The loved opposition

The loved opposition
Published: 15 July 2019 (220 Views)
I hope I can be brief enough to be witty but concise enough to be understood and effectual. I know the natural instinct for people when they see someone questioning the political party that they support is to be up in arms and label the questioner a supporter of the opposing party. I would like to categorically state that in no way am I aligned or in favour of any political party. However, I am in favour of the right thing whether it is done by Mother Theresa or by Hitler, if ever Hitler was capable of doing right. There is a saying that has resonated with me ever since I heard it by inspired writer Ellen G White:
"The greatest want of the world is the want of men. Men who will not be bought or sold. Men who in their innermost souls are true and honest. Men who do not fear to call sin by its right name. Men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole. Men who will stand for the right even though the Heavens fall."

In that regard I believe the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change has been disappointing. That Zanu PF has failed and is failing is no longer up for debate. A myriad of examples abound: no electricity, no water, no fuel, rampant corruption, runaway prices and ever-contradictory policies just to name the notable few. Yet in their personal lives and as an institution they are doing swimmingly well. I am sure us ordinary Zimbabweans would weep if we had to know the amount of money and properties they have to their names. Besides occasionally shocking us with their level of corruption, as with the 3 planes that did a Houdini act, their behaviour is predictable to a tee. However, it is the opposition's silence that shouts all the more.  

Ideally an opposition party's aim should be in proffering their ideas towards policies and legislation that is forward-looking, to critic the government in a constructive way and oppose repressive and exploitative laws. Naturally, the party with the majority in parliament will have its motions carried. Nonetheless, I believe sometimes winning is not enough. Winning in passing laws that are anti-poor, anti-investment and self-serving is no win at all. In that same vein losing on its own is not enough but the manner of the loss. A loss after a folding of the hands or burying of the head in the sand in the face of overt injustice or outright criminality is the worst kind of loss. This is where the opposition's duty is to be vocal. Vocal in the face of theft, corruption, mismanagement, nepotism and incompetence. Vocal even though it might not change anything. Vocal for record's sake and for history's sake. I love what human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa had to say about the justice system in Zimbabwe:
"We go to the Supreme Court all the time with constitutional challenges, not because we expect to win... We take the cases there; we know we are going to lose them, not because it's a bad case, but because the judges are politically compromised. And you are only able to say, "See what we mean?" Because the judgment will be there, it will speak for itself. And we'll be able to use it in the future to say that this person is not fit to be a judge in this new era..."
For that she has my admiration and respect for being a gracious loser who will be remembered on the right side of history. It is for our posterity's sake that there be an unchanging record, that though it might not change anything for now, will serve as a guide to those who want to and will do right. That's what we as Zimbabweans ask of the opposition MDC.

I remember a discussion I had with my friends back in 2008. There was a general consensus that the people of Zimbabwe wanted change no matter the cost. We even said if a donkey ran for office on an MDC ticket it would win the vote. Most if not all the aspiring candidates were virtually unknown. The virtues and vices in their characters was ignored and their only nobility was the banner of the MDC and the byword "change". That was desperation on our part to usher them into a power whose responsibility they did not know. This has become evident now that after a decade wherein they once commanded a majority in parliament, nothing in regards to constitutional amendments and pro-investor policies has come into effect. They have literally been sleeping on the job.

The Auditor General's report has just been released. Unsurprisingly, it is laden with cases of money and property unaccounted for, poor corporate governance and irregularities of sorts. Further to this, administration in the sports arena has had controversies of its own. Imagine the embarrassment we suffered for having our soccer players operating on threatening to boycott every match at the African Cup of Nations. Hardly a week later, the Sports and Recreation Commission, which is headed by someone's son-in-law, had the gall to see no wrong in wanting to send 4 non-relevant ministers along with the netball team to the World Cup in the UK. One would question where these Zimbabwe "germs" were when the Zimbabwe Gems needed funding as they slept on floors and trained in the dust of Mbare? All of a sudden because there are free air tickets and hotel stays as well as hefty allowances for bugger all their interest in netball has been piqued. It becomes apparent that the gobbling of tax-payers money by government stays unchecked. "Our austerity, their prosperity", is the phrase going around. These are the things that the opposition should be making noise about in parliament. We don't care to see it on twitter or facebook. The twitter president Nelson Chamisa would do good to have his party tackle this and shame such reprehensible behaviour by both individual and state. No law or policy has ever been rescinded because it was unpopular on twitter but all progressive changes have taken place through "battles" on the streets, in parliament and in the courts.

  Never have I seen ruling party and opposition members unite as when they all with one voice demanded cars as part of their benefits in 2018. This was at the height of the cholera epidemic and common sense would dictate that peoples lives should come first but they didn't care. They just wanted their fancy cars so they could wear their fancy suits and drive to their dying constituencies to see their mothers and brothers being buried in metal boxes and wardrobes. Did they need the cars? Probably not. Was it wrong for them to get the cars? Definitely not. Just the timing when dozens were dying of a medieval disease dictated that cars should not have been the topmost thing on government's priorities. It was saddening. But this is the calibre of the opposition that we have…whose ambitions and self-serving interests so imitate their rivals that it is hard to tell them apart.

 In the UK they have a term for when members from the House of Lords or House of Commons switch allegiances to another party: "crossing the floor". This stemming from that opposition parties sit on opposite sides of the Chamber and a member has to cross the floor of the House to get to the opposite side. How, if ever, in Zimbabwe, will we get to a stage where a man's allegiance is not to a party but to a principle? To a standard and not to a side? It's all manner of spineless men who stand together in hordes strengthening each other in the wrong because they cannot stand alone for the right. There is no honour in standing amongst the corrupt, the vicious and being known as their own. Personally I have developed a dislike for the title "Honourable" because I have seen how loosely it hangs on the shoulders of the men and women on whom it is draped. It fits them ill. Their conduct both in public and private belies chararacters void of conscience or honesty so wherein lies their honour? I never cease to be amazed at some of the straight faces I have seen when they blatantly lie. A classic example is the "45 degrees commander" before the commission of inquiry into the August 1 shootings. How he faced his wife and children after that is anybody's guess but I felt the shame for him which I am certain he was incapable of feeling. Anyway, I wonder if we will ever see those who have "seen the light" acknowledge the error of their ways and cross the floor if there is the right reason to.  

Let us not have opposition for opposition's sake and criticise for criticism's sake. That would be tantamount to cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Opposition does not mean opposing the truth or resisting virtue just to extol vice. If there is anything praiseworthy or beneficial to Zimbabwe let it be commended. I know in our country such is few and far between. There are no winners if pride comes before country, ambition before the greater good. It was American president John F Kennedy who said, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country", which became one of his most inspirational speeches still being quoted almost 60 years after it was said. When leaders only want to marry the state for its benefits and give nothing back it won't be long before the state becomes a lean, unhappy wife who can't even provide a decent meal to her children.

Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson in their book Why Nations Fail highlight the importance of open pluralistic political systems in the success of major economies. Economics is the wife to politics. Politics takes her by the hand and determines whether their marriage will succeed or fail by being open, honest and accountable. African politics is not known for being accommodating and usually the ruling parties which are normally the liberation parties believe the citizens of the country should be beholden to them forever and it is them only who should "eat the good of the land". When, if ever, will the debt be paid if at every turn it is dangled in everyone's face that they are the one who liberated the country? It is like they have a monopoly on being Zimbabwean and only they have the right to be patriotic. It is this mentality that the MDC should challenge in their ruling party compadres.  I don't expect Zanu PF to hand them anything on a silver platter, they must fight for it.

A parting word to the Movement for Democratic Change. Despite our unique challenges we still have the brightest minds of our time. Your job, your responsibility as the opposition is to provide the government with checks and balances. Never should they have free reign to run rough-shod over institutions and flip-flop on policies when they feel like it. Should you one day be the ruling party we hope too that there will be an opposition party equally powerful to stay your excesses and hold you accountable. At present you could certainly improve and improve by a lot. As I am sure you have seen on your twitter accounts, the people of Zimbabwe are asking for more than twitteratis…we are demanding action. You are not there at the helm and in parliament so you can tweet back to us telling us of problems that we already know we have. You are there to hold the ruling party responsible and give them hell when they don't deliver the Heaven that they have been promising. Just don't give them hell for hell's sake because that just makes you the devil.

- Jason Huntley


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