Mind your language PM
|By Conrad Nyamutata
HARARE – Prime Minister and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is reported to have said he was chosen by God to be a leader.
“Leaders are chosen by God and so I was chosen by God. Even Mugabe was chosen by God. Whether you like us or not, what you have to do is pray for us,” Tsvangirai was quoted as saying.
I felt a deep sense of unease. This language throws up many questions: which leaders are chosen by God? All leaders?
Adolf Hitler? Idi Amin? Bashar al-Assad currently murdering his people in Syria?
The language of the chosen ones is quite unsettling. It is premised on the self-righteous claims of “mutumwa” (emissary).
Firstly, it is designed to disguise personal quests for power, and portray claimants as emissaries of a higher power.
Politics is not exactly a religious enterprise but collective and individual pursuit of power.
That is why Tsvangirai would be hurting over Mugabe’s unilateral renewal of Augustine Chihuri’s and other service chiefs’ terms of office. What he wants is power to decide such matters.
Claims of transcendental appointment cover up such personal interest for power; that they did not choose politics. God did.
Secondly, this language is problematic because, when one begins to perceive himself or herself as an appointee of a higher power, he or she assumes airs of unassailability.
He or she then defies earthly accountability. In fact, Tsvangirai has a short memory.
A week before the June 2008 run-off — he boycotted, Mugabe declared that only God could dislodge him from office and that the MDC ‘‘will never be allowed to rule this country – never ever.”
“Only God who appointed me will remove me — not the MDC, not the British,” he bellowed.
Now, Tsvangirai, rather unwittingly, has equated himself to Mugabe, the man he accuses of egregious crimes and refusal to relinquish power.
I hope Tsvangirai sees why his equation is troubling among those wanting him to succeed Mugabe: the chosen one he now compares himself to is not answerable to the people.
Mugabe has been venerated as the son of God and so forth by his embarrassingly pusillanimous followers.
The results are there for everyone to see.
That is why the mutumwa claims give me goose bumps. Many dictators claim to be or are seen as the chosen ones, and yet act like emissaries of the devil.
Hitler claimed he was serving the needs of divine providence.
Amin perpetrated unspeakable evil and expelled virtually the entire Asian population saying he had been ordered by God to do so in a dream.
In the end, claiming transcendental approval is only meant to legitimise autocratic rule.
It was also the divine right theory that unelected kings were chosen by God to rule.
We are neither monarch nor theocracy.
Tsvangirai must mind his language. From the quote cited at the beginning, he also says we “have” to pray for him and Mugabe.
Have to? From where does he derive entitlement to our prayers?
This basic lack of courtesy to ask and claims of being the chosen one arise because our politicians are dreadfully inept when it comes to off-the-cuff speeches.
You listen to politicians in other countries you can tell from the eloquence that every platform counts, every word matters.
Listen to a Zanu PF politician nowadays, the incoherent ramblings bore you out of your skin. “Britain this and that, US this and that…”
The PM was addressing a religious audience. These are forums to tackle serious matters — the role of religion in politics for instance — rather than be drawn into the egotistical politics of mutumwa?
It is better to resort to prepared texts to avoid drifting into these unsettling cosmological claims to legitimacy.
Which leaders are chosen by God, I asked. Hitler, Amin too? Leave God out of personal quests for power.
It is not God but the people, some of whom have lost life and limb in the process, who vote for you.
The same people also want to be able to remove you from power, if need be.
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