Lawson Mabhena News and Politics Editor
Is man inherently evil? For centuries, philosophers have been battling with this and related questions. Do we need laws? Can humankind survive outside of sovereign authority?
Niccolo Machiavelli, a 16th Century thinker, is one of many philosophers who believed that man was indeed inherently evil.
He wrote in “The Prince”: “It is necessary for him who lays out a state and arranges laws for it to presuppose that all men are evil and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits whenever they have free scope.”
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued that man needed “a government strong enough to control their destructive tendencies”.
“Covenants, without the sword, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all,” Hobbes further wrote in his 1651 book, “Leviathan”.
Sir Robert Filmer, an English political theorist who defended the divine right of kings, inspired Hobbes to reflect on man “as mushrooms, sprung out of the earth without any obligation to one another”.
Of late, the media has been awash with reports of people acting on the wickedness of their spirits, who are chopping people to pieces with machetes, in total disregard to human life.
The love for money and gold has turned them into monsters and Zimbabweans are beginning to ask themselves where all of this evil is coming from.
Is it coming from within?
That is the question one grapples with after seeing some gruesome pictures and videos depicting illegal gold mining wars.
If we really did have an innate moral compass, there probably would be no need for laws and authority.
Maybe the pessimistic philosophers were right after all.
Man needs law, law needs sword!
This is why the Government has since taken some flak from the public for failing to show its teeth, or rather not showing enough teeth.
Last week, a young police officer serving his country diligently was clubbed and hacked to death and his colleague was seriously injured while defending workers at Good Hope Mine in Battlefields, from an invading criminal gang armed with machetes, logs, axes and catapults.
Constable Wonder Hokoyo (27) — who lost his parents at a young age — was yet to meet his in-laws officially after recently entering into a customary union.
His death, however, must not be in vain.
Recent arrests by the police came a bit late and are not enough.
Life and property must be protected, while machete gangs must be dealt with swiftly and severely.
Gold, like all other minerals within the borders of the country, is for all Zimbabweans and not only the fittest or most brutal.
Policies must be put in place by the Government ensuring all Zimbabweans, especially people in whose communities gold is mined, benefit from the resource.
Zimbabwe cannot be open for business when machete gangs are on the loose, brutalising both members of the public and officers of the law.
No investor can be wooed to a country where people behave like “mushrooms, sprung out of the earth without any obligation to one another”.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe, in early December, warned politicians sponsoring machete gangs that the law will be applied on everyone regardless of social standing.
Minister Kazembe must now walk the talk.
Over 100 small fish have been arrested, but no single big fish has even been picked up for questioning.
It is the Government’s responsibility to protect both life and property, hence the warning to politicians sponsoring machete gangs must not turn out to be empty rhetoric.
The most distinctive feature of any unitary form of government is that there is only one source of State authority.
This is why the entire responsibility of dealing with machete gangs rests on the shoulders of Government.
Ignoring the problem is what allowed it to get out of hand in the first place. If it had been dealt with much earlier, it would already be a thing of the past.
The wickedness of man starts with small actions. The kind that can easily be overlooked until they turn into a culture.
Such forms of lawlessness are not limited to hardcore criminals like machete gangs, but ordinary citizens as well.
For example, the declaration of every first Friday of each calendar month as National Environment Cleaning Day by President Mnangagwa in December 2018, was necessitated by the total disregard to law and health which has left cities that were once regarded as some of the cleanest in Africa, looking like slums.
It had become normal to dump litter in open spaces and throw rubbish anywhere and everywhere.
Driving dangerously on the country’s roads and ignoring all traffic regulations has also become common practice.
These and many more are petty crimes that have been allowed to go on for too long.
This is why the Government must always act fast, and show its teeth — lots and sometimes, all of them.