28 February 2018

Zimbabwe: Ours Must Be a Nation of Love, Unity


To ensure that Zimbabwe conducts unchallenged elections, President Mnangagwa has -- since his inauguration on November 24, 2017 -- given an assurance that the country will conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

He has repeatedly said no to violence, and that there should be a conducive environment to ensure the voice of the people is heard through the ballot box.

A toxic environment is a recipe for disaster anywhere, and can be a catalyst to polarisation, disunity and conflict.

Zimbabweans can ill-afford such a scenario when the priority during this new dispensation is to put shoulder to the wheel.

During the recent launch of First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa's Angel of Hope Foundation, the President reiterated this call on people to desist from acts of disunity.

Said President Mnangagwa: " . . . no to hate speech. Zimbabweans should shun negative traits like hate speech, and embrace love to drive national unity and development."

We cannot ruin relationships with words that are categorised as hate speech, which is defined as "speech which attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, disability, or gender."

Advocates of intellectual freedom might argue that freedom of speech, conscience and the media are protected by the Zimbabwe Constitution in Section 60 and 61, which says in part, "Every person has the right to freedom of thought, opinion . . . freedom to practice and give expression to their thought, opinion . . . whether in public or in private and whether alone or together with others . . ."

However, the same Constitution in Section 61(5) curtails some of the freedoms that people use willy-nilly to hurt others when it says: "Freedom of expression and freedom of the media exclude: incitement to violence; advocacy of hatred or hate speech; malicious injury to a person's reputation or dignity . . ."

When the President calls on the people to desist from hate speech, he does so knowing well that "words are containers for power," including the words that come from him.

He also knows that words can build or burn bridges, but his desire is that as a nation we strive to come together as a unified force to develop Zimbabwe.

For too long, we have thrown brickbats at one another using hurtful words, a practice that has seen Zimbabwe stalled in a position of lack of growth and development.

We can reverse this negative trend of using hate speech because it takes us to paths of destruction, disunity and disharmony.

With various communication platforms available, it is easy to engage in hate speech, but this can have devastating consequences. The clarion call is not just for the election period, but it should be a lifestyle that breeds love and unity.


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