Of God & Satan: The Quest for Political Righteousness in Zimbabwean Politics

Self-Righteousness Infects All Sides Of Our Politics, And Makes Us Ridiculous

Of God & Satan: The Quest for Political Righteousness in Zimbabwean Politics
His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa & South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission: Image Courtesy of New Zimbabwe

Speaking at the conclusion of a visit by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was in Harare for the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission, His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa equated himself to God on Tuesday, while denouncing his opposition rivals as the equivalent of Satan.

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The Zanu PF leader, vowing not to “commit the mistakes of those who have gone ahead of us” and emphasizing the need to catch up with other developing countries, acknowledged domestic opposition to his political programme.

“We will not be swayed by negative forces. Even the Lord upstairs was not able to keep his house in order, he had Satan. So, these things happen, but he still remains there as the Creator,” the head of state said.

The remark did not resonate well with prominent human rights lawyer Fadzayi Mahere who then tweeted:

“My only question is: who is Satan? What a disappointing and unpresidential metaphor to use to describe those who disagree with the government.”

It is not the first time President Mnangagwa has used biblical metaphors when addressing his opponents – and he always assumes the role of the Almighty, Kukurigo news noted.

At the height of the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland, he told a rally:

“Blessed are they who will follow the path of the government laws, for their days on Earth will be increased. But woe unto those who will choose the path of collaboration with dissidents for we will certainly shorten their stay on earth.”

In May 2015, the Kukurigo also established that while on a campaign stop in Midlands, President Mnangagwa likened the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to Satan, announcing to the crowd:

“We have come to cleanse you of the sins of the MDC.”

Well, it is not so astounding to see that Zimbabwe’s political discourse is increasingly dominated by affirmations of superiority and political piety. This has turned into one of the principal motivations in our politics. Clearly, for many politics is a way of showing oneself to be smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate and more attuned to injustice than others.

For all the excesses and hypocrisy of the religious right and all the absurdities of the diminutive religious left, Christianity is still a salutary influence on each and in that case, politics is such a terrible surrogate for religion.

The precise expression of cheap political morality may have been His Excellency’s declaration that;

“We will not be swayed by negative forces. Even the Lord upstairs was not able to keep his house in order, he had Satan. So, these things happen, but he still remains there as the Creator.”

That is, the head of the state and government called all those who contrast with him on political philosophies as either bigoted, irredeemable deplorable, or desperate losers, as Satan is. That is where the gag is!

The much-held hypothesis that opposition parties or “professional sand throwers/vadiri vejecha” as they have adopted, could halt national progress and development and that their leader is “of low character” whose candidacy emboldened some on the rough fringe of Zimbabwean politics is unassailable, to some standard.

However, disdaining him or them on a devilish level was self-serving sanctimony meant entirely to flatter donors, in this case, Pres. Ramaphosa and supporters by guaranteeing them of their moral excellence.

This practice is endemic as it has elevated politics as a measure of virtue in a jostle for moral standing.

One moral political apologist put it when he contended that politics is such an easy game. In his words, it is the cheapest possible grace: express the right political opinions and vote the right way and be confirmed as a good person.

According to him, the cheap grace of politically based morality offers pardon for indulging one’s worst impulses in both policy and rhetoric. If correct politics confers moral supremacy, then the wrong political views confer wickedness, and the wicked deserve to be penalized.

That is, this view allows people to find in politics a socially tolerable, even cheered, outlet for cruelty and malice, as well as absolution and indulgence for that cruelty.

The media also stand impeached of exacerbating as its formats often encourage half-baked hot takes and reward snark over substance. It produces a never-ending supply of folly that makes it easier for everyone to focus on the worst of their political adversaries and ignore differences among them.

Now, no politician is exempt on this moral indictment. Self-righteousness infects all sides of our politics, and it makes us ridiculous. All politicians judge their political opponents based on the stupidest thing they have ever expressed or tweeted and allow trolls to overly influence their view of the other side, even though people who spend their days trolling are not representative of anything but the sort of people who spend their days trolling.

However, even when one is right about the moral degeneracy of someone on the other side, it is morally unhealthy to inhabit on it very much. Sometimes it is fundamental to note it, but politics as a moral marker leads to overlooking, even leaving behind genuine virtues, such as charity and humility.

We should question such moral uprightness as this harms the probability of a much-delayed national dialogue. That cannot take place when we merely try to justify our moral prestige instead of trying to understand each other.

Bottom line is, the heinous sins of your political challengers don’t make you any better, and holding the right political views is rarely much of a moral triumph. The redress for the cheap grace of political purity isn’t abandoning political conviction or moral standards for an easy relativism but abandoning self-righteousness, which is often harder.

Humans are sinful and more than a bit ridiculous, which is why we need real costly grace, not a cheap political knock-off.


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