Elections 2018: We Are Not Choosing Our Masters, But Our Servants
It is always fascinating to my dear wife Tinta whenever I tell her that the President is not my boss, but the chief of my servants.
…and it is a true!
In fact, in any democratic country, the President is considered the chief civil servant – which is the true essence of his/her role.
It is very unfortunate that over the centuries – since the inception of the concept of a republic – this position has been perverted to such an extent that it has more or less lost its original meaning.
When people in Europe first revolted against monarchies – which were not only unelected, but had ruled over them with an iron fist, as still happening in Swaziland – they wanted to put their own people in office, who would do what the people instructed them to do.
The monarchies had been doing exactly the opposite, as they did whatever they wanted, with scant regard for the needs, desires, and aspirations of the people their ruled over.
They were not exactly without justification, as they were not chosen by the people – but, mostly, getting into office through brute force, and wars.
As such, they were regarded as God’s anointed, and their actions and decisions could not be questioned.
This led to the brutal oppression of the people, as the monarchs demanded complete loyalty, as death was the result of any form of insubordination.
The monarchs lived extremely lavish lifestyles – as all the taxes from the already poor and oppressed peasants, and the country’s resources and wealth, went towards the king and queen’s family – whilst, the poor only got poorer.
The people finally decided that enough was enough, and the flames of revolution spread to many parts of Europe, and later to the rest of the world.
The concept of a republic was supposed to be the complete opposite of the monarchy.
The President, Members of Parliament, and regional and local government leaders were all to be from the people.
The people were to choose some amongst themselves to be responsible for certain tasks.
It is not very difficult to understand.
It is similar to a group of siblings, or even friends, who decide to start a small business.
They then need to choose who will be responsible for what, according to each and everyone’s talents and qualifications.
As such, if one of them is excellent with accounting, they can choose him or her to be the treasurer or accountant – whilst, the one who is very good at leading and mobilising everyone to move and work together, can be made the managing director, and so forth.
The one appointed the managing director can not suddenly see him or herself as the boss or master of those siblings or friends who chose him or her.
They are all still equal, as they are equal shareholders in the business, and can remove the managing director anytime they decide that he or she is failing to fulfill his or her stated duties and responsibilities.
That is exactly the same concept of a republic.
We are all equal shareholders of the country called Zimbabwe – none of us is more important than the other.
We then come together during elections to choose who amongst us we can give certain responsibilities and duties – depending on their talents and abilities – so that they can fulfill what we, the shareholders, instruct them to accomplish.
That is why during election time, the prospective office-bearers approach their fellow shareholders – the electorate – requesting that they be chosen for particular responsibilities.
It is similar to a job interview.
We, the shareholders, then elect who we feel is the best candidate for the job – and if he or she does not perform satisfactorily, we have every right to recall them through Section 97 of our Constitution, or simply elect someone else at the next election.
As such, all elected officers are answerable to those that put them in office.
How then can someone I put in office be my boss?
I am the one who gave them the job, and through my taxes, I pay their salaries – so common sense and reason would tell me that these people are my employees.
This is a concept that all Zimbabweans must appreciate when choosing and dealing with our elected officials – the one who puts you in office and pays your salary is your boss and master, and your are answerable and accountable to them. Period!
It is not the other way around.
Any elected office-bearer who perverts that order of things is nothing short of a dictator, who would have usurped power from those who would have put him or her in office.
In fact, I strongly believe that in a democratic dispensation, any elected leader who usurps power from the electorate and starts acting is if he or she is the boss – or shefu, as Zimbabweans are fond of saying – would have committed a coup, and should be charged with treason.
However, these dictatorships are now so common, as most of these elected officials try their level best to return their countries back to the Middle Ages of monarchies.
Nonetheless, we, the people, need to stamp our feet down and demand our powers back.
We need to boldly hold elected officials accountable and answerable.
They are not our shefus, as we are their shefus.
As some Zimbabweans also love to say in reference to their employers – ndisu varungu vavo, we are, in fact, their employers, and we need to show it.
As much as those in office love such terms as, head of state and government, and commander-in-chief of the defence forces, these are just hyped up phrases.
When these terms were first used, all they meant was that the president of a country was the chief servant – that is why we still refer to government workers as civil or public servants.
Additionally, we would have elected a president to be the head in charge of our protection and security, to ensure that we – who elected him or her, and our country – are safe.
This is not a position of overwhelming authority and power over us, but of responsibility for our welfare and security.
This same concept of accountability also applies to our Members of Parliament, Councilors, and Mayors, as we – their employers – need to make sure they are answerable for their every action.
The sooner Zimbabweans understand this concept, the better for the country’s future.
The people we elect next year need to known that they are there to serve us, not themselves.
They are our servants, and not our masters – and as such, every cent they use needs to be approved by us through our representatives in parliament, and we should know about it.
The same goes for every decision they make – we need to know about it, and approve or disapprove through our representatives in parliament.
These members of parliament should also serve our interests – that is why we, and not their parties – elected them into office.
As such, we need to adopt the Botswana model of the kotla – whereby, elected officials, from the president to members of parliament and councilors, regularly meet their constituents.
When we say regular, we mean regular – that is, possibly monthly.
During these meetings, the elected officials give feedback on assignments we would have given them to accomplish in their given responsibilities, as well as be given further instructions.
In the next government, we want to see proper checks and balances, as power should have been restored back to its true wielders – the electorate.
The oppressed and suffering people of the Middle Ages rejected monarchies centuries ago – where the people served the rulers.
We can no longer allow our beloved Zimbabwe to be taken back to those mediaeval years, but we need to institute true democracy as envisioned by its pioneers.
That is why even such laws criminalising insulting the president are so archaic and primitive.
The people are the rulers and their elected officials, as their chosen servants, employed to lead – not rule – the country.
However, the world is a dog eat dog place, and we can not expect those who have usurped power to voluntarily return it to its rightful owners- the people.
As we all know, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Our leaders since 1980, had gotten away with wielding power that they did not rightfully deserve – and it is only up to us, as the people, to ensue that we stand firm in reclaiming that power.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should anyone invite him to speak at any event or gathering. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email:
tendaiand [email protected]. Please also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.