The National Pledge: What a load of tosh!
By Lloyd Msipa
“Almighty God, in whose hands our future lies, I salute the national flag. United in our diversity and our common desire for freedom, justice and equality, Respecting the brave fathers and mothers who lost lives in the Chimurenga/Umvukela and National liberation struggles. We are proud inheritors of the richness of our natural resources. We are proud creators and participants in our vibrant traditions and cultures. So I commit to honesty and the dignity of hard work.”
The government of Zimbabwe recently unveiled what it calls “A National Pledge” which according to press reports is meant to be cited by school children as instructed by the education ministry.
It apparently is meant to instil a sense of nationalism amongst the youth in priding themselves as Zimbabweans.
The purpose and timing of the introduction of this pledge seems to many rather suspicious and at best a cynical advanced notion to pre-rig the elections next year.
Firstly by making reference to the “Almighty God to whom our future lies” the authors of the pledge assume that all Zimbabweans are religious in one form or another.
Granted we are largely a Christian God fearing nation, but how then can we be “united in our diversity” if one assumes all Zimbabweans are religious?
A pledge that does not celebrates our religious diversity and at same time upholding the supremacy of God or any other supreme being as in other faiths cannot be uniting Zimbabweans in their diversity.
Secondly, the National pledge talks of Zimbabweans saluting “the national flag…in our common desire for freedom, justice and equality”.
The National flag as an institution is protected by the Zimbabwe Constitution. It is a symbolic political institution that is a powerful tool if used correctly and respectfully by all other political institutions that complement it.
For the authors of the national pledge to think that merely saluting the symbolic aspect of a national flag brings with it unity in “our diversity and a common desire for equality and justice” without the government of the day nurturing those virtues is at best foolish and stupid.
Anyone familiar with Zimbabwe and the prevailing politics should be aware that we are are a much polarised citizenry with deep historical injustices that need to be addressed at a national level before we talk of “unity in our diversity”.
The Gremlins of the Gukurahundi massacres in the Midlands and Matabeleland continue to haunt us remain a divisive issue and no national pledge however worded can ever sweep that under the carpet.
The injustices and violations metered out to the people in that region on tribal and political grounds can never be addressed by the mere indoctrination of our children in schools through a national pledge recited each morning at school assemblies.
The history of what transpired at this time continues to be passed on orally by the same parents that are up in arms over this “pledge” from generation to generation.
The injustices of the Gukurahundi era will unless addressed remain an albatross around any real unity in our diversity across the political and tribal divide. Truth and reconciliation and some form of restorative justice are a prerequisite for this to happen.
The pledge further goes on to talk of “respecting the brave fathers and mothers who lost their lives in the Chimurenga/Umvukelo and liberation struggles, we are proud inheritors of our national resources”.
Zimbabweans across the political divide have a general respect and appreciation for all those that sacrificed leg and limb for the liberation of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s surviving war veterans are an integral part of the legacy of the liberation struggle.
However recent toxic politicisation of this institution has divided and its legacy remains in doubt as to its respectability. Genuine war veteran bemoan the hijacking of this institution by unauthentic war veterans for political expediency.
Having spoken to many authentic war veterans, I am convinced that genuine war veterans remain unappreciated and unrewarded. What we have are a lot of “wannabe war vets” who are in their forties claiming to be genuine war veterans who fought in the war of liberation.
No parent having the best interest of their child at hand will take this kind of indoctrination lightly.
The pledge concludes by making reference to the fact that “we are proud inheritors of our natural resources” and that we commit to the “dignity of hard work and honesty”.
Surely if we were the proud owners of our natural resources, Zimbabweans will not be wallowing in the poverty they do today! The truth is our natural resources, our diamond mines have been mortgaged to State entities and the Chinese.
It is these entities that have remained the primary beneficiaries of the resources and today the government of the day cannot account for over fifteen billion of the proceeds of these “inherited resources”.
No individual citizen under Zimbabwean law is allowed to mine diamonds unless authorised from the very top. How then can we talk of us being “proud inheritors of our resources?”
The pledge speaks of “dignity of hard work and honesty”.
In Zimbabwe we have a system in place that glorifies riches without work, millionaires that do not build anything or make anything.
We have a system that allows “millionaires” to pour millions into concrete thirty to forty bed roomed houses whilst people are dying in poorly resourced hospitals.
A system that glorifies criminals whilst well educated citizens wallow in poverty.
How then can we pledge to teach our children the values and dignity of hard work when those that hold authority do not uphold the same values?
We need to lead by example. That is the greatest pledge we can ever teach our children.
We cannot pledge to teach our children the value and dignity and hard work when all the leaders walk around with dirty hands.
The national pledge should start in Parliament.
The national pledge should start with the leadership that claims to have the people at heart.
The national pledge should start with the leaders declaring what they own today and what they owned five years ago.
The national pledge should be symbolic face of all who purport to be true Zimbabweans.
The national pledge can never be premised on empty rhetoric.
Zimbabwe needs to heal first and foremost.
We need to first nurture accountability, respect of political institutions and not worshipping individuals. We need to nurture servant leadership and in terms of that we have a long way to go. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
- Lloyd Msipa is a Lawyer based in the United Kingdom. Article appears on Khuluma Afrika – a nonpartisan center for political analysis and investigative journalism