Nick Mangwana View from the Diaspora
There are many good things that people can do, which they won’t do. We all know what’s right but we don’t always do it. We all see rubbish on the street and we don’t pick it up and throw it in the next bin because we just cannot be bothered.
We all see somebody needing help, but we don’t intervene even though it’s the right thing to do. Nobody can arrest us for doing nothing or nobody can sue us for leaving things as they are. What then guides us is our sense of right or wrong stemming from how we were raised, our religious beliefs or simply who we are.
The attitude President Mnangagwa (affectionately known as ED) has brought to the office has made a clear message that it’s not enough for Zimbabweans to survive, but they can thrive. ED is normalising compassion in public. If this were to be the only thing that the new dispensation achieves it still would have achieved much. But then they are already performing well and beyond this.
We are moulded by our uniqueness and life experiences. We bring that to our work and into our judgments. An example is that ED decided to pay the tragically deceased Morgan Tsvangirai a visit at his house.
Not only that, but to pay for his medicals bills, give him back a diplomatic passport, pay him a gratuity and pension and now make the Government pick the tab for his repatriation and burial. Anyone who has repatriated the remains of a loved one from a foreign country knows how expensive it is and how trying the process is. But the Government took it upon itself to make it easy for the family.
It’s just sad that some people are wrongly waving the entitlement card. It was the right thing to do, but nobody had title to that. It surely was not a right because in as far as rights are concerned, they can be legally asserted. This one could not that’s why it came five years after Mr Tsvangirai left office and two months after a new Government was in office. The late former Prime Minister had many lawyers around him and if this was a legally sustainable right, they could have taken it to court to challenge its non-performance.
But everyone knew that there was a legal gap and the case to be a waste of money. So when we receive gracious compassion it’s just nice to acknowledge and appreciate the compassionate leaders.
Compassion is not pity. Compassion in the case in point was generated by empathy. Empathy is defined as the ability to take the perspective of another person and feel the emotions they would feel. It is when those feelings or thoughts develop into a desire to help that one can then take compassionate actions. So if there was any entitlement why is Arthur Mutambara not getting his own gratuity? He was also a principal and Deputy Prime Minister. But now that one of them has got it maybe it has become an unassailable right to him as well as Thokozani Khupe, who was also Deputy Prime Minister but only because a precedence has been set. Let us not try to mar the good that has visited our politics including during times of bereavement.
In the days gone by, funerals turned into toxic rhetoric. At every one of them there had to be a villain. These ranged from the West to the opposition to internal party rivals. But our politics has undergone a rapid period of detoxification. This has left a lot at sixes and sevens for they have to coin and define new political narratives. For the old Kung-Fu movie template of heroes in white and villains no longer have space in the new dispensation, which is all about compassion.
Is the politics of compassion as advocated for by ED relevant? The answer to that question is a resounding affirmative. A government’s job is to address the security needs of the citizenry. The term security is being used in its most all-encompassing sense.
It is good that leadership has the concept of compassionate empathy. This is because leadership that has a compassionate response to political issues is more in tune with the wishes of the people .It listens more and, therefore, is more responsive. The notion that politics is for the hard-hearted has to be done away with. It can be an arena for the genuine and sincere, which is why some say one of the reasons people get into politics is altruism. The emotional response to the human security needs of a fellow Zimbabwean in the form of the former Prime Minister is one such laudable deed.
Compassion is an altruistic virtue. It is contrary to the hegemonic winner takes all politics that we practise in our elections. In that politics, the vanquished are bullied and dominated. In the current politics only those that try to spite an establishment despite losing can expect a push back. Zimbabwe has had too much adversarial politics that ended up polarising communities at home and abroad.
This writer remembers writing a piece that had the title “Zimbabweans need healing at home and abroad”. That healing has now started from the top, let’s cascade it to the rest of the populace. We have to give plaudits to that which has been done by those in power.
A few days ago Vice President Chiwenga said that all 84 registered parties in Zimbabwe will be invited to State House to discuss the forthcoming elections. This compassionate politics has moved us from the hate filled contestations of the past to a problem-solving collaborative politics of the new dispensation. Like said before those entrenched in the hate speech politics of yesteryear are struggling to redefine their roles in this new approach. Those who were foot soldiers for terror against rivals have to take heed and adapt quickly or they will lose relevance and expire. Whether people notice it or not the new dispensation is giving our politics a shape and focus that is applicable to the generation we are in.
This is a shift from the politics of diatribe most had got accustomed to. We were all used to the vicious verbal attacks of each other’s political systems. That’s quite unnecessary as it might give power but it polarises communities and generates unnecessary conflicts.
Zanu-PF is noticeably rebranding itself and its cadres and activists have to be rebranding in tune to it. Gone are the days where there was a need to play on the fears of others. The membership has to shift in tandem with the party shifts. T
he party has the incumbency and naturally it needs to protect power. But the best way of protecting power is to listen to the needs of Zimbabweans and deliver socio-economic outcomes for everyone not only partisan or sectarian interests. That takes compassion. It also takes compassion on all both sides of the political divide to ensure that there is no politics of fear and
When compassion is applied in politics, it ensures that no community is marginalised because of its ethnicity or political choices. ED’s opposition to the death penalty has always betrayed a compassionate streak. Some have credited it to his experience on the death row as well as the loss of his comrades through hanging. But psychologists will tell you that things don’t normally work that way. It is victims of sexual abuse, who turn abusers and the victims of bullying, who become the worst bullies. So the likelihood is that this is who he is.
We have now had the current leadership leading by example. The values they have tried to instil in subordinate political players will change the complexion of Zimbabwean politics. They have recalibrated politics to a new set of values and ethos.
We have a President who says to the family of a deceased rival, “After you have buried the departed, I will come to you to fulfil the promises I made to him . . .” He did not say he would call them to his office. He did not say he would send officials.
But he said that he will come to them. When you are in someone’s house, they hold the power. They control things.
Regardless, ED is saying he will not make the bereaved come to him or send the Government machinery to do what it does best. He will show respect and compassion by personally going to deal with the matter.
The message is clear here. It says, “I care and you are a priority”. This is what defines putting compassion at the heart of politics. It moves us from the detached politics of arrogance where leaders sit in a pedestal in some high office somewhere totally removed from the real people.
Compassion is not negative. It gives people hope. It yields to the feelings of the other person and moves one to do something about it.
This is what has been lacking in our politics where hard-edged methods have been used to acquire and retain power.
This was a climate where hate speech was used as currency regardless of its polarising effect in the communities of individuals of different political views. Let’s all hail “The new dispensation”.