By Elliot Ziwira
As the electorate and citizens we have an obligation to question the way we are governed and/or represented. Yes, it is every citizen’s right to seek representation either in the Executive or the Legislature, such is democracy.
Montesquieu (1689-1755) puts democracy in context thus: “As in a country of liberty, every man who is supposed a free agent ought to be own governor; the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people.
“But since this is impossible in large states, and in small ones is subject to many inconveniences, it is fit the people should transact by their representatives what they cannot transact by themselves” (cited in Held, 2006: 66).
There is a telling point here; that the Legislature derives its power from “the whole body of the people” and not that it is a crucial component on its own. No! There is a tendency by the elected; the supposed representatives, to think highly of themselves the moment they are raised to the platform of the gravy train, and by the time they embark they would have forgotten everything about the source of their power — the electorate.
We walk with them, chewing tasteless gums of hope together, raising the bar of aspiration as one, sharing dreams of high kingdom, but the moment they are comfortably hoisted in saddles of their high horses, we become insignificant. We become the “others”. Their “welfare” becomes theirs, and our suffering is considered a necessary dehumanising trait of life, which we should endure ad infinitum.
When issues to do with our welfare as citizens are zeroed in for discussion, some of our “esteemed” representatives walk out of the august House, absent themselves, or find the energy to boo each other down, nay undress each other; never reaching consensus on anything of national significance. Always raising this issue or that; kindergarten style sometimes. But the moment the gravy pot is stirred, they growl for their welfare with such conspicuous connivance that shames the devil.
It is always about them, and not about us. What happened then to servant leadership epitomised by our listening President? Our Members of Parliament evoke timeless encounters in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” (1945).
You may recall this incident gentle reader, when Squealer, the pigs’ propagandist par excellence, is at pains to convince the animals that milk and apples that the leaders take are good for brainworkers — the pigs.
“Comrades!’ he cried. “You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health.
“Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink the milk and eat those apples.”
Really, eating on our behalf; for our sake! What cheek? One has to make reference to Madison (1788) cited in Held (2006), who concedes in the Hobbesian tradition that politics is rooted in self-interest, because individuals are always drawn in for material gain and not to serve the people.
Gentle reader, fellow countryman and friend compare Squealer’s words with Norton Member of the National Assemby Temba Mliswa’s (Independent), who was instrumental in canvassing MPs to demand good perks, who said:
“You expect people to work yet they do not even get lunch when they are here. This Budget must address our welfare. We are talking about having a world-class Parliament, but we only have a one-course meal and the dessert is an apple and a banana, yet when we go out to other areas we get trifle, a nice fruit salad, custard, ice cream and all that. But, look at what we get here — a mere banana and apple! There is no soup.
“The diet for Members of Parliament is important. Nutrition is important because when members do not eat well, they do not function well.”
The analogy is appalling. It pokes holes in our fabric as a society, and only heightens the suspicion that permeates relations between the electorate and its purported representatives. If all of us are malnourished, it is of no consequence as long as our representatives are nourished, therefore, they should eat on our behalf for our own good! Really?
They also claim vehemently, like Kuwadzana East MP Charlton Hwende (MDC Alliance) does on social media, that they do not really need top-of-the-range Landcruisers. So the idea is for them to drive the off-roaders on our behalf, for our own good, and look down upon us from a vantage point.
Servant leadership of yore, a philosophy that smacks at self-interest, is no longer in vogue. Nobody cries for us anymore, and nobody cares either; and our Members of Parliament have just demonstrated that rationale, and have been doing it for years. Every time it’s always about their welfare, shedding tears for themselves.
As Evangelist Billy Graham reasons: “Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.”
It is imperative to recall how Honourable Joseph Chinotimba once shed tears for his constituents in Buhera South when hyenas threatened to decimate their numbers. It is such representatives, who shed tears for us that we cry for.
Reminiscent of yesteryears, in December 2018, while debating the 2019 National Budget presented by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, lawmakers across the political divide demanded that they be served three full-course meals a day, plus dessert while attending Parliament.
“Austerity for Prosperity” measures taken by the Government should be felt by all citizens, MPs included, so for them to clamour for luxuries like “trifle, a nice fruit salad, custard, ice cream”, state-of-the-art gyms, top-of-the-range Toyota Landcruiser V8 vehicles and computers, is both befuddling and hypocritical.
We are all going through lean times, where even “a mere banana and apple” are luxuries, we scantily can afford, and queueing for fuel is as humane as queueing hours on end at banks, yet our representatives feel that it is dehumanising to queue for coupons at Parliament on Thursdays. Whose humanity would they be talking about? And what constitutes humanity then?
Bemoaned Chegutu West Member of the House of Assembly Dexter Nduna (ZANU-PF): “We have about 270 Members of Parliament here. This is 210 elected and 60 proportional representatives, and every Thursday, they go under dehumanising conditions where they have to get coupons, and they go into a queue where an accountant on accounting operation distributes those coupons in a manual way.
“My suggestion is that, let that money go into our accounts and make sure that we do not leave anything to chance, and make sure that MPs do not go through dehumanising conditions.”
True, Honourable Nduna has a point; MPs do not deserve to queue for fuel coupons or any other thing for that matter, because, it speaks to our lacks as a people, but to say it is dehumanising also sneers at the lot of us who have to endure the same.
When something goes wrong, it goes wrong for all of us. Thus, we need to endure together, and shape our destiny as a united people, with our representatives joining hands and shedding tears for the common good. For it is those genuine and purposeful tears that will go a long way in washing away our pains and daubing our ever fresh wounds. And it is such show of selflessness that is enduringly valuable, and gives impetus to self-respect and sustenance, for politics is neither for the meek nor conceited.
Our honourable members of the House of Assembly, and indeed, all of us, should be guided by conscience, because as Jung (1964) intimates: “Deep down, below the surface of the average man’s conscience, he hears a voice whispering, ‘There is something not right,’ no matter how much his rightness is supported by public opinion or moral code.”
Fellow countrymen, Zimbabweans, friends, “there is something not right” in our behaviour. Something is rotten in our state of affairs (to borrow from William Shakespeare). Such materialistic gains and luxuries like gym facilities, playing golf, or payments for subscription fees at sports clubs for recreational purposes, though, necessary for the health of MPs, should not be the burden of the taxpayer, therefore, should not be clamoured for.
The “integrity and status” they want to maintain as Honourable Goodluck Kwaramba (ZANU-PF) pointed out come at a price and should be earned. There is need to be mindful of dystopia, which is a culmination of the transition from the collective to the self, where individual glory supersedes societal glory (Giddens, 1990).
Probably Jung (1964) aptly sums it up when he says: “Contemporary man is blind to the fact that, with all his rationality and efficiency, he is possessed by ‘powers’ that are beyond his control. His gods and demons have not disappeared at all; they have merely got new names. They keep him on the run with restlessness, vague apprehensions, psychological complications, an insatiable need for pills, alcohol, tobacco, food — and, above all, a large array of neuroses” (Jung, 1964:82).