The widely acclaimed narrative — correction, fallacy — that Zimbabweans are ‘well educated’ and are some of the highly literate people on this continent is a myth. Myths build egos, not economies; neither do they have any significant contribution to the democratic electoral value chain.
Myths do not change but merely perpetuate dysfunctional governments. In fact, myths are the very antithesis of effective democracy. They are that negative force which squirms unnoticed from the bowels of human development to contaminate the very reason man was created — to be free.
Myths reinforce illusions and illusions propagate lies leading to national self-immolation.
If you mix electoral myths with captured institutions, you get a potent combination of truths, half-truths, and ‘faction,’ especially about results — not only disputed but resulting in violence.
Such are the electoral dynamics Zimbabweans are confronted with — candidates who lie, constituents lied to and some people who choose to ignore the lies, pretending whatever they do, nothing will ever change.
The fact that our nation rides the sinewave of self-deception (delusion) on assumed levels of literacy means that all literature relating to elections inevitably goes to waste — unnoticed, ignored, at worst despised.
The perennial mantra “Zimbabweans don’t have enough information on elections” is rooted in this delusion of elevated levels of national literacy. Yes, we do not have enough information only because we do not care to read about whatever is available. Read-o-phobia.
When electoral practitioners then argue for a higher rate of voter registration or better still, voter participation, the dangerous assumption is that people can read and write. The term ‘voter registration;’ the very action itself is about someone reading and writing. Therefore, our collective phobia for reading (and writing) becomes an invisible obstacle that depreciates value proposition of the Voters’ Roll, because once the roll has been populated, someone must read it.
- New hope for ZEP permit holders
- Nhamoinesu re-joins Czech giants Sparta Prague as a scout
- School of sport: When defeat means victory
- Nhamoinesu re-joins Czech giants Sparta Prague as a scout
When the Roll is published — albeit with its inevitable literary inadequacies — nobody would bother reading it — not because we do not care, but because of its mediocre quality exacerbated by our equally poor reading culture.
Moreover, in rural areas, the enemies of electoral democracy and the purveyors of toxic antagonism take the front seats in the gravy train of assisted voters.
The epidemic of assisted voters is compounded by electoral officers who choose to pay a blind eye towards electoral cheats.
They are complicit in the crime of deception because they do not take it upon themselves — as employees of ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) — to prove how literate the literary cheats are — since they themselves and their employer are not at polling stations based on merit or competency, but on the behest of those that have captured that electoral management body.
Had it been that ZEC polling officers themselves have reached appropriate levels of electoral literacy, they would be literate enough to notice and admonish electoral cheats who pretended not to be able to read and write.
The tragedy playing out here, at the polling station, is that we not only lie that we are the best readers but also go on to lie that our neighbours cannot read and write.
Meanwhile, ‘educated’ ZEC polling officers watch this drama of literary deceit with folded hands.
What travesty of electoral justice!
Moreover, we are a nation that produces semi-literate graduates, so why would we bother even registering to vote?
Voting, by nature, is an exercise of literacy and literacy is an extension of civilisation.
How then can a people, a nation so intolerant of each other and chocking with partisan psyche; a nation that despises political co-existence and plurality.
How can it even dream of ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ on a ballot paper?
A nation and a people that photocopies books or crams for dissertation is on a trajectory of literary self-destruction.
A nation or people whose books stores play host to patrons who only buy exercise books, counter books, pens, and pencils is a nation burdened by the malady of Read-o-phobia.
A nation that fears the written word cannot, for the life of me, ever be able to correctly count votes.
No wonder some get more votes than they deserve because those tasked with the responsibility to count cannot numerate beyond four digits!
Here’s empirical evidence of our illiteracy. Stop any ten Zimbabweans in Harare’s Africa Unity Square and demand a screen shot of the last ‘reading’ on their smartphone. Tell me if you will find even a morsel of a paragraph of Shimmer Chinodya’s book, not even the business page of a local newspaper.
Why, our best shot at reading is the anthem ‘Kkkkkk,’ only because it is a sentence with one letter, so it does not strain our literary intellect. Read-o-phobia!
So why bother reading the riot act to Commissioner Priscilla Chigumba of ZEC if you cannot read anything substantive?
Even if she tossed the simplest version of electoral law towards our direction, we would bolt in the opposite direction as if pursued by the riot squad. Reading the electoral law?
What a burden to the average ‘educated’ Zimbabwean!
Therefore, if Priscilla Chigumba knows you are afflicted with Read-o-phobia, she can do what she wants with the voters roll and you will not know its defect until somebody else tells you, even if they are wrong, you would believe them because you have no capacity to discern its inadequacies.
It is not your fault. You are semi-literate.
Had we been geared towards full literacy; bookstores would be running out of stock of Zimbabwe's latest literary products.
As it is, it is all dust and despair on bookshop shelves, except for the occasional hum of photocopying machines — copying school textbooks!
So next time you hear someone boast that Zimbabweans are ‘highly educated’ and literate, ask them to quote one sentence from the Electoral Act.
- Ngwenya is a liberal philosopher irritated with Zimbabwe’s exponentially declining reading culture.