by Tendai Ruben Mbofana
If ever there was one thing that could be attributed to the demise of most countries – of course, most especially, our own Zimbabwe – I would confidently and unhesitatingly point to the scourge of hero-worshipping and praise-singing that has, like a lethal and malignant foul-smelling cancer, progressively, but menacingly, infested and destroyed our nation.
The surest and fastest way to ensure that any country (or, political party, organization, institution, and even personal relationship) collapsed, like a house of cards, then those involved should permit the demon of hero-worshipping of their leaders – as if their were some kind of demi-gods, who were infallible, who should never be criticized and corrected, but agreed with on each and every decision they made – as that only created a monster of a leader, who would not only fail to be accountable to those he or she led, but allowed to dangerously drive the country down a perilous cliff, whilst his or her followers cheered and urged him or her on.
A leader is nothing more than a driver, who would have been entrusted by the rest of the group – due to his or her exceptional capabilities – to drive their bus to where they wanted to go.
This means that the driver would not be the owner of the bus – that is collectively owned by the entire group – but, is completely answerable and accountable to the people he or she would be driving…who, if they were not satisfied with the manner of driving, could order him or her to get off the driving seat, and appoint another person.
It is as simply as that.
No wonder, even our own Zimbabwe constitution [section 3(2)(f) of the Founding values and principles] clearly states, “respect for the people of Zimbabwe, from whom the authority to govern is derived” – which is an unambiguous way of saying, “We, the people of Zimbabwe, are the ones who own this great country, and choose who, amongst us, could lead us – and, who should always be answerable to us, as our appointed person”.
I have said this many a time, and will repeat it again here – the president of the country is not our boss, but we (who appoint him, and give him – and, can take back – the authority to lead) are.
Furthermore, who pays the salary of the president? We, the people do – through our taxes.
Our most brilliant constitution is right – as it is premised on the tenets of democracy – that, the one who employs and appoints you (through elections), as well as, pays your salary (through taxes), is your boss – as such, each and every Zimbabwean is the boss of the country’s president, and most certainly, not the other way around.
Only in a fascist dictatorship, or an absolute monarchy (which to me, are one and the same thing) is the reverse true.
Once the people of Zimbabwe appreciate this plain truth – which is not a result of some cockiness or insubordination, but a well-established constitutional fact – the sooner we can readily exercise our roles and responsibilities as bosses to our leaders, by openly instructing them on what we want done, how we want our country governed, freely expressing our displeasure when we are not satisfied, and constitutionally replacing the one we are not satisfied with.
There is no room for hero-worshipping in a true democracy – as, that would not only be unconstitutional, but also a stack failure on our part in fulfilling our obligations as the owners of this country, who are mandated to ensure that the people we appoint to lead our nation, do so as per our expectations.
Therefore, any amongst us, who lower themselves to the level of slaves, stooges, and sycophants of the people whom we appointed – and, “from whom the authority to govern is derived” – are actually letting our country, and the whole population, down.
As a matter of fact, if there was anyone to apportion most of the blame for the sorry and miserable state our great nation finds itself in at the moment, then those who have reneged on their responsibilities in holding the leaders we appointed to account, have no way out.
Possibly, they are doing this out of sheer ignorance – since, it is quite understandable that some would assume that a president of a nation, was the boss – what with the extravagant pomp and ceremony surrounding such a figure, with the numerous bodyguards, the unending noise making motorcades, of course the opulent lifestyle, and multitudes of people at their beck and call.
Such a skewed scenario – where the the real bosses, “from whom the authority to govern is derived” survive from hand to mouth, wallowing in abject poverty, whilst the ones they gave the “authority to govern” live like kings and queens – is purely our fault as a nation.
If our leaders’ “authority to govern is derived” from us, why do we allow them such a lifestyle – yet, we ourselves complain of hunger and impoverishment? Are we not the ones with the authority to determine how those leaders we appoint live their lives? If we are too cowardly to stamp our feet down – for fear of our own appointees – in ensuring that the leaders we appointed do not loot our national resources, but share them equitably, then, whose fault is that?
As far as I am concerned, the first step in correcting this grand anomaly in our system of governance, is to remove some of those unwholesome and clearly undemocratic titles, as ‘His Excellency’, when addressing the president.
This autocratic term was derived from Middle English, ‘excellentia’, from Latin ‘excellere’ – meaning ‘lofty’. In other words, what that title instills in our minds is that a president is superior, and surpasses all of us – a term, which has its roots in the medieval times, and most certainly has no place in a modern 21st century democracy.
Titles are not some innocent form of respect, but can play a very critical role in how we consciously or subconsciously perceive issues or persons – and, in this regards, the hero-worshipping of someone whose “authority to govern is derived from” us the people.
The mere fact that this is a globally used term means nothing – as long as it contributes to the hero-worshipping scourge we witness in our own Zimbabwe.
The sooner we realigned our democratic values in Zimbabwe, by ensuring that proper democratic tents were adhered to, the sooner we, as a people, would be able fulfil our constitutional mandate of holding our leaders accountable, so that our nation can finally develop and prosper.