Why Freedom and Democracy are Important
Talking to a Zimbabwean who had just come home from a trip abroad, I
struck by what he said about the freedom he saw in many developed
He said it came as a bit of a shock to realize how repressive the
is here at home and the extent to which he had accepted as "normal" the
of his own personal freedom and democratic rights.
Whatever those who support the Mugabe regime might say, they simply
deny that over the past decade, we have lost most of the very rights
the liberation war was fought for. We no longer enjoy "one person, one
democracy; we no longer have the right to meet and discuss issues
restraint and we have lost our freedom of expression and the media.
Why should we take this seriously? Just because western governments
some sort of ideological hang up about these issues? Or just because
are contained in many of the global agreements that are now enshrined
things like the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human
No, while all of this has some importance and relevance, in fact the
value of these things is found in what they can deliver to ordinary
and how they can change their lives for the better.
Most developed States value these principles and characteristics of
own societies because they were secured only after centuries of
conflict. Those who came up in the world as a result of societies
these principles to the way they govern themselves are in fact their
Take Ms. Rice as an example. A black American woman from a rural
in the deeply racist southern States of the USA, she is the product of
years of struggle in the USA to take the rights of black Americans from
slave ship to the White House. It was not easy, it cost lives, it took
courage, and it took time. But at the end of the process we have Ms.
a brilliant and cultured person who has held several very senior posts
the United States and now is arguably the most powerful woman in the
100 years ago - even 50 years ago, this was unimaginable. She knows
owes her education and opportunities not to chance but to the deep
wrought in the USA by men and women who gave their lives for Martin
dreams. For that reason she supports the drive by the US to try and
nations and peoples the same rights that brought her own liberation and
Without personal freedom and democratic rights countries can never hope
break the shackles of poverty and inequality in their societies. Only a
truly democratic system can curb the excesses of the State, corrupt
political and administrative leaders. Only a truly free society can
the conditions where the vitality and abilities of its peoples can be
harnessed for development and growth. No one has a bigger stake in this
struggle than the poor and disadvantaged. The rich and powerful can
find a way to get ahead and protect their interests - not so if you are
marginalized and poor.
So when we call for a restoration of our rights in Zimbabwe - it's a
just to give us back what were seen as the main objectives of the
for majority rule and personal freedoms in colonial Africa. If we could
achieve that I have no doubt in my mind that development and a better
quality of life will follow for the majority - but especially the poor
Was the struggle for human and political rights in Africa just a sham?
attempt not to bring freedom and democracy to African countries but
to grab power away from the colonial minority so that this power could
be used for personal enrichment and greed? From where I sit it
looks like that and for this the Mugabe regime has a lot to answer for.
just to those of us who have lived through this nightmare, but also to
who died that these rights might be secured for the majority. Without
democracy and individual freedoms, underwritten by the rule of law,
can make no progress in the fight against poverty and deprivation.
There are sound reasons why people who live in genuine democracies do
starve of hunger. We have half our population teetering on the edge of
starvation and the State claims this is the product of drought. Not at
last season was not a bad one here in the main cropping zones. Ours is
drought of good governance, not rainfall. Our Minister of Agriculture,
aptly named Made, is again claiming that we are headed for an "abundant
harvest". The man has no credibility at all and we wonder how on earth
ever managed to graduate from some University somewhere. We are going
this coming wet season with very little prospect of more than a tiny
proportion of our needs being met from our own production.
As for the rule of law, the specter of Didymus Mutasa, our Minister of
Security, going around the country saying that they are going to strip
remaining "white" farmers of their land and assets and are going to
bilateral investment guarantee agreements, is very helpful to our drive
restore confidence and invite investment! Quite clearly he has no fear
the electorate, and for good reason, he and his masters have become
at subverting our fragile democracy since they gained power.
This government must know that statements like these by Made and Mutasa
simply confirm the status of this regime as a rogue regime and further
intensifies its isolation and slide into the category of a "failed
Governments that go around tearing up legally binding agreements
regard for the consequences simply cannot be taken seriously in any
international forum. The consequences of such acts for the region are
serious that they defy computation.
I despair of the United Nations, the AU and the SADC who seem unable to
to grips with the reality of the situation here and the seriousness of
for the ordinary man and woman in Zimbabwe and regional States. This is
an issue for the UK, the EU or the USA. It does not impact on them and
not affect their direct interests. Yet they seem to take more interest
concern about the situation here than those who have the power, the
responsibility and direct interests to intervene. To intervene, not on
side of the "whites" or the "haves" but on the side of those nameless
millions who suffer every day under the heel of Mugabe's tyranny.
Bulawayo, 22 September 2005