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Tyranny: A sign of the times

MATHABELAZITHA/THE ANVIL BY ZIFISO MASIYE

Pfee! There is a distinct hollowness deep inside our stomachs everywhere across the country. It cannot be filled by the meat we looted in the stayaway orgy. No. You eat, eat and eat, but the big hole-ball of anxiety is still there in the belly. Gnawing! Though we may smile and pretend to be normal people, yet we are all consumed by a certain, unmistakable mental trauma — a consuming sense of insecurity and fear of each other, fear of our own children, fear of our own government, fear of our own soldiers and fear of our own destiny and whatever we have of a future. The things, the people, the social structures and institutions that when, ordinarily you think of, must bring to you that warm, fuzzy, reassuring sense of calm, pride of citizenship and internal peace, are today our greatest source of anxiety, panic and trepidation. Even the currency of one’s country, in one’s own hands, scares the shit out your pants!

Where, on our priority of prayers, we implored God every night to protect our scattered diaspora offspring and brethren — there, we, the loyal patriots have substituted them — Pfee! For indeed today, our diasporan kith and kin are less vulnerable to racism and xenophobia out there than we are to the criminal syndrome of domiciled Zimbabweanism and the cruelty of Crocobullets. Now the escapees pray for the remainees!

In all of 14 months, the snarling croc fangs have chiselled us into zombified smithereens of pfeerorist zealots in rather silenced, confused praise and worship of a twisting, turning, somersaulting raging crocodile; of latter-day apologists, the blow of whose trumpet has been choked in this “peaceful” song and mantra, whose dance floor drips blood; of mutinous loyalists-cum-turncoats, smelling a November 17 of their own; of a numb, infiltrated opposition and compromised civil society, the ranks of whom dream more of a cosy seat in the belly of the monster than of any hope of reforming or displacing it.

Whichever side of the elephant we are standing, whatever view of it we command, the underlying thread of our description of it is fear. Never before have the emotions of Zimbabweans been so downbeat and helter-skelter. Never before have Zimbabweans had so little an understanding of just what is happening to them, around them, around their country or why. The question flooding my inbox these past three weeks of “moments of madness” (I guess my outbox too) has been: Please tell me how this can be happening and what its meaning is to our lives and the future? Short and brutish are our lives.

Like you, I have either played all-knowing or dished out “inside scoops”, sophisticated predictions or simply joked away the question in the typical, satiric Zimbabwean banter that offers explanations as clear as mud. Thus, at the risk of annoying some, I thought I should give some attention to the question of political leadership and hazard my own guess of the mind of the Crocodile and where it may be taking us.

Historical studies of leadership locate the concept of leadership in either of the two perspectives or orientations of leadership. A well-known psychological and management school of thought presupposes that human beings are born good, they have an innate desire and predisposition to work, to produce and to innovate. In other words, if an environment conducive for the realisation of human freedoms, of creativity, self-drive, of human dignity, the pursuit of individual aspirations and enjoyment of human rights is deliberately developed in a country, it is expected that the people, citizens or workers of that country would be at their happiest and at their most productive. This is the people-oriented leadership philosophy ordinarily pursued by democratic societies and leaders with a heart foremost for human well-being.

On the other hand is a school of thought premised on “the mediocrity of the masses”, the notion that, left to their own devices human beings are intrinsically lazy; they harbour an in-born phobia for effort and work. Proponents of this thinking are typically target-driven leaders, convinced that people are like machines and as such, they must be treated as faceless instruments of production where the ultimate purpose is industrial productivity and economic growth results. Task-oriented leadership in its extreme form shuts its mind to the distractions of human welfare and pursuits of self-expression and human development. Task oriented leaders don’t give a hoot about citizen rights, conditions of service and so-called labour issues which they consider a fanciful annoyance and waste of productive resources. To this end, the uncompromising pursuit of results, the insistence on high performance and economic targets require that leaders of this orientation rely heavily on centralised power, rigid authority, on rules, orders and a strict, hierarchical chain of command. Creativity and innovation, consensus-building amongst citizens is a limited luxury that is considered surplus to requirements.

Indeed there will be different variants of each of these types of leadership orientations and often some hybrids of both. However, it is useful to understand Emmerson Mnangagwa and his dogged focus on the Transitional Stabilisation Programme in light of these leadership typologies. Robert Mugabe was dead right when he advised on his unceremonious departure that his Mnangagwa was an accomplished workaholic, a very thorough and result-oriented project-strickler. He wondered pretty frankly, tapping from his 50-year knowledge of his protege, if Mnangagwa had a single bone of human-kindness or compassionate leadership in him.

Mnangagwa has himself repeated that, above all, if there is one alien trait he is having to learn with great difficulty in his new office, it is to compromise his strict work culture, to have to create space and time to listen to people and tolerate “lots of nonsense!”. For those with ears to hear, his entry mantra that: “Park the politics and do simply business!’’ was loud and clear. Unpacking it must mean to everyone that the pursuits of civil society agendas, the worries of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, noises around workers’ conditions of services and all matters governance and politics would soon be taking a back seat, if any seat at all. Nkosana Moyo was right too. Those governance and politics taboos that seemed to be Mugabe’s forte, would either be matters of little concern for Mnangagwa or would turn out to be an absolute annoyance.

Chinese and other investors want to come for a good share of the Zimbabwean. A sticking concern of investors from authoritarian regimes will always be a local labour pool and citizenship that has been so overly spoilt by Mugabe and Western democracy, which imagines they are equal to capital and can give and withdraw their services at will. No such nonsense in China!

Seen is this light, August 1 was a sign of the times, a conscious introduction of the new season of tyranny. Similarly, the past three weeks of horror are setting the scene and the deliberate arrogance and unabashed use and defence of high-handed authority is the strongest indicator yet of government’s direction and the man’s intention to use any means necessary to achieve his 2030 vision. Our society must brace itself more for the unfolding of the psychology of military incompetence and scaled-up cognitive dissonance, the increasingly apparent propensity for hasty, intransigent decisions and sticking to them in spite of informed and overwhelming evidence against them. Pfee!

Zii Masiye (ziimasiye@gmail.com) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks

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