring their children because threatening Whatsapp messages were being circulated.
When history records what happened this week there should be clarity on the reason behind the minimised movements.
There were threats to the lives of those who did not relate with the stay away message both virtually and in the physical. For an idea birthed by self-proclaimed proponents of democracy, it was ironic that it had generated to a threatening party where flames were used as an instrument to create a stay away for political aesthetics.
Of course, these activists will milk the idea of plausible deniability for all it is worth, arguing that they called for peaceful stay away and the violence was not part of their script.
Those who have trapped mice know fires are effective in forcing them out of their habitats. Time and again people burn anthills so the mice can escape from the underground onto the accessible ground.
Unfortunately in some cases, the fires serve beyond the intended purposes burning whole bushes and sometimes people’s fields.
Similarly ZCTU and Evan Mawarire called for a stay-away which spiralled out of control into a violent protest. In the same way that they would have taken credit had their call to action yielded fruit, they should take responsibility because it was at their instigation that the country witnessed a few days of mayhem.
Activism in Zimbabwe thrives on convenience and it is almost predictable how they will communicate in the aftermath of this week’s unfortunate scenes.
Firstly, they will speak bad of the country’s security sector as if there is a place in the world where authorities would have ululated in the face of looting and impunity.
Security forces did not descend on the streets as a reaction to the stay away, but responding to rowdy violent behaviour which was threatening citizens.
Secondly, they will disown the violent protesters, but in the same breath try to gain political capital off the results of the intimidation.
This is the nature of political conversation in Zimbabwe, the agenda overrides the facts, especially in opposition circles where expediency is a tool of trade. Things will go back to normal at some point, Zimbabwe will stop being a story on the global news cycle.
As a country we should then objectively interrogate the tyranny of the majority by a few wild individuals.
How communities were held at ransom by those who believed their right to protest was greater than everyone else’s right to move freely and choose who to associate with.
Frog-marching people for optics is rarely clever political strategy, if anything it is criminal conduct.
If the stay away-cum-protest was a brilliant idea, there was supposed to be emphasis on voluntary participation.
The fact that the participation in the so-called mass action resulted from explicit threats exposes the flaw behind the stayaway idea.
Stayaways have failed before because they interfere with people’s revenue generation. Without burnt tires, blocked roads this one would have been equally ignored.
Democracy thrives on heterogeneity, people should be able to self-determine and make independent choices.
Zimbabwe is a country comprised of people with different aspirations as well as persuasions, democracy weeps when so-called “pro-democracy” activists lead action that results in the abuse of citizens with a different opinion.
An idea, brilliant or otherwise can never have absolute buy-in from the whole population, it is concerning that some are yet to grasp a concept this simple.
What we saw in Bulawayo and Harare early this week, should not be repeated. The people’s freedom to choose whether or not to participate in political processes should be protected,
at all costs.
source: the herald