Politics of Personality: Zimbabwe's Achilles Heel.
Evan Mawarire returned to Zimbabwe from exile on the 11th of February 2017. His return caused a lot of hullabaloo on social media networks with mixed reactions being expressed. Some were happy, whilst others were confused as to why he would come back after all he had been through. A majority of the comments however were expressing their bitterness over him having left in the first place, particularly at such crucial time when his movement, #thisflag was at its peak in terms of impact and support. They felt let down by him leaving.
Contrary to popular belief,l actually admired him for having the courage to come back after all the persecution that he and his family had gone through. I also felt it was unfair that all Zimbabweans had placed the burden on this one person of liberating them from the clutches of political and economic pit the country had fallen into.
In another incident in December 2016, a statement was made by the CEO of the Mail and Guardian, Trevor Ncube, on Twitter where he had written that “if Morgan Tsvangirai is your hero then you don’t belong to a transformative Zimbabwe.” His comments angered a lot of people particularly Morgan’s supporters who castigated him for criticizing their leader, with many stating that MDC is nothing without Morgan.
In another example, power within ZANUP centres around one person, and that is Robert Mugabe. The fate of the party beyond him remains uncertain as evidenced in the current succession battles plaguing the party.
What all these examples reveal is that Zimbabwe’s Achilles heel, or, in other words, its political weakness is that of the politics of personality. There is emphasis and importance placed more on personalities, particularly of leaders, than on the values that the movements or the political parties that they lead or represent. These personalities are treated almost like demi gods that can do no wrong. In a case where they do something that appears wrong in the eyes of their supporters, as in Evan’s case, they are demonised by people in such a terrible way.
In the case of Evan Mawarire, the people had become so fixated on him as the leader of the movement that they lost focus of the main purpose of the cause which was to bring our leaders to account for the current state that Zimbabwe was in. As a result of their anger a movement that had so much hope died a natural death.
In the case of Trevor Ncube’s comment, Morgan’s supporters were so quick to criticize Trevor for expressing his personal opinion (which he has a right to do), as they fiercely defended their leader, with some going as far as taking personal jabs at Trevor. As a nation we have become so focused onleaders that we lose sight of the bigger picture which are values. Values are timeless and values can never let you down as compared to human beings that inherently make mistakes. In Western countries, for example in the United States, there are two main dominant parties with the largest support base, the Democrats and the Republicans. Support for these parties is values-based regardless of who is leading it at any particular time.
The Democrat supporters subscribe to liberal values such as the right to make a choice to obtain an abortion, they support homosexual causes, they favour gun control, and so on. The Republican supporters on the other hand subscribe to traditional family values that the party stands for such as opposing abortion, opposing gun control and do not support homosexual causes. Resultantly their values have managed to stand the test of time. As Zimbabweans and Africans we must a rip a page out of the book of our Western counterparts and have a more values-based political system. That way the dream of the ideal Zimbabwe we hope to live in one day will not get lost in the sand.