Beyond Fredom House stats: Part II

HARARE - This is the second and last of Solo Musaigwa’s article on Freedom House For example, the issue of devolution may be controversial but it was clearly demanded by the people in the outreach and everyone agreed until the Zanu PF Politburo decided they did not want it.

People made demands for a Presidency whose power is subject to checks and balances but Zanu PF believes its model of an all powerful Executive President who can do pretty much what he or she wants is the best for Zimbabwe.

People demanded that all local languages should be recognised as equal and official languages but Zanu PF will have none of that.

Its ideas on governance generally and the constitution in particular are out of sync with the views of the people.

Most people are aware that at the moment the major stumbling block to the adoption of a new Constitution is Zanu PF.

It is impossible to imagine under these circumstances, that Zanu PF has suddenly become more likeable and more trusted than it was in 2010.

We are told that the pattern of support for Zanu PF is because of its clearer and more articulate policies like indigenisation and the land reform programme.

It is correct that Zanu PF has made a lot of noise about indigenisation and the land reform programme.

Missing from this is any indication that these two policies have reduced the plus 80 percent unemployment figure.

Also missing is how Zimbabwe, more than ten years after the momentous land reforms, is still having to import grain from neighbours like Zambia — countries that used to beg for maize from Zimbabwe.

Untold is how these policies have generally benefitted the top politicians in Zanu PF or their relatives or associates.

The nepotism and corruption that are endemic in the implementation of these policies, which leave the majority of the people on the periphery is not shown.

The community share ownership schemes are nothing more than acts of corporate social responsibility on the part of businesses.

Noise around these policies has done more deter much-needed foreign investors without in fact giving much of substance to the ordinary people.

Of the beneficiaries of the Save Valley Conservancy invasions, the bulk are top Zanu PF politicians who mind you have previously benefitted from the past land reform exercise.

It’s wealth grab under the guise of indigenisation and ordinary Zimbabweans know the ruse.

Then there are the diamonds of Chiadzwa in Marange. The Chinese and the military are generally in charge of the bulk of the extraction.

The villagers were displaced. Many people died in the formative stages of the Marange Diamond Rush, allegedly at the hands of the state.

Proceeds from the sales of diamonds remain secretive.

Not even the Minister of Finance, who is from the MDC-T is privy to the goings on regarding the revenues from the Marange diamond sales.

The people of Zimbabwe are aware of the secrecy surrounding the Marange diamonds.

They know that the top men and women in Zanu PF and the military are benefitting from the diamond revenues — a national asset which has been privatised by a cabal of political and military leaders.

Zimbabweans are supposed to be stupid enough to suddenly like and trust Zanu PF, even against this background.

It is hard to imagine that this is so, unless of course it is the case of the Stockholm Syndrome.

Teachers, especially in the rural areas have suffered the worst of political violence and intimidation over the years.

Indeed, thousands were driven away to live destitute lives in countries like South Africa and Botswana.

Those who remained still operate in fear; they are always the first targets of violent youths.

The perpetrators of this orgy of violence and intimidation draw their inspiration and authority from Zanu PF.  

Villagers in rural Zimbabwe know that if you do not have a Zanu PF party card or if you are suspected MDC-T supporter you will not get food aid or other freebies that government may from time to time avail.

It is suicidal to show any allegiance other than towards Zanu PF.

These ordinary people know only too well that the source of their problems is Zanu PF, the propaganda notwithstanding.

And yet we are told that these people now have more trust for Zanu PF and not only that but that they like Zanu PF more.

Maybe these teachers are also victims of the Stockholm Syndrome — sympathising with their tormentors; liking and trusting them more, the abuse and fear notwithstanding.
 
Almost every home; just about every shack; any dwelling – in urban and rural Zimbabwe has a satellite dish; a decoder – however dodgy or some other gadget connected to their television sets.

At specified hours of the day they tune in to a “pirate” radio station called Studio 7, which broadcasts from America — speaking a language they understand.

There are others, like SW Radio Africa and VOP, broadcasting from Britain and South Africa, respectively.

The satellite dishes and otherwise dodgy decoders enable them to watch South African or Botswana TV – anything; just about anything that is not ZTV — Zimbabwean television that is widely known to broadcast Zanu PF propaganda.

Those who can pay a premium to watch DStv, the multi-channel satellite broadcaster from South Africa. And yet we are told the majority of people prefer and trust ZBC TV and radio.

It would be laughable if it wasn’t a serious matter.

This catalogue of Zanu PF’s conduct over the years has not suddenly vanished from the memories of those affected and few in Zimbabwe have been spared abuse of authority, human rights violations or the effects of economic mismanagement.

Nepotism and corruption authored predominantly by Zanu PF over the last 32 years of independence are evident in every sphere of life in Zimbabwe — whether it is in land redistribution, diamond revenue, indigenisation, state companies and even in sports administration.

Zanu PF has left a mark in every part of Zimbabwe — politically, socially and economically — and the stagnation and ruin all round are indicative of its dismal record.

And here we have information suggesting that Zimbabweans now like and trust Zanu PF more than they did in 2010. It could be the biggest indication of the Stockholm Syndrome on a wide scale.

It may be that Zimbabweans simply do not care much about abuse. It could be that we have read too much into the survey and that it conceals more than it reveals.

It does not mean the MDC-T should not wake up to correct its mistakes but the claim that ZanuPF is now more likeable and trusted than before cannot be taken at face value.

The ordinary men and women in Zimbabwe have a memory and they are not stupid.
 
So how does this syndrome develop? There are a number of grounds upon which the Stockholm Syndrome develops.

First, the abuser could provide small acts of generosity and kindness to the victim. After an assault, the spouse might give the abused victim some money to buy her favourite gifts.

If someone is in a hostage situation, the opportunity to go to the toilet or to have a drink can be interpreted as a positive sign of generosity. In a political context, provision of food aid, even after being initially refused may be seen as a huge act of generosity.

It is in this context that we must also see the impact of such schemes as the Community Share Ownership Schemes or even the allocation of plots of land.

These things may not yield any specific dividend in the immediate term or ever, but when they are issued, the beneficiary perceives this as a serious act of kindness.

He or she begins to believe that the abuser is not as bad as one might have thought. Zanu PF has been very adept at using these small acts of generosity — the indigenisation campaign primarily benefits the well connected but it is designed to look like a great gift to all Zimbabweans.

By this, people are hoodwinked into thinking that they are the top priority, diverting their attention from the fact that diamond revenues for example are being siphoned by top Zanu PF officials, the military and the Chinese.

Zanu PF will continue to use this tactic — they will give or promise more freebies in the hope that people perceive these acts of kindness as an indication that they care.

When an abuser is not being violent or intimidating, this can also be interpreted positively by the victim. The victim gives credit to the abuser for not abusing him in situations where they would normally have become violent.

The GNU period has been good for most Zimbabweans in respect of peace and stability.

Levels of politically-motivated violence have been low.

This is mainly because there have been no elections during this period — Zanu PF normally unleashes violence during election periods. People have had some respite as far as violence is concerned.

It is not surprising therefore that some people may interpret this as a positive sign — that they even give credit to Zanu PF for not being violent.  

People are able to express themselves freely; they see more newspapers, they see two new radio stations — all this is interpreted positively in favour of the authority which used to deny them these rights. They see these as acts of kindness.

So when Mugabe preaches peace and non-violence; when he chides Zanu PF youths for abusing Tsvangirai, these small acts of kindness and generosity assume greater significance than they deserve because normally the expectation is that Mugabe would not care and would instead encourage the youths to be abusive.

In the past he may have used derogatory language towards Tsvangirai but now that he does not, he gets credit for not being abusive.

In other words, the abuser benefits from his own past misdeeds as people warm up to them and see them as a fatherly figure.

People like to see that as opposed to a leader who is always ranting and raving.
 
In other instances, the abuser can deliberately play victim — referring to historical circumstances that account for their situation.

The abused victims end up feeling sympathy for their abusers; believing that their behaviour is not their fault. They find reasons and justifications to support their behaviour.

Zanu PF is also quite adept at using this tactic: hence the incessant references to the trials and tribulations of the liberation struggle; to the challenges of colonialism; to the fact that they are victims of the colonialists and that they are still victims of the imperialists, as signified by the continuous references to the impact of sanctions.

You can see that the issue of foreign interference features strongly in the Freedom House report — Zanu PF has used this line very well to play victim and it may have also gained it some sympathy from its victims.
 
The Stockholm Syndrome also develops because of perceived threats to one’s physical and psychological safety.

The perception of threat can be direct or indirect.

It can be by way of threatening one’s life or simply threatening personal injury. The abuser can threaten using historical evidence of past behaviour.

The abuser refers to what they have done before; to how opponents have been caused to disappear. Some victims may have witnessed the abusive authority in action and these memories feed the victims perception of threats to physical and psychological integrity.

So the victim complies or acts in a compliant manner for his safety and for the safety of friends and relatives who the abuser may have included as part of the threatened constituency.

The abuser will use indirect and subtle mechanisms to remind the victims of the consequences of non-compliance; that they can enjoy the peace but if they do otherwise than follow the abuser, they will be visited with violence as has happened in the past.

It is conceivable that Zanu PF has benefitted from these perceptions of threats.

There is the fear factor which makes people more compliant as a survival tactic. Zanu PF never tires in reminding people of what it is capable of in terms of violence.

Once in a while, ordinary people are arrested on ridiculous charges — such as insulting the President; or like the Glen View 29, they are kept in custody pending trial for months — these are reminders of what Zanu PF is capable of doing.

This includes refusals of permits to hold public meetings or deliberate disruption of public meetings with the police doing nothing about it — all these are reminders of threats that are designed to make the victims compliant.

In conclusion, the Stockholm Syndrome is clearly an unhealthy condition.

It creates a toxic bond between the abuser and the abused. In some ways it helps us to understand why the victim may continue, against all expectations, to support the abuser; to feel sympathetic towards them and to give them credit even when none is due.

The abused victim finds reason to see the soft or good side of the abuser and clings to that.  

The challenge, for the MDC-T in addition to the obvious need to correct own mistakes is to help free people from the grip of the Stockholm Syndrome: show them that they can escape the situation; that the small acts of kindness are a ruse to hoodwink them from seeing the true nature of the beast; that the perceived threats can be overcome; that there are other lens through which to see the world apart from the lens provided by the abuser.

Show them that the party cares and provides a better alternative.

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