Wrest struggle from violent politicians

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WHEN citizens embrace creativity and technology, nothing remains the same.

BY DZIKAMAI BERE

Mahatma Gandhi could be properly referred to as the father of non-violence after leading a successful non-violent struggle against the British in India. He never became a “politician”. And yet his creativity with nonviolence did ignite the struggle against the British in a new direction. Zimbabwe is probably due for the creativity of non-violence.

The philosophy behind nonviolence as a tool for resistance is that one cannot claim his own dignity by taking away another’s dignity, even if that person is the perpetrator.

The old saying states two wrongs don’t make a right. The duty to do right is not dependant on reciprocity. Hence the famous statement by Gandhi: “There are many causes that I am prepared to die for, but no causes that I am prepared to kill for.”

However, with that conviction against violence, Gandhi still believed it was better to stage violence against injustice, than to do nothing, for doing nothing is actually doing violence against a good cause. That’s why he said: “It is better to be violent if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence.”

Perhaps Africa’s greatest icon of resistance is former South African President Nelson Mandela. About non-violence, Madiba said: “For me, non-violence was not a moral principle, but a strategy. There is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.”

As these thoughts on non-violence and activism go through my mind, the conflict in Zimbabwe is escalating. This has always been predictable.

At the root of the conflict is violence and corruption with its foundations in the colonial system that we failed to dismantle at independence. We can say this failure represents a dismal failure of the liberation movement as a force aimed at liberating Zimbabweans. The movement has just proved that violence begets more violence.

It has proven Gandhi right and further showed humanity that you cannot attack the humanity of your fellow humans — no matter how evil they are — and still manage to keep your own humanity.

The saying by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche “. . . when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you” rings true.

For more than five years, the MDC formations have fought the violent system and yet as we prepare for the harmonised elections, MDC -T has been rocked by massive intra-party violence. As if that was not ugly enough, the party has gone out in full force to attack journalists.

Officials from the MDC-T say it is regrettable, but no apology has been given, no corrective measures and no attempts at pursuing accountability have been made.

The question we ask is: Have we lost our capacity for peace? Civil society has over the years documented gross violations of human rights, including serious cases of torture and murder.

Databases and court papers have cited politicians from both Zanu PF and MDC-T as perpetrators. A number of them are honourable members of the legislature, a body with a constitutional mandate to make laws “for the peace, order and good governance” of the country.

Can perpetrators be entrusted with the cause of peace? Can political parties participate in any workable agenda for peace? This is a difficult position to defend considering the behaviour of Zimbabwe’s main political parties recently.

Is it possible that the struggle is now due for a new philosophy? And maybe a new form of co-ordination? We have in the three decades of independence seen how powerful political parties have become, more powerful than churches in controlling the human body, soul and spirit.

They say run, we do. They say kill, we do.

It appears there is little room even in debates for independent thought. Political players from both MDC-T and Zanu PF, who decided to file nomination papers independently, were described by the media as “rebels” and “dissidents” — a kind of cultural violence perpetrated by public and private media without anyone questioning it.

The new age delivers new tools for citizen organisation. Social networks have shown us that citizens, probably without the adulteration of partyism, have the capacity to appropriate the national agenda. Tools of non-violence are being tested in Zimbabwe.

For example; on July 3 2013, Baba Jukwa revealed that Malawi President Joyce Banda — the incoming Sadc chairperson — had entered a deal with one of the political parties to allow it to get away with a stolen election.

He asked his 200 000 plus followers to confront the President of Malawi on her Facebook page. Citizens’ fury flooded Banda’s official Facebook page and in about three hours, she was forced to respond and distance herself from any agreement in which she would interfere in Zimbabwean politics.

In another show of citizen strength, another group has uploaded the voters’ roll online, allowing Zimbabweans from across the globe to interact with the voters’ roll which a few years ago was a closely guarded State secret. Perhaps these are just signs of our times; that we have new tools in our hands and maybe we can now confront as citizens, those areas that politicians have long ignored and taken for granted. Maybe we can now talk about those violations that civil society has for long shied away from.

It is possible. We are in a new struggle. A new struggle requires new tools.

Citizen activism seems to provide some hope for broader, more effective non-violent approach to our stubborn legacy of violence and impunity. No one can now claim to be untouchable. If politicians become too fat for our priorities, let the citizens rise.