Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Zanu PF regime fears people

By Conrad Nyamutata

It is about a month now since Itai Dzamara was abducted by suspected State agents. His abductors accused him of having stolen cattle.

Abducted political activist Itai Dzamara
Abducted political activist Itai Dzamara

First, let us get the small matter of “evidence” out of the way. In their ever mindless exoneration of Zanu PF egregiousness, State media have pointed to lack of evidence that State agents were involved in the abduction.

Evidence is indeed such a wonderful precept. But in some circumstances, evidence is simply unavailable. The absence of evidence, however, does not mean an act was not performed.

After all, State security agents do not move about with their job title inscribed on their foreheads or identify themselves publicly.

Again you have to ask yourself: where has it ever happened that a mere “cattle rustler” has had to be “arrested” in that dramatic fashion? Further, this country does not have a history of wanton abductions among ordinary people.

Given all this and Jestina Mukoko’s experience, there is reasonable suspicion this was the work of State agents serving an authoritarian regime.

But what motivates authoritarians to behave this way?

Authoritarians thrive on the mobilisation of endemic fear. Niccolo Machiavelli said it. The psychology behind it is we become averse to challenging authoritarian power for fear of losing life, limb or liberty.

Notably, authoritarians behave this way because they are themselves fearful of us as society.

“What authoritarians and dictators fear most is their own people,” wrote author William Dobson, “they know the most potent threats to their rule are home grown.

For how else would you explain the criminalisation of gatherings (Public Order and Security Act) of handfuls of people without police clearance, if it is not because of fear of citizens? Or bans on mere commemorations or and artistic exhibitions of a historical massacre?

The answer is fear; fear of people — which is quite surprising for a regime that claims popular legitimacy.

All said, we have a regime uncomfortable with its legitimacy and lives in perpetual fear of its own people. A government comfortable with its legitimacy does not need routine recourse to repressive instruments or abductions.

Those who claim that Dzamara is an insignificant player to be a target for security agents fail to read the minds of authoritarians and prevailing political wind. At the time Dzamara was abducted, there was beginning to be a pervasive wave of discontent pulsing through society.

Sections of the media were reporting the building up of a combustible atmosphere of mass social discontent, also characterised by prison riots. The security goons probably read the national mood music.

Dzamara had staged small demonstrations, and at one time, handed a petition to the President’s Office for him to resign. He had exhibited courage that the opposition has failed to.

At a time of growing social discontent, it is “mavericks” of such chutzpah that pose greater danger to authoritarians than a mild-mannered opposition leader in a suit and tie.

Because of their carelessness, such daredevils could eventually ignite mass protests that threaten authoritarian power.

Apart from eliminating him as a potential trigger, the message behind Dzamara’s abduction to an increasingly restless society was simple: if you dare challenge the regime you will lose your liberty, or even life.

Dzamara’s fate remains unknown.

His abduction has often been described as having been conducted in “broad daylight” with overtones of surprise at the timing. But we should not be stunned. The abduction was never meant to be a nocturnal mission. If it was, then the captors would have raided his home at night.

Recall the authoritarian propensity to appropriate fear. Its execution in “broad daylight” was deliberate, with the attendant publicity it would generate in dispersing fear.

And the act has achieved its intended objective. Society has been numbed with the usual  fear.

But we have to realise that the regime behaves this way because it is living in perpetual  fear of our collective strength in the first place.

The question is — how do we use this  collective power to live as a society free of fear of challenging abuse?