In this Part 7 of Ms. Miriam Mutizwa’s letter addressed to Mrs. Tsitsi Masiyiwa, Ms. Mutizwa examines why citizenship ought to mean fraternity or solidarity in the context of the legacy bequeathed by the French Revolution to humanity.
It is significant that the motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” became the rallying cry of the French Revolution. It was Maximilien Robespierre in a December 1790 speech on the organization of the National Guards who advocated that the words “The French People” and “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” be written on uniforms and flags, but history records that his proposal was rejected.
History confirms that from 1793 onwards, Parisians among other inhabitants of French cities, painted the following words on the façades of their houses: “Unity, indivisibility of the Republic; liberty, equality or death”.
However, the inhabitants of French cities were soon asked to erase the phrase’s final part as it was too closely associated with the Reign of Terror.
It is fact and true that this motto fell into disuse under the French Empire, like many other revolutionary symbols but reappeared during the Revolution of 1848 that was marked with a religious dimension: priests celebrated the “Christ-Fraternité” and blessed the trees of liberty that were planted at the time.
It is instructive that when the Constitution of 1848 was drafted, the motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” was defined as a “principle” of the French Republic.
The motto was discarded under the Second Empire, but it finally established itself under the Third Republic, although some people still objected to it, including partisans of the Republic as solidarity was sometimes preferred to equality which implies a levelling of society, and the Christian connotation of fraternity was not accepted by everyone.
On the occasion of the 14 July 1880 celebration, this motto was inscribed again on the pediments of public buildings.
It appears in the constitutions of 1946 and 1958 and is today an integral part of the French national heritage.
It is found on items used by the general public such as coins and postage stamps. In the context of Zimbabwe, what then does the idea of fraternity mean.
In trying to find meaning and context of this terms, Mrs. Mutizwa in this letter to Mrs. Masiyiwa again relies on the message in her controversial tweet that reads as follows: “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,” to deliver her own message why solidarity is a critical variable in any tactics and strategies to change the Zimbabwean political equation.
In this Part 7 of the letter, Ms. Mutizwa writes as follows:
I am writing this letter on 27 December 2018 to you and many others who may choose to read it as part of my humble contribution to what I believe is missing beyond liberty and equality, as gifts of nature, that is fraternity.
I am sure you will agree that being a citizen must presuppose a feeling of community with one’s fellow citizens or a sense of camaraderie with other members of the Zimbabwean society as an aggregate.
I have no doubt that you will agree with me that solidarity or the spirit of camaraderie can assume two distinct directions as follows: (a) towards other individuals, and (b) towards collective institutions as consequences of human causation and agency.
Under the First Republic, former President Mugabe was at pains to focus on the need for Zimbabweans to imbue a feeling of affinity and sense of community after a protracted period of institutional, legal, constitutional divisions along principally racial and tribal grounds.
The entry of European settlers into the Zimbabwean human ecosystem and the sweeping changes connected with the ensuing industrialization, modernization, population movements and social regrouping created its own dynamic in relation to the promise and challenges of nation building that we are still grappling with in 2018.
Your tweet did provoke me to dig deeper into my well of moral conscience to examine the kind of demands that should be associated with the contemporary Zimbabwean democratic society as a successor to the settler-dominated regimes.
It is my contention that such a list of demands ought to include tolerance, or respect for the opinions of others and more importantly empathy, that is the ability to see one’s self in another person’s position.
This construction would necessarily include the legitimate assumption that people like you and me can and would join forces to shape our challenged collective institutions by democratic means including the three branches of the government that have hitherto been used to divide rather than unite us.
I am sure will agree that these institutions should at the very a minimum of real and not speculative legitimacy.
You and I should, therefore, be able to rely on the impartiality of the judicial system and assume that politics is not corrupted by systemic partisanship, corruption, and/or any other irrelevant considerations.
After 38 years of independence, I think you will agree with me that constitutional democracy must call for a shared super-ideology that requires a fundamental loyalty to the values, principles and institutions of democracy
As we grope for sustainable solutions to the Zimbabwean problem, it would be futile and counterproductive for me to seek to single out your expressed views above as abnormal because such views are widely held in our communities.
It is for this reason that any shared ideal of what it means to be a citizen must incorporate the values of liberty, equality and fraternity. However, it would be remiss on my part if I failed to recognize and acknowledge that even on this abstract, theoretical level of citizenship, there exists no shared understanding and wisdom.
Although the tree pillars of citizenship as set out above, are so general as to allow them to be interpreted in different ways, they are not clearly and easily reconcilable.
It is in terms of goals that the challenges of reconciling them becomes manifest and self-evident. It would be difficult to deny that liberty and equality are not always reconcilable.
We have seen several administrations in the post-independence come and go with only one man, former President Mugabe, emerging at the top of the political food chain for 37 solid years. I am sure former President Mugabe would assert that democracy and majority rule have been able to reconcile liberty and equality as the principle of universal suffrage has been maintained, albeit with predictable results.
However, it is my submission that in many cases, a desire to achieve equality, especially equality regarding variation, has tended to limit individual liberty.
It has always been my hope that liberty and fraternity can and should be occasionally happily combined in the form of mutual cooperation among us as free individuals, yet the reality is that we are so divided that any spaces of solidarity are easily eroded by ego.
In the premises, it is my contention that the individuality of liberty as contained in your message can also end up being in direct conflict with the collectivism of the community that should be a key driver to social, economic and political change.
It is also my view that in the abstract or ideal, equality and fraternity can be achieved at the same time if all of us can agree to loyally share everything equally.
It is also the case that in the final analysis, equality can be pursued to the point where it can challenge social solidarity.
It is our responsibility as individuals in the first instance to determine whether Zimbabwe under our stewardship should be a land of equality and solidarity or not.
Indeed, we can deliver the promise of a Zimbabwe that where liberty, equality and solidarity are living commands.
I trust that you will find the above provocative enough for us to build an inclusive, progressive and prosperous Zimbabwe.