Zim Can Learn A Lot From Rhodesian Democracy

If ever there is one thing that will forever be engraved in this country’s history, it is that Rhodesia took great care of its whites, whereas, Zimbabwe treated its people as rubbish – only to be used to attain power and wealth, but then quickly forgotten and discarded.

Whenever I study how white people were treated under the Rhodesia regime, and contrast it to how the independent Zimbabwe junta treats the majority of its people.

Furthermore, as the country heads towards commemorating the 38th independence anniversary on 18 April, and a crucial election in a few months’ time – one cannot help but be filled with a sense of shame, when comparing how Rhodesia’s democracy towards its White population contrasts with independent Zimbabwe’s towards its majority.

During the liberation struggle in 1960s and 70s, the main inspiration was to free the black majority who were disenfranchised and oppressed.

Various Rhodesia constitutions tried to give a façade of democracy for the Black people, especially the 1961 Constitution, with its complex rolls A and B system – based on income earned, and property owned by the voter – which, resulted in all 50 constituent seats going to White people, and the 15 district members being mostly Black.

Nevertheless, the situation only worsened for the Black population with the 1965 revisions to the Constitution, and a completely new one in 1969.

With such apparently repressive constitutions, one would have thought that the advent of an independent Zimbabwe – with its promise of ‘majority rule’, and ‘one man, one vote’ – democracy for the people of this country would be akin to heaven on earth – as it had been for Whites under Rhodesia.

Besides, was that not the reason why thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children sacrificed and lost their lives during the protracted liberation struggle – culminating in independence on 18 April 1980?

However, that was not to be, as true democracy and freedom in independent Zimbabwe remained just a pipe dream.

Since 1980, the majority of Zimbabweans have never known what true democracy is, such that, even today, some people may wonder what the hack I am talking about – as it is so easy to normalize abuse and repression.

That is where democracy starts, as the leader of a country is put into that job by the people, and as such – as with any other employer – they have every right to express themselves openly and candidly, and any deprivation of such a right is the beginning of tyranny.

In Zimbabwe cult politics is the norm in both the ruling ZANU PF party and the opposition, whereby, leaders are treated as demigods – to be worshipped, always infallible, and never to be questioned or challenged.

Under Rhodesia, all registered White political parties were provided with continued unfettered access to state media, without favouritism and bias – as only, the Black Nationalist movements were vilified as ‘terrorists’.

Yet, in independent Zimbabwe, all registered opposition political parties are vilified in, and even denied access to, the state media – and are only availed token coverage a few months before elections.

Opposition political parties in Zimbabwe are treated in the same manner as Black Nationalist movements in Rhodesia – when, instead, a truly democratic society would provide continuous access to the state media to all parties.

Rhodesia provided all registered White political parties and civil rights organizations freedom to campaign and hold gatherings without any hindrances – yet, in independent Zimbabwe, the same cannot be said.

There have been numerous reports of opposition political parties and civil rights organizations being denied permission – even when none is required under the Zimbabwe Constitution – to hold peaceful gatherings and demonstrations.

Furthermore, the police, and ruling ZANU PF thugs have been known to attack opposition supporters who would have gathered for peaceful demonstrations, meetings or rallies.

This was unheard of in Rhodesia in relation to their own White population, yet, Zimbabwe brutalizes the people it is supposedly representing.

In fact, the only time that this country experienced genuine multi-party democracy – whereby, several parties peacefully exchanged power – was during Rhodesia.

At some time, we had democracy, which was the envy of the world, right here in this country – yet, it was discarded soon after independence, in favour of the continued repression of the majority.

Nevertheless, if Zimbabweans truly crave for the return of such democracy, we need to elect politicians whose values are in alignment with these principles.

Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that Zimbabwe is currently blessed with leaders who can take us to the next level of civilization – however, we can start by teaching our own children on the true values of democracy.

If we once had it in our country, then we can surely have it again.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is the Programmes Director with the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice). Please feel free to call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]. Please also ‘Like’ the ‘ZimJustice’ page on Facebook.


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