THE ruling Zanu-PF last Friday launched its 2018 election manifesto which has been widely criticised as tantamount to building castles in the air, just like the 2013 one.
Neutrals and critics say the party has shown beyond reasonable doubt it has no credible plan and capacity going forward to rescue Zimbabwe from rubble of its devastating misrule and depredations by former president Robert Mugabe and his enforcers still in power.
The Zanu-PF manifesto creates dreams, hopes, or plans practically impossible, unrealistic; with very little chance of succeeding. There is nothing scientific about its model and projections, just guestimates and wishful thinking.
However, if that is not worrying enough then the party’s new slogan is undoubtedly shocking. The manifesto was launched under the maxim Vox populi, vox dei, an ancient Latin saying for “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
From day one, I was uncomfortable with the discredited slogan. It evoked basic history lessons about the divinity of Kings, something which bordered on heretical doctrine.
If unpacked to its bare-bone logic, it might suggest political blasphemy or speaking sacrilegiously or in vain about God in the name of politics and the people. God never spoke through multitudes or masses, but via his prophets, angels and other emissaries. But then again that is not the issue.
It should not really matter who is in power and is using that slogan, but its meaning and implications. The issue is that the mantra suggests a totalitarian mindset among those who shout it; the refrain is dangerously undemocratic.
While Zanu-PF’s old ominous slogan “pasi with this and pasi with that (down with this and that)” was threatening, the new motto disingenuously linking the clamour of the majority, even just a mob, to God’s will suggests an attempt to cover in religious apparels and to legitimise tyranny by those calling themselves a majority, a difficult concept in politics as there is no accurate measure, or worse still dictatorship of a nebulous majority. This is the new terrain on which we now operate under the “new dispensation”rhetoric.
This maxim was best critiqued by Francis Lieber, known as Franz Lieber in Germany, a German-American jurist and political philosopher who died in 1872.
“But the difficulty of fixing the meaning of this saying is not only restricted to that of ascertaining what is the voice of God. It is equally difficult to find out what is the voice of the people,” Lieber wrote in 1853.
“If by the voice of the people we meant, as was stated before, the organically evolved opinion of a people, we do not stand in need of the saying.
“If by the voice of the people we meant the result of universal suffrage without institutions, and especially in a country with a powerful executive, not permitting even preparatory discussion, it is an empty phrase; it is deception, or it may be the effect of vehement yet transitory excitement, or of a political fashion. The same is true when the clamouring expression of many is taken for the voice of the whole people…”
Lieber said democrats must not seek the divine right of the people, for they know very well that it means nothing but the despotic power of leaders behind it.
Democrats must instead pursue the real rule of the people, that is, an institutionally and democratically organised country, which is different from the rule of a mere mob.
“For a mob is an unorganic multitude, with a general impulse of action. Woe to the country in which political hypocrisy first calls the people almighty, then teaches that the voice of the people is divine, then pretends to take a mere clamour for the true voice of the people, and lastly legitimises the desired clamour. The consequences are fearful, and invariably unfitting for liberty,” Lieber said.
– Zimbabwe Independent