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A Case for ‘Forceful’ Political Resistance

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A Case for ‘Forceful’ Political Resistance

Senator David Coltart did not just write a book about how our country has been engulfed with violence for the past fifty years. He is also an ardent defender of peaceful – for want of a better word – remonstration. If you take time to read his book, you will notice that in 2005 his parting company with Morgan Tsvangirai was mainly on the basis of the latter’s ambivalence on violence. And this why Tsvangirai’s Labour Day speech got me thinking. We know that the military, chiefs, headmen, district administrators and police will be deployed to intimidate, coerce and compel villagers to vote for Robert Mugabe in 2018. It’s not political science. The questions really being: what would (we) opposition do – in whatever form – were there evidence of ZANU.PF cheating (again)? Does this create a legitimate case for ‘forceful’ political resistance to protect and recover our stolen votes?

In order that I proffer satisfactory answers to these questions, I will desist from being drawn into arguments on constitutionality and legitimacy of ‘forceful’ resistance. Besides being a fully-fledged liberal, I participated in two of Zimbabwe’s constitution making processes at the highest possible level, so I argue from a basis of unlimited institutional memory. I am also aware that ZANU.PF, despite credible evidence that they have over the past 36 years, captured all state, electoral, traditional and legislative institutions, always insist that the electoral playing field is level. My question remains: will opposition have a strong case for forceful political resistance if there is further evidence that Mugabe and ZANU.PF have abused the electoral system to their advantage?

I want early on to place my opponents and proponents in a space where we can have consensus what (would) legitimise post-2018 forceful political resistance in the context of African politics. The mere existence of a constitution does not take away the right of citizens to engage in forceful remonstrations where they feel their vote has been stolen. When we crossed over to Zambia and Mozambique in the 1970s in pursuit of liberation, we were aware that the Rhodesian Front had been applying authority through some constitution. What legitimised our cause was the moral right to remove an oppressive government from power. In other words, a moral right takes precedence over constitutional provisions provided enforcing it does not violate another person’s legitimate right. This is because it is not the constitution per se that is democracy, but its implementation and the practices thereof. Miss this point and you will fall into the whirlpool of ZANU.PF’s acidic propaganda that insinuates opposition have no right to forceful resistance because Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy. In my world, a bad law itches to be broken. This is the same constitution that gave ZANU.PF a ‘moral right’ to kill white commercial farmers and drive them off their properties on the basis of ‘correcting historical imbalances’. So, it perplexing to see why ZANU.PF considers violent land reform ‘constitutionally legitimate’ when the same does not apply to defending our legitimate votes, albeit through forceful confrontation.

And yet there is still a slight problem of contextualisation. Opposition parties, and to a great extent, civil society, are pushing for electoral reform or alternatively, for ZANU.PF to fully comply with dictates of our democratic constitution. Any coalition leader knows that ZANU.PF will never fully comply with the dictates of a democratic constitution. So, the most logical thing is not to participate in the 2018 elections under undemocratic conditions. This act of abstention has three visible results: first, it deprives opposition of expressing their democratic rights in the ballot box. Second, it creates enmity between pro-abstention and pro-participation groups and thirdly, it legitimises forceful resistance against a ZANU.PF government that assumes power through a disputed electoral process. So, one would then conclude that as long as there are reasonable grounds to contest the legitimacy of electoral outcomes or for that matter, the legitimacy of a government that assumes power through a contestable democratic process, citizens have a moral right to forceful resistance.

What we then have to interrogate and agree on as opposition is the magnitude, extent and nature of ‘forceful political resistance’ on the balance of probability that Mugabe and ZANU.PF will cheat in 2018. I bring this up because I overheard Tsvangirai opine last week that he will never again brook defeat by ZANU.PF. I am not sure what he means by ‘accept’, but I assume it is reference to that if he contests and Rita Makarau declares Mugabe the winner under flawed or disputed electoral circumstances, Tsvangirai will take his threats beyond litigation rhetoric. Like I have always said in my writings, simply hosting a post-election press conference to attract public sympathy or litigation to ‘contest’ electoral outcomes, though an exercise in democratic expression, will not recover our stolen votes. It’s an exercise in futile PR delusions applicable only to civilised countries where systems are run by people with a conscience. Zimbabwe is a political jungle infested with predatory, carnivorous blood-sucking political monsters which show no mercy to ‘nice democrats’.

Forceful confrontation of oppressors in Southern Africa dates back to the 19th Century with the Chikunda, Chokwe, and Nguni. Latter day historians have documented exploits of nationalists in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe resisting white-on-black oppression. However, Henning Melber, Executive Director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, writes that “when liberation movements take power, their governments are often marked by military mindsets, categorising people as winners and losers and operating along the lines of command and obedience.” This is why almost forty years after ‘liberation’, we Zimbabweans are still grappling to extricate ourselves from a group of violently corrupt political cowboys who have appropriated and privatised our freedom despite hollow claims of ‘bringing democracy’ to our beleaguered country. Says Indian psychologist Ashis Nandy: “In this light, the “anti-imperialist” Robert Mugabe turns out to be merely the final executor of the policies of the racist colonists Cecil Rhodes and Ian Smith. Armed combat merely created new repressive institutions of the state for the dominant group within anti-colonial resistance.” I conclude. The same moral high ground that Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo pitched their liberation struggle from is the same that we as opposition can ‘borrow’ to retrieve our stolen freedom in 2018. It’s only the players that have changed. The circumstances remain exactly the same.

I rest my case.

– Rejoice Ngwenya 

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Source: Kubatana

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