The aim of a legitimate government, according to English philosopher and physician, John Locke, is to preserve the rights to life, liberty, health and property of its citizens, and to prosecute and punish those citizens who violate the rights of others.
While scholars like Thomas Hobbes and Sir Robert Filmer believed that citizens surrendered all their rights to government, Locke was of the view that they surrendered only the right to preserve and maintain order.
On Monday, Government said it had noted with disgust, “insurgent rants” from a member of the opposition threatening to overthrow legitimate public authorities in the country, and would not hesitate to act. Addressing a rally in Bikita over the weekend, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) deputy chairman Mr Job Sikhala said his party would overthrow Government before 2023. This is despite the peaceful 2018 harmonised elections and ruling by the Constitutional Court that the elections were free and fair.
International election observer missions also gave the elections the thumbs-up. This point is critical because democracy and elections have become synonymous, as neither can be sustained without the other. The attainment of free, fair and credible elections has become the major indicator for democracy and more and more countries have subjected their elections to heavy scrutiny from international observers in order to prove the existence of democracy.
Like elections, the maintenance of peace and order is crucial for the survival of any democracy.
Six main indicators of good governance defined by the World Bank are accountability of governance, political stability and lack of violence, governance efficiency, legal framework, law enforcement and corruption control.
Failure to enforce the law and protect innocent citizens from violence perpetrated by opposition MDC-Alliance and the militant Tajamuka would be bad governance and above all, according to Locke, in breach of the social contract in the form of a new Constitution, and mandate derived from general elections.
The promise by Government that it will “not hesitate to act” in the face of insurgency must be backed by action. We implore the responsible Government led by President Mnangagwa to preserve the rights to life, liberty, health and property of its citizens.
Above all, we call on Government to honour its part of the social contract by prosecuting and punishing those citizens who violate the rights of others, beginning with Mr Job Sikhala.
Mr Sikhala threatened to overthrow a constitutionally-elected Government through violence that will ultimately affect ordinary law-abiding citizens of Zimbabwe.
While threatening violence and political instability is not new to MDC, it still has to come to an end. Zimbabweans who have witnessed first-hand the loss of life and property at the hands of the MDC and Tajamuka take these threats very seriously. If the MDC-Alliance and Tajamuka can kill a police officer, as they did in January, what stops them from killing civilians?
Social media is used time and again to threaten civilians who dare defy the mighty MDC and Tajamuka by not participating in stayaways. Why should Zimbabweans who voted freely out of their own be forced to go on strike? Why should Zimbabweans who voted freely out of their own will be forced to remove their Government of choice? Why should citizens who voted for a legitimate Government live in perennial fear of an illegitimate authority?
Again, we urge Government to preserve and maintain order by being swift on criminals like Mr Sikhala.
We also call on civil society to play its part in promoting good governance, development and peace. Civil society is an integral part of any political system that purports to follow the democratic structure of government. It is viewed as a crucial agent for promoting democracy and development.
It is, therefore, disheartening to see civil society working with agents of instability, violence and perpetual fear. Whose agenda are these organisations advocating?
No one is above the law. No one is above the people-driven Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Constitution must be respected and those who refuse to do so must be punished in line with its dictates.
Government must preserve our rights by punishing those who threaten the same.