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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Political Literacy: Lessons drawn from the COVID-19 Pandemic

There has never been a time in Zimbabwe were civic consciousness has been greatly required than the days we are living in today. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed all sorts of rot within the government, corporate sector and the public sector. Massive corruption is being unearthed, activists and journalists are being arrested and state institutions are being abused left, right and centre!

Yet, the people are still not acting accordingly to these developments. Social media has been an avenue for citizen disgruntlement regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic has been handled in the country. Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp have been the most used social media platforms, but all the hashtags and the threads have seemed futile. Keyboard activism and the fight for social justice, and against corruption is not yielding significant results on the ground.

It is quite clear that people want to be heard, want to see their problems addressed and solved amicably. So where are we getting it wrong? Why, despite all the noises in the media, nothing seems to be changing? The answer, as I have come to believe, lies within universalizing the Political literacy discourse. Yes, there has been an effort by organizations like Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), Section 20 and others that are engaged with civic education but the ignorance displayed by most of the citizens leaves a lot to be desired. As such, a vigorous approach to political education is a top priority as we move forward from the COVID 19 pandemic. The pandemic has disrupted society as we know it, which presents us with the opportunity to transform and shape society in the image we all want – a just & corruption free society.

Political literacy, in laymen terms, involves the understanding of the interconnected nature of democracy, power relations, and participatory citizenship. When citizens are taught and made to understand this concept, it is easier for them to understand power relations and how it operates in unison with their everyday lives. It is at the backdrop of such an understanding that citizens can be meaningfully involved with the resolution of conflict in government, law and civil society. It is then that citizens can incorporate pragmatism in dealing with issues of corruption & graft, misgovernance and human rights abuse in Zimbabwe. So, why not introduce the younger generation to political education and build a generation that is conscious, informed and action driven?

I strongly believe that the introduction of political education in our school curriculums will, over the years, increase political engagement amongst the masses. It is very difficult to lie and defraud people who have knowledge of a particular subject and who are well vested in the processes involved. Several individuals walk free after being charged with corruption or infringing the rights of other citizens because most of us do not know the power we yield in the pursuit of justice. With a basic understanding of political processes and avenues of pushing for social and economic justice in our society, I foresee a better nation with a vibrant citizenry that engages progressively in dealing with all forms of taboos in the governance of its nation.

Occurrences such as the former Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo’s corruption scandal, the alleged disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara, the former Health minister Obediah Moyo’s COVID 19 saga and alleged abduction of the MDC Alliance women and recent arrests of ZINASU leaders can be reduced and avoided as long as the people are “woke” as the youth call it. Corruption, human rights abuse and oppression only thrive in a society with ignorant people. Democracy and political literacy go hand in hand meaning, enhancing democracy through political education is enhancing social and economic justice.

There are undoubtedly several more cases of corruption within the government and human rights abuse in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic. Everyone is alert and paying attention but not everyone is politically informed to deal with the situation. If we all continue as we were, corruption is only going to get worse, more activists and advocates of democracy are going to be persecuted.

As I believe, we should all call for the mandatory inclusion of political education courses in at least our Ordinary, Advanced and tertiary levels just as we do with Information technology, communication skills, gender and entrepreneurship. The solution will probably not produce instant results but in the long term we all will reap the seeds we will sow by incorporating political education in our academic system. Without any doubt, political education has a very real effect on everybody’s life, regardless of our opinions and it will do us a great deal in dealing with corruption and all forms of social and economic ills in the post COVID 19 Zimbabwe.Delroy Clyde Mahove is a Social and Economic Justice Ambassador, Political Literacy Researcher and a Marxist-Leninist. He is a Politics and Public Management graduate with experience in social justice advocacy, trade unionism, community development and political education. 

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