OPINION: When the masses become political hostages

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Lennon Manyengavana

By Lennon Manyengawana

Traditionally, Zimbabweans have always been guests at their own party. Political actors have always been appearing at their own time and disappearing without notice. Election season is always amazing to observe. Some constituencies discover that they had a member of parliament for the past five years whom they didn’t know of. From 1980 when we attained independence, the people have always had moments where they are rallied behind an idea that they think is for them, only to discover that it is only meant to benefit the elite few. Politicians use the masses as a bait to lure government to give them a listening ear and to hold the government at ‘ransom’.

They prey on emotions of people to prop up an agenda and after that dump the people.In essence, it’s Politics of the condom. Talk about star rallies, demonstrations, industrial action, marches etc, all done in the name of the people but only to find out that the fruits are only to be shared among  the top political actors. In Zimbabwe people have been turned into pawns that they can push, throw or tussle around for their political expediency. The poor, unsuspecting masses get their emotions exploited by the people that purport to be representing them. This has turned into a hostage situation where the people and the country is being held hostage by politicians.

Hostage, by definition, means someone who is seized by a criminal abductor in order to compel another party such as a relativeemployerlaw enforcement, or government to act, or refrain from acting in a particular way, often under threat of serious physical harm to the hostage(s) after expiration of an ultimatum. A study of behavioural science will bring you to the Game Theory  in which one person’s gains result in losses of the other participants. These theories and behaviours are very peculiar to the Zimbabwean situation, for instance, the popular shutdowns by Evan Mawarire or the recent November March to depose Mugabe.

In any hostage situation, the first thing is to attack the victims. In other words, it’s to establish authority, instil fear and render the people helpless. This is the stage when political parties mobilise people, drag people into demonstrations, mass actions, asking for sanctions and sabotaging the economy. This will cause poverty, arrests, destruction of property, loss of jobs and ultimately untold suffering. At this stage the people will follow the political leadership with their hearts and souls because it is the only thing that they have left after being stripped of everything that they had.

The second stage is the creation of a barricade. A barricade simply means stopping neither movement nor communication between the hostages and any other authority that can solve their predicament. In Zimbabwe there are too many Unions and political parties purporting to represent the interest of the people. They create a barricade between the government and the people and, only through them can the interests of the people be communicated but many a times, when they are given the opportunity of dialogue, they only communicate their demands and needs. To them, the people are their security to be heard, hence the recurring statement Ndine Vanhu, “I have people”. Demonstrations in Zimbabwe are always a contest to show the number of hostages that one has, hence the constant debate always centres on the number of attendees.

The third stage is the demands stage. This is when politicians will come out and state their demands after showing how many hostages they have. One can only create a demand after establishing a threat. The demands are usually followed by threats, if the other party fails to comply.The most popular threat these days being “ Ndozvidira Jecha,”  “I will pour sand on it”, by Nelson Chamisa, “We will march to the Blue roof” , by Chris Mutsvangwa amongst so many other threats from various political players. All these threats are based on mass action by the people who will just wake up one day being told to match, destroy things or engage in sabotage activities.

The sad part is that all this is done for political expediency and the people have to suffer the consequences. A true leader cannot celebrate that the economy is going haywire just because they don’t like the government of the day because it is the ordinary people who are going to queue for fuel, cooking oil, baking powder, soap and all the other basic needs. Kana zvadirwa jecha, even the ordinary person cannot eat the food. So, are the people of Zimbabwe going to be sacrificial lambs so that someone can prove a point? I always hail the late Morgan Tsvangirayi for being sensitive to the people’s plight. He knew he could not hold people hostage because the people come first.

At the same time, in the other camp, the discourse is “Chinhu Chedu,” which means it is our thing. This means they are not even open to any negotiations because there is no space for the opposition in the new government, yet it is clear that a coalition government may be the last hope for Zimbabweans to survive this economic mess. Politics of entitlement has always killed hopes of cooperation or innovation in this country because the other end feels it is entitled to get the lion’s share of the national cake. The group of the Liberation fighters and ex detainees are the ones that have always held the position that the population, country and its resources are now being squeezed in their clenched fists, being told that its now payback time for the roles they played in the liberation war. Their insatiable appetite for re-compensation is bottomless. Concern about the welfare of the general citizenry is alien to them. Even the remaining skeletons of the povo have to be pressure cooked to produce soup for the liberators who have turned monsters. Productive and strategic land has got to be parcelled out amongst them no matter if such actions reduces the once bread basket to a basket case. Despite their innumerable allowances and privileges the poor man’s son or daughter’s scholarship have to be awarded to their kith and kin

The Parliament of Zimbabwe has also been turned into a talk shop where the honourable members visit to retrieve their allowances and fuel allocation but devoid of the true mandate of the parliament ,which is legislation to save the people from the tragedy of the commons. During such a time of crisis, no progressive discussion is being done on the possible alleviation channels for the people or deserving attention being given to the topical issues such as the rise of the cost of living and the transport fare hikes. The prominent discussions there are on their vehicle allowances in such times of crisis when the entire nation is toiling, wailing and suffering.

The other serious ailment bedevilling this country is the absence of politicians and countrymen in both camps as they both take extreme ends. On one end we are pulled by Liberation fundamentalists and on the other side we are being pulled by Student Activist movements.MDC A has taken the form and structure of a student activist movement that believes that in order to build they have to destroy and, in turn, complain about the destruction. In as much as it provides the sufficient pressure for attention, it also causes untold suffering to the people. The Alliance is not an alliance of people who have the ordinary citizens at heart but a gang of youngsters who are bent on mimicking the fat pot bellied in power. Their hearts have not yet been converted to the humbled servants to serve the masses, maybe church leaders have to hold a crusade for these aspiring leaders. On the other hand, the Liberation fundamentalists believe that anyone who complains is an entitled “prick” that has to be whipped into line. They carry the arrogance of entitlement and feel they have the title deeds to the country; hence the extreme positions of these two ideologies make them irreconcilable and, in the end, make life of the general citizenry unbearable.

So here stands the ordinary Zimbabwean, standing beneath two elephants fighting, trampled upon, pushed, shoved and shaken. They don’t know what will hit them or who will hit them. They are hostages of camps, systems and time. Their lives are stuck at the same rung. It’s a game of thrones and they are just mere pawns