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EDITORIAL COMMENT : Responsibility must accompany free speech

12 Aug, 2020 - 00:08 0 Views
EDITORIAL COMMENT : Responsibility must accompany free speech

The Herald

Since coming into power, the New Dispensation in Zimbabwe has gone all out to promote national peace and reconciliation as the backbone of its governance and has come up with many practical projects and programmes to promote its vision of having a Zimbabwe that is open for business for all, inside and outside the country.

So it has introduced fundamentals and policy frameworks to promote economic growth and the ease of doing business.

However, of late, there has been growing misbehaviour, hate speech and de-campaigning of the country by a brigade of irresponsible citizens using mainly social media platforms and mass media.

It has turned out that most of those fanning hate speech, intolerance, and campaigning against their country are being sponsored individually or through non-governmental organisations, and at times even foreign embassies, to destroy their own country.  

It is fact, not fiction, that national peace and reconciliation are key ingredients in the process leading to the attainment of Vision 2030, that of creating a middle-income economy.

Across the world, a divided nation does not share a common vision and common goal and a nation which hates itself does not develop and soon collapses into untold chaos, war, disease and poverty.

This does not preclude politics or change, but it does mean there has to be a shared vision of where we need to go, with debate on the details not on the fundamental base.

Without social cohesion, mutual respect and responsible behaviour it is hard to build a nation.

It is therefore, laudable that Cabinet has approved in principle the need to outlaw hate speech and lobbying against the country, which is increasingly becoming the fad of our time.

We are grateful that political parties will be placed under a uniform code of conduct, hate speech will be banned and campaigning against Zimbabwe criminalised.

It took the Cabinet Committee on National Peace and Reconciliation a lot of time to observe and apply a thought process in order to come up with these all-important recommendations, but without breaching constitutionally-entrenched rights.

We are also grateful that Cabinet has approved the recommendations and gone further to give parliamentary processes time to legally and procedurally effect the changes, starting with a presentation by committee chairperson Vice President Kembo Mohadi to Parliament.

Highlights of the recommendations are that legislation and a code of conduct will be put in place to regulate the operations and conduct of all political parties and that campaigning against one’s country shall be legislated at law as criminal.

That existing laws, we are told, shall be strengthened to include elements that foster tolerance, equality and social cohesion among Zimbabweans as well as prohibit hate speech by public officials, media houses and citizens in public spaces and on social, print and electronic media platforms.

The public, we are told again, should be educated on how the security services handle complaints, so if they feel they have been unjustly treated they can get redress.

It should be noted that the move comes a few months after the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association called for the enactment of laws that bar anyone calling for sanctions and economic sabotage from contesting elections and make this sort of behaviour a serious crime.

The war veterans, the vanguard of the country’s liberation struggle, had and still have serious misgiving in the way some untoward Zimbabweans are promoting hate and divisions in the country at the instigation of some Western countries.

Zimbabweans in their broad totality should accept that we must stop somewhere. We have abused our freedom of speech and abused our colleagues and leaders, all for the benefit of our egos of grandstanding before foreigners.

Over the months we have become our worst enemies, abusing social media platforms where we must admit that we have lost our moral bearing and thrown everything human out through the window.

It is sad that we have gone to a point of forgetting that we have only one country, our Zimbabwe.

We have forgotten that on the social media are sons, daughters and sisters, our fathers, grandfathers and leaders. All we do is reckless ranting, scolding and undressing each other.

It is sad that we are fast becoming more divided than ever before.

We have abused the word democracy, and have taken human rights to the point where a selected few think they are the only ones with rights, simply because they are supported by Western powers.

What country are we building if we abuse democracy to the point of breaking the moral fabric that holds us together? What country are we building if we destroy everything that holds us together to please foreigners? What does hate speech and language help us, we ask?

Finally, what legacy do we want to leave for future generations? What is democracy if it destroys out country and its people?

Even Europe, whose democracy we want to copy, neither promotes nor allow hate speech among its citizens. Political parties respect winners in Europe, but we disrespect our own winners.

We disrespect our courts of law and the law itself.

We circumvent constitutionalism.

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