When citizens are schooled and empowered, it is difficult to oppress them. It becomes even harder for state actors to break the fortress created when such enlightened minds work in non-governmental organizations [NGOs]. Therefore Mugabe would, like any other Machiavellian convert with a DNA of autocracy embedded in his psyche, naturally condemn all NGOs as ‘vulgar’ elements bent on regime change. And this notion is accurate.
In Zimbabwe, we have many Community Based Organisations [CBOs] with community knowledge workers [CKWs] who preach the gospel of regime change, because in a healthy democracy, regimes have to be changed! The country therefore is desperate for more CKWs with life skills that relate to civic, economic and political rights. This is the only way the progressive forces of democracy in Zimbabwe can deal a mortal blow to maniac fascism.
It matters very little where monetary support for regime change agenda comes from as long as such support is not ill-gotten or from the benevolence of terrorist organisations. Regime change costs money, so it is perfect for CBOs to request international think tanks for intellectual, moral and monetary support to dispense knowledge. Knowledge is power. The more power we Zimbabweans have the less power is available for Mugabe and his cronies.
But like all dictators that rule in the world, Mugabe is surrounded by Ministers who court external support only when it is not channeled to civic enlightenment. The reason why he is screaming his lungs out on sanctions is that he only wants fungible ‘development’ and ‘humanitarian’ aid from western countries. Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo perfectly describes the likes of Mugabe in her book ‘Dead Aid’: “If the world has one picture of African statesmen, it is one of rank corruption on a stupendous scale. There hardly seem any leaders who haven’t crowned themselves in gold, seized land [my my emphasis!], handed over state businesses to relatives and friends, diverted billions to foreign bank accounts, and generally treated their countries as giant personalised cash dispensers.”
By ZANU-PF standards, any CBO labeled a conduit for ‘political and human rights’ aid is repulsive, since such aid is beyond reach of patronage abuse. Yet Mugabe’s cronies sing a different tune in the same choir: “We are in the process of engaging the corporate world and donors like UNICEF to solve most of the problems facing the schools,” trumpets a former ZANU-PF Minister of Information and Publicity. The converse holds true: if donor aid can solve Zimbabwe’s education problems, it can equally help us restore our political dignity through peaceful, democratic regime change!
Prepare to die
Perhaps it is over simplification to assume that informed Zimbabweans have a higher propensity to neutralise dictatorship, considering that the middle class has evaporated in the heat of economic meltdown. Mugabe has a slight advantage over the rest of us mortals other than his curiously cumbersome salutation as ‘the commander –in- chief of the defence forces, president, and head of government and first secretary of ZANU-PF’. His party controls most local newspapers and all broadcast stations. His men are in charge of police, prisons, justice and central bank. In most ‘independent commissions’, ZANU-PF military operatives maintain vigilance. What this means is that at any one time, Mugabe has the capacity to press a button that can snuff the life out of even the most subtle of all democratic processes. The moral of this line is that whenever a dictator is at the helm of a destructive military juggernaut, common principles of democratic regime change may not apply. Wrong. I will re-phrase this: the moral of this line is that whenever a dictator is at the helm of a destructive military juggernaut, those who seek to apply common and universal principles of democratic regime change must be prepared to die. However, the chances of careless application of the principles of democratic change are less when citizens are more enlightened and cunning in their approach.
As a convert of liberalism, my shrine of democratic regime change does not permit violence. This is because we liberals believe that violence begets violence; that is why we should partner with progressive think tanks that supply knowledge as opposed to bullets, guns and anti-demonstration tankers. But of late I have been observing Mugabe’s pre-electoral body language. The man is completely persuaded that nothing on this side of heaven can remove him from power, especially ‘invisible’ liberals like us. More importantly, our CKWs are faced with a reality that if they so much as shift in their seats, Mugabe’s machinery can tumble on them like a ton of bricks. So we look like we have completely run out of options of peaceful democratic regime change. Wrong!
The Neighbours Action
In my repertoire of regime change techniques, it is very possible to evict a dictator from State House without so much as breaking a single drop of sweat. If oppression is part of autocratic DNA, then The Neighbours Action [TNA] is the answer to peaceful regime change. In this respect, CKWs play an important role in empowering their constituents with capacity to persuade individuals who sustain the daily life of a dictator to withhold their services.
The rationale behind TNA is that every person knows someone with a neighbour, relative or friend who works in a dictator’s kitchen, garden, house, office or clinic. Dictators have drivers, messengers, bankers, barbers, tailors, doctors and dentists. They also boast gigantic informal and corporatist infrastructure that supports them. If CKWs can identify such entities and persuade them to withhold their services, this can isolate the dictator and keep them in a life-threatening state of perpetual anxiety.
When dictators get suspicious of everything, they become recluse and eventually wither away in a dust storm of paranoia. Our experience with the Nestle scandal is that every move that a dictator does is eventually exposed. Thousands of Zimbabweans must be able to expose at least one person who either does business with a dictator, or owns a business that is connected with a dictator’s political party. Progressive citizens must now volunteer this information to CKWs to publish Internet lists of all these companies and organisations, so we can mount a massive campaign to boycott their products or services. TNA is now or never.
Rejoice Ngwenya is a columnist for African Liberty and President of Coalition for Liberal Market Solutions, a think tank based in Harare.