CONTESTING THE MEANING OF PATRIOTISM IN POST-COLONIAL ZIMBABWE
BY SIMBA MUKORI
Zimbabwe is a country in deep crisis.It is embroiled in a multi-faceted crisis of an unprecedented magnitude on numerous fronts-be they socio-legal or politico-economic.The country has experienced massive structural regression characterized by alarming levels of unemployment,infrastructural decay and enormous deterioration in the provision of critical social services.Endemic corruption,gross economic mismanagement,flagrant violations of human rights,blatant disregard of the rule of law and its selective application constitute an avalanche of problems that citizens continue to grapple with daily in contemporary Zimbabwe.
From war veterans bemoaning the harsh deterioration of their welfare to workers in various sectors of the economy lamenting the ruthless erosion of the value of their monthly incomes;from students protesting the denial of academic freedoms and access to quality,affordable education to peasants and the rural populace tearful about arbitrary displacements from their ancestral lands to pave way for ruling party’s Chinese friends,Zimbabwe at the present historical juncture has degenerated into an autocratic,authoritarian and tyrannical state that denies its citizens peace and happiness in their lifetime.
Amid these torrid and painful conditions,the broad mass of the people have become critical of the government and state,unhappy about the direction the country is taking.Instead of responding positively to the genuine concerns of the people,the government under Zanu pf always resort to coercive and repressive apparatuses of the state to deal with public discontent.
Of great concern is the labeling of anyone critical of the government as being unpatriotic and a sell-out!Any citizen who dare oppose the government’s heavy-handedness,excesses and ruinous policies is labelled unpatriotic.Actually,a whole discourse dubbed patriotic history has been widely deployed whose agenda is to indoctrinate the naive,to portray and privatize politics as the sole preserve of those who participated in the nationalist liberation movement prior to the independence of this beautiful land-locked country Zimbabwe.Zanu pf has been hitherto fostering a narrative that seeks to disqualify anyone who becomes critical of its administration from being considered a patriotic citizen.It has become unequivocally clear along the years that anyone who does not agree with the ruling,ruining party is labelled unpatriotic and a sell-out,even those who participated in the struggle for liberation like Cde Rugare Gumbo,Mai Mujuru and Dzikamai Mavhaire.Indeed,it is such notorious and treacherous shenanigans by Zanu that has provoked my interest to interrogate the meaning of patriotism in contemporary post-colonial Zimbabwe.
What does it mean to be patriotic?Can patriotism be reduced to mere partisanship,to a mere party affiliation or its much more broader and all-encompassing given the plurality of political parties with different ideologies and policy persuasions in a multi-party constitutional democracy?In the ultimate analysis,however,it must be unambiguously clear that Zanu must not be allowed to use the rhetoric of patriotism as a weapon for its hegemonic machinations and devices,risking a situation whereby all other citizens are relegated to second class citizens simply because they hold different opinions on how the country must be governed!Now they have even stooped so low as to enact a Patriotic Act whose obnoxious and nefarious agenda is suppression of people’s voices and repression of dissent and stifling democracy!
Many scholars have defined patriotism simply as being loyal to one’s country and motherland,with a greater emphasis on commitment and devotion to the values and beliefs a country holds dear.It denotes a sense of pride,dedication and affection in belonging to the motherland.True patriotism is reflected through active citizenship,which means active participation in the governance and development processes that contribute to the well-being of a nation-state and its people.
In most countries,the expressed will of the people,their aspirations,values, beliefs and hopes are enshrined in the constitution.Even in the case of Zimbabwe,reference can be made to the opening sections of the Supreme law that delineates lucidly what it terms national objectives,founding values and principles.It is beyond disputation that Zimbabwe is founded on respect for such principles like the supremacy of the constitution,rule of law,fundamental human rights and freedoms,recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of each human being,gender equality and good governance which emphasizes transparency and accountability and the equitable distribution of the nation’s abundant resources,to mention just a few.
The pursuit and promotion of such values,principles and ideals as enunciated in the constitution and loyalty to such noble objectives is what must constitute patriotism-which is love for one’s country,its people and all the resources in it.Suffice to say acts of commission or omission by the state and all its institutions and agencies of government at any level or any citizen that violate,disregard or undermine these values and principles that define our Zimbabwean nationhood amount to lack of patriotism!
Corruption is in violation of the founding values of the nation-state under good governance which entails transparency and accountability and therefore anyone guilty of such is unpatriotic.Hurting your citizens for daring to challenge how the affairs of the nation are managed is what must be deemed as unpatriotic.Using the state for personal enrichment at the expense of the broad mass of our people is unpatriotic.Colluding with exploitative and extractive callous Chinese capitalists to dispossess our people of their ancestral communal lands and deprive them of livelihoods is unpatriotic.To deny workers decent wages,students a better education and war veterans a better welfare is pure hatred for the people which is the opposite of patriotism.Multiple farm owners are damn unpatriotic!In fact,Zanu represents and is a true reflection of the lack of patriotism..if by patriotism we mean love of the country,the people and all its endowments.
How on earth can Hopewell Chin’ono who is exposing and fighting corruption be labelled unpatriotic while Obadiah and Priscilla Mupfumira who stole millions of United States dollars be considered patriots?How can Makomborero who is demanding democracy be regarded unpatriotic when villains like Henrietta Rushwaya smuggle our country’s gold but is embraced by those who have arrogated themselves powers to define patriotism?How can Netsai Marova,Cecilia Chimbiri and Joanna Mamombe be seen as unpatriotic for demanding household food security,respect for human rights and a stop to gender-based violence while those who abuse women like Mary Mubaiwa are celebrated as patriots?
It must be stated categorically that it was the love for and a pure vision of a Zimbabwe where democracy and respect for human rights would flourish and thrive that inspired the struggle for liberation.The supreme sacrifices that the illustrious gallant young men and women of yesteryear paid to get rid of settler white supremacist domination and subjugation was motivated by clear objectives.It was the desire to restore human dignity to all through respect for human rights and end all forms of discrimination,reclaim land previously lost through colonial dispossession,achieve equitable distribution of natural resources among the citizenry and establish a socio-legal order that would guarantee the security of persons and accord each and everyone an equal opportunity.
In the wake of an African nationalist victory,a more democratic and human rights-based society was the logical expectation.Regrattably,the authoritarianism,state brutality and maladministration of the colonial era seems to have reproduced itself in the present leadership as it is clear that for the past 41 years Zanu has failed to deliver on the promises and expectations of independence.In what others have termed the pursuit of the unfinished business of the liberation struggle,an intergenerational consensus that seeks to fight for the previously envisioned Zimbabwe has taken shape.Just like those who converged around the idea of black majority rule before independence were labelled terrorist by Rodhesian settlerism,today the citizens who are converging for change,who are fighting for a better Zimbabwe that performs for all are like wise being labelled unpatriotic and sellouts.This labeling is not new.
The fight against corruption is an act of patriotism.The desire for a developmental state that improves the quality of life of the broad mass of our people is an act of patriotism.Broadly speaking,the fight for a post-nationalist democratic alternative that is inclusive,accountable,transparent and responsive to the needs,aspirations and desires of the people is a reflection of patriotism.
Zanu must never be allowed to define patriotism to suit its own insidious agendas and to delegetimise other citizens from the historiography of Zimbabwean nationhood.It is the love for this country that is the motivation behind all the fight by progressive Zimbabweans for a better country.This is a discourse that we must contest and define what patriotism means to us as a people.We cannot leave this noble duty to lootocrats and kleptocrats in Zanu pf.