In this Part 4 of Ms. Miriam Mutizwa’s letter addressed to Mrs. Tsitsi Masiyiwa, Ms. Mutizwa critically examines the broader import of Mrs. Masiyiwa’s worldview on justice and citizenship as expressed in her tweet set out below:
“Some outcries and actions in pursuit of justice seem and look so right until you discover the source of the outcry and sponsor of the cause. Take a step back and reflect on some of the things we consider good and just causes.”
Ms. Masiyiwa asks of the reader to step back and reflect on some of the things that she considers good and just causes in her own right but implicit in the statement is an idea that what she deems to be good and just must have the same meaning to all.
In this letter, Ms. Mutizwa writes as follows:
“I have had the opportunity to think, pause and reflect as a response to your impassioned call that we call step back and reflect on some of the things we consider good and just causes.
My take is that what may be a good and just cause to one may not necessary be good and just to another. In fact, your call speaks to what Mr. Shingai Ndoro in one of the whats up WhatsApp groups that I belong to, TedxHarare, often says about the dangers of confusing cohesion with homogeneity.
He makes the point that I think you can also accept that unity that is not underpinned by shared values is hollow. In the same vein, I believe that it is critically important that we negotiate a shared understanding of what is justice and what it is not.
It is clearly evident that you do not believe that the source of the outcries and actions in the pursuit of justice outside your control and causation is bona fide and legitimate.
In the absence of you describing what precisely you mean by pursuit of justice one is naturally left in quandary as to the message you wish to convey to the us.
I am have no doubt that you will agree with me that in negotiating what I can describe as the missing moral centre where values are shared, it would be beneficial for me to use this opportunity to share my idea of the foundation, evolution and development of the idea of citizenship and its importance in bridging the divide that exists between me and you as a start.
It is my view that the concept of citizenship if not correctly understood can produce undesirable outcomes.
History of human civilization has taught us that the concept of citizenship has meant to political life what the industrial revolution has meant to economic life and the age of enlightenment has meant to the life of the human mind.
In my view, it cannot be rationally disputed that the idea of citizenship in the affairs of humans marked a revolutionary innovation in the relationship between the individual (single) and society (group).
I am sure you will agree that it is not ironic that all societies have evolved from a foundation characterized by the reality of the principle of inequality wherein although people are created equal, in life they were born unequal and lived unequally.
In such a human ecosystem, it was the case that rights and obligations were determined by class membership, privileges and kinship resulting in some humans being condemned to remain throughout their lives as slaves or subjects.
You, my sister and your husband, represent in our community, individuals who have been able through struggle to change your positions in the human chain.
It is my case that without the rule of law, your journey to your current station in life would have been impossible. We all celebrated the broader context in which the struggle for the liberalization of the airwaves without worrying as to who would be the consequential beneficiary.
It in this context that a failure to locate the reasons as to why Econet would be deemed a success story and other operators would fair less favourably would lead us to the conclusion that inequality of man is ordained rather than to celebrate our differences and focus on what should unite us.
It is my view that the rule of law provides the most potent weapon to unite us than divide us. It is also my view that citizenship that is based on the principle that we are all created (and not born) equal and endowed only by the neutral creator with certain unallienable rights that include life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and that we institute governments among men to protect and secure this rights will deliver the best promise to mankind.
It is also my view that citizenship that is based on the principle that all human beings share the same kinship of evolutionary source or origins, and by nature, they are social beings.
What is the human source or origin? It consists of two things – firstly, they have exactly the same genetic complex formula and secondly, every human being is an individual bearer and vehicular expression of the same agency and power of causation immanent in every life form
As social beings, they should be guided by the “Golden Rule” (Principle of Reciprocity) – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Dan Barker’s take on the Rule, “Some people are kind to others because they want to be treated the same way themselves…Other people are kind because they think human beings are valuable, not because they want a reward.” – ‘Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong: A Guide for Young Thinkers’ (1992).
This means we are endowed with certain unalienable rights that include life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and that we institute governments among men to protect and secure this rights will deliver the best promise to humankind.
I also believe that based on the many human experiences that a society that ensures that every citizen gets a the same chance to opportunities and to play a part in social change will speak best to the universal human spirit from which creativity and innovation find the best and eloquent expression.
I must admit that although Zimbabwe is now 38 years old, it has been slow to move from general and philosophical ideas to actual and concrete realities of life.
I am sure you will agree with me that the evolution from societies based on privilege to the ones based on civil equality has often been very slow, gradual if at all and replete with real ideological and practical conflicts.
I am reminded by T.H. Marshall, the renowned British sociologist in his famous essay when he said that the concept of citizenship necessary should have three elements: civil, political and social.
He contended that and I agree that the civil part should consist of those rights that are necessary in order to protect personal freedom and rights.
The main civil rights include the ones that are related to the protection of life and property, freedom of speech, freedom of thought and religion, the right to make agreements freely plus legal rights.
I am sure you will agree with Marshall that the most important of all principles included in the civil part of citizenship is equality before the law.
It is this principle that I believe is undermined by the existence and operation of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act, a law that creates the state as a super creator with law making powers.
I feel like you were talking directly to me when you stated that: “Some outcries and actions in pursuit of justice seem and look so right until you discover the source of the outcry and sponsor of the cause,” as if to suggest that in my choosing to play my part in ensuring that this law is repealed, I would be undermining the role contemplated of me as a citizen of Zimbabwe.
I believe that the rule of law must mean that the way the court system functions in any society must be crucial.
Indeed, you will no doubt agree with me that no one should enjoy special treatment based on origin, social position or sex.
Finally, no one can dispute that justice should and must wear a blindfold. It in this respect that I find you assertion that absent values and principles we should: “Take a step back and reflect on some of the things we consider good and just causes,” as if consensus on what we should consider as good and just causes should be automatic.
Marshall also defined the political aspect of citizenship as meaning equal rights to participate in the exercise of political power. It is my view that political power has been hegemonized sufficiently to disallow democracy at the retail or individual level.
In fact, I have observed that many of my compatriots are intimidated by the voices of people like you my sister because they feel inherently inadequate to play their part in shaping and defining the character of the Zimbabwe that we want to see.
I certainly want a Zimbabwe where no one should be excluded from the opportunity to hold or seek political office and where the right to choose representatives should rest with all citizens.
I believe the struggle for independence was and ought to have been about creating an order where the fundamental principle of political citizenship is one man — one vote is alive and well.
I believe that this ideal can never be attained without the democratization of political institutions.
It is my conviction that step by step we will be able to deliver the promise of all members of our society being able to access the power necessary to change the equation of power in our lifetimes.
The last but not least aspect of citizenship that was identified by Marshall was the social aspect which means that the individual is assured of a social welfare safety net.
It is my hope that all citizens should be entitled to live a civilized life in keeping with the standards prevailing in their society.
I also believe that the individual, as the driver of change, is and ought to be entitled to share the cultural heritage of any society.
I subscribe to the idea that the principle is and must be well-being for everyone and that specialized institutions should exist and be established in order to provide citizens with education and social benefits.
I have observed that each day of independence has made the promise of these various aspects of citizenship become so distant as to be attainable.
Independence promised civil rights to the majority but regrettably our erstwhile liberators have become our oppressors in reality.
I would have thought that the quest for the right kind of citizenship would be of concern by those privileged to occupy higher positions in society like you but increasingly I have been disillusioned by the incoherent, fragmented and inconsistent messages on critical issues of citizenship that should form or should have formed the keystone of our democratic systems.
Indeed, the promise of democratization of political institutions through parliamentarism and universal suffrage has given your to political careerism, statist and fascist worldviews shared by many of the political elites.
In writing this letter to you it is my hope that the contents will be provide enough provocation for people to be engaged as active citizens and use any example of the abuse of public power as a rallying point for change.
I trust that you will find the above in order.