Performing democracy in Zimbabwe

Members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) welcome Irene KhanA few days ago the BBC reported on Zimbabwe’s impending elections, amidst concerns of renewed violence and human rights abuses in the country. However, what is often lost in the sensationalization of political violence, by this and other news articles is the revolutionary impact that non-violent actions can have in transforming a national political landscape. Performative democracy provides a perspective through which to understand the importance of a parallel nature of collective shifts in consciousness of a country’s citizenry as a catalyst for political change. Take the Zimbabwean women’s organization, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, also known by its acronym WOZA. WOZA operates within what is considered the realm of the forbidden, engaging in organized protest and bringing to light previously suppressed narratives. The group’s members inhabit this realm comfortably — or rather uncomfortably as many WOZA members face arrest on a daily basis for their peaceful actions to promote justice and fairness in the country.

The organization’s name means “come forward” in Ndebele. What better phrase to call to action the masses of Zimbabweans who have long been disillusioned by a violently repressive state? Below is an excerpt from an article by the Zimbabwe Civic Action Support Group. The writer aptly captures the power of the “speech act” with which WOZA calls its members to action, and is reminiscent of the war cries of Zimbabweans’ ancestors preparing for battle.

It could be just another ordinary week day in Bulawayo … But to the experienced eye, there is something afoot! As long as I live I will never forget those familiar words that will, on the stroke of the hour, peel out across the noise of the traffic. “Hey Ta” which calls the thronging women to attention followed by “Woza moya”, which means “Come Holy Spirit”. The reply from the multitudes is “Woza”!! The word reaches a crescendo and goes up in a mighty roar. “Umkhonto wo thando” again a mighty roar from the rapidly swelling masses. This means a love spear and the retort is “Zhii” a mighty cry which sends shivers down the spines of all who know just how strong is the bond and might of these women who have dared to make such a difference to the lives of so many, who have been down trodden for so long. “Woza” choruses the response and yet another WOZA march begins in the City of Bulawayo, founding home of the many thousands of WOZA and MOZA men and women. Suddenly as if from thin air, a crowd amasses, banners are unfurled from beneath long skirts, posters and flyers emerge from shopping bags and the Women of Zimbabwe arise once more, as they have done countless times since 2002.

WOZA has conducted hundreds of projects since 2003 and has run a series of campaigns aimed at raising awareness about human rights abuses and violations within Zimbabwe, all utilizing the simple notion that the power of love can conquer the love of power.

Despite continued ill-treatment at the hand of the state, WOZA continues to struggle, non-violently for positive change in Zimbabwe. The organization’s commitment to that simple but effective notion of love conquering hate illustrates the power of “speech acts” and performative democracy, particularly in light of the much anticipated violence-fraught upcoming elections. Basic words and concepts serve to highlight what should also be basic — the right to fundamental rights, currently being infringed upon by the state.

Instead of living under a shroud of fear, WOZA members have chosen to publicly equip themselves and each other with the armor of rhetoric, the armor of love. Such a simple approach to the reprehensible, hate-filled actions taken by the state to repress the Zimbabwean people does more to highlight the need for change from this regime than anything else could.

* Jacquelin Kataneksza is an international affairs practitioner.

Comments

comments

8 Comments
  1. Human Rights is a nonsensical made-up concept which serves to make palatable the lie that territorial monopoly governments are a rational form of social order.

    The only sane ethical system for sentient beings in our universe, consists of a single ethic of non-aggression.

    Taxation, being an act of aggression, violates the one universal ethic for sentient beings.

    This implies that our social order is unethical, and must be replaced with a system which does not violate the ethic.

    This is essential to what will become the driving imperative of social order in a world of nanotechnology: for each sentient individual to maximise his probability of long-term survival.

    Social systems which rely on the unethical aggression of taxation (the majoritarianism-plus-make-up-rights-as-you-go-along now styled “democracy”), are doomed to be replaced by anarchy, with private insurers insuring individuals, and private armies defending subscribers.

    So, whatever you do, quit wasting time making up non-existent rights, and discuss how to dismantle democracy peacefully and fairly.

  2. What chemicals are you on Desmond? So we dismantle democracy and replace it with? Please can you advise what language sentient beings of the Universe speak? You mention taxation so, pray tell, who will build your highway to the sky, or provide the millions living in cities with clean water and affordable food, if there are no roads from the farms to the cities, or pipeline from the dams to the cities? Like I keep telling my life-partner, don’t give me theories give me answers as without answers we will degenerate into anarchy and then it’s each for themselves, and I’m sure that’s not what you desire, or at least I hope not!

    1. Insurance plus private armies, private courts, private security, and private detective services will all reshape (out of the nature of human desire to survive) to replace democracy, once the actual plan is in place to dismantle the system of theft-by-extortion which we call taxation.

    2. I think it unhelpful to refer to the humanity of individuals as though that is what qualifies the individual for ethical treatment. I suggest that it is sentience, not being human, which is the qualification.

    3. In regard to chemicals, I am sure we have all been drinking the kool-aid poured by politicians who profit from the system of taxation, thus we have been regarding anarchy as a lower form of social order, and propagating this view with the phrases by which we refer to anarchy.

  3. It needs to be stated that it took over 100 years of protracted struggle to bring democracy to the majority of Zimbabweans. We need to bear in mind that during the colonial era, even meetings of three or more “natives” were forbidden. In the main cities like Bulawayo, even the sidewalks (pavements) were reserved for White colonists.

    And when independence finally came in 1980, many of these oppressive, colonial-era laws were kept on the books by the new Govt (now run by African Nationaliststs). What the ladies of WOZA (and other groups) are doing is nothing new. We’ve been struggling for our democratic rights for generations, and we’ll continue to do so. The struggle continues.

    James Chikonamombe =================================================

       

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  4. It needs to be stated that it took over 100 years of protracted struggle to bring democracy to the majority of Zimbabweans. We need to bear in mind that during the colonial era, even meetings of three or more “natives” were forbidden. In the main cities like Bulawayo, even the sidewalks (pavements) were reserved for White colonists.

    And when independence finally came in 1980, many of these oppressive, colonial-era laws were kept on the books by the new Govt (now run by African Nationaliststs). What the ladies of WOZA (and other groups) are doing is nothing new. We’ve been struggling for our democratic rights for generations, and we’ll continue to do so. The struggle continues.

    1. When politicians mention the concept “human rights”, James, you should ask if it is your human right to keep everything that is yours. If that is not your right – if someone can take away something that is yours, on the basis that some majority of a set of people who vote (freely or otherwise) within a restricted system that does not permit a vote against taxation and majoritarianism/democracy, have selected one of the parties which hopes to grom rich on said tax income – then the question needs to be asked: how are the set of rights arrived at?
      Why should “keeping all my possessions” not be in my set of human rights?
      Should “Food, shelter and *sanitation*” be human rights, even if it means that the possessions of some, must be taken by threat of force, to fund the provision of toilets to others?
      Are human rights serving a useful function, or are human rights primarily serving as a pretext for wars around the globe, in which lots of people end up dead – much worse off than if they had only the sanitation they pay for from their own labour.

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