Perhaps one of the best known contributions of Jonathan Moyo to the Zimbabwe’s political scene was popularizing the phrase “the People have spoken” during his time as chairman of the Constitutional Commission in 2000. What he meant was that the “NO” vote that had carried the day was an expression of the people’s will and that had to be respected, a clear demonstration that sovereignty lies with the people. I believe the same could be said of the historic elections in 1980 that propelled ZANU PF under Prime Minister Robert Mugabe to form the first post independent majority rule government. The people had spoken, giving the new government the mandate to act on their behalf, thus representing their best interests for the common good.
However, politicians have mastered the art of portraying that they call the shots and that they are the chefs who determine course of events in any country. Of course, they do call the shots because the masses have surrendered and allowed them to. One looks for instance at elected leaders who expect to benefit from been elected at the expense of the electorate. They even have the audacity to demand benefits such as fancy SUV cars, houses, and hefty allowances. When you call them for meetings they don’t even turn up and demand the electorate to make appointments to see them. Such is the calibre of leaders we have in the country.
However, the fact of the matter is that “power” is a myth, a creation of the mind, and the art to sustain that power is to manipulate all the resources at one’s disposal to sustain that myth. Leaders are only as powerful as we allow them to be, and, once we withdraw that support, we leave them bare. Politicians certainly make it appear as if society cannot do without them, yet, in a very real sense, the masses are always more powerful. Leaders are as strong as the masses want them to be. They ride on the mandate and willingness of the people to subject themselves to be ruled by them. It is the masses that can say enough is enough and may decide to recall politicians. The masses are the chefs and every citizen has that power in him/herself to assert that right to be governed. Leaders ride on the popularity of the support they enjoy from the people and that support can shrink if they are not in touch with reality. Never mind the heavy security they have around them armed with state-of-the-art military artillery. It is an attempt to create a false sense of power and control. The masses, and their consent to be ruled, will always outlive the leaders, which is why sovereignty lies with the people.
The sad thing is that people seem to have resigned from politics (and not only in Zimbabwe), and have left it for the politicians to do as they please. Yet politicians need the masses more than we need them. That is why they come back after five years of looting and amassing wealth, to seek a fresh mandate from the people to govern. That is why they will do everything in their power to ensure that the electoral results are in their favour, even rigging to make it appear they have a legitimate mandate from the people. Without a support base from the masses, a once powerful politician is a nobody. I don’t know how many leaders in Zimbabwe today can openly claim that they have masses following behind them. If they have none, they are illegitimate.
Responsible citizens put their leaders to task, and have the right to make demands because they have the power to do so. If a leader thinks otherwise, “power” has gotten into his/her head, and that can be resolved easily by withdrawing that support. They will be like fish out of the water. It is the reason why it is irresponsible to abstain from the voting processes and protest by staying away. The fact is that leaders have to account, and, by abstaining from voting, we are allowing a minority to determine who represents us.