When Alexis de Tocqueville, a French sociologist, travelled to the United States of America in 1831 with the aim of studying prison life, he discovered something amiss in what was then believed to be the world’s most ideal democracy.
The findings of Tocqueville were not only phenomenal, but frightening.
Right in the heart of the first fully developed democracy, a new tyranny had emerged, one that would consume the entire fibre of democratic rule.
Even in the land of the free, freedom would remain a pipe-dream.
The tyranny of the majority: that is what Tocqueville called this new form of oppressive rule.
Democracy, Tocqueville argued, is a form of government that claims to empower the people, yet oppression still exists as a result of the unfettered power assumed by the majority.
Tocqueville did not oppose democracy itself, but the excess of power held by the majority.
Popular sovereignty and individual liberty still struggle to co-exist 185 years after Tocqueville documented his findings in “Democracy in America”.
A case in point is the service delivery mess at Harare City Council. The costs of hollow leadership at Town House have finally caught up with residents, including those whose vote gave rise to chancers at council.
It all comes down to the voter; we get the leaders we deserve.
A minority of residents will, however, argue that they are facing oppression from the tyranny of the masses.
The masses who voted, and did so on partisan lines. The majority of residents exercised their democratic right, which in turn is a form of suppression of the minority.
It is without doubt that the right to vote is a fundamental right in any democracy. In the case of Zimbabwe, it is a right that was brought by blood — the blood of thousands of sons and daughters of the soil who themselves, never got the opportunity to exercise that right.
That is why the right to vote must be exercised responsibly. It must never be taken for granted or used blindly for political gain. Above all, it must not be turned into a form of tyranny against those who apply themselves fully before appending an X on ballot paper.
For how long will Harare’s Sunshine status continue to fade?
As we reported yesterday, Harare City Council on Monday cut water supplies to the entire metropolitan area, citing the shortage of critical treatment chemicals even though Government last week released $37,4 million as part of interventions to improve water access and waste water treatment.
Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said Harare’s water treatment plant, Morton Jaffray, had stopped pumping water because council was incapacitated.
What type of a leadership uses all its water purification chemicals and only remembers to order additional supplies after exhausting existing supplies? The answer is simple: a leadership that cannot make the right decision at the right time.
And as if being denied clean water is not bad enough, it is just, but one of the many problems residents of Harare have to contend with on a daily basis.
Water borne disease outbreaks, uncollected refuse, sewer bursts, potholes on roads and poor lighting have become the order of the day.
The leadership at Town House is so bad, one would be forgiven to assume the city fathers were imposed on residents.
How can an elected leadership be so hopeless? Why would residents continue to put themselves in this position by voting for failure?
We urge the residents of Harare to think hard about the city they want and begin the conversation of what qualifications one has to possess in order to be a councillor.
We also call on political parties, particularly Zanu-PF and MDC-Alliance, to push for strict laws in Parliament that will lead to the right calibre of councillors and administrators at local government level.
The devolution thrust means nothing if the leadership at local level is hollow.
The leadership is also a reflection of the masses, the real bosses who appoint and disappoint office bearers.
Popular sovereignty put Harare in this mess, and only popular sovereignty can protect individual liberty by correcting the wrongs of a majority that voted for a political party and not sound leadership.
Harare does not have many things, but there is no shortage of leaders.
We call on Zimbabweans to use the Harare City Council experience as a lesson on the need to vote wisely.