Sitting on the fence is an English idiom which describes a person’s neutrality or indecisiveness. Understandably, in an increasingly polarised world where one has to pick a side, most people sit on the fence to avoid controversy – I don’t blame them for that. It’s also true that in politics, people sometimes say they are neutral because the options which are on the table are simply hopeless. I know a few tearaways who demonstrate their political neutrality by queueing up at the polling station only to then draw a massive phallus on their ballot paper. Seriously though, in terms of the situation in Zimbabwe, there is a certain kind of political fence sitting that is both ostentatious and dishonest, and it really grinds my gears. Here I’m referring to the stuffed shirts who claim to be apolitical or neutral but are effectively Zanu merchants. This lot are not a homogeneous group. It’s my observation that there are two types of this virulent strain of this kind and these are low end and high-end fence sitters.
Low end fence sitters
These are people who don’t do a good job of faking their political neutrality which is why they are the less sophisticated of the fence sitters. This mob say they do not belong to Zanu pf but are closely associated with the party and its leader. We see them fraternising with the leadership at Zanu events, in presidential advisory roles, getting their pictures taken with the president, laughing at his crap jokes and often going through the whole gambit while clutching a Bible as if to sanctify the shameless ass licking. The low end fence sitters are so lacking in sophistication that they could qualify as knuckle draggers. It doesn’t take a lot of work to unearth their dirty laundry. In fact, they walk around with sacks of the stuff stinking the place up. Their business interests are the same as those of the Zanu leadership. This is why from time to time we see them regurgitating propaganda and Zanu pieties similar to the drivel churned out by war vet mongers or those unimaginative liars at The Herald. They say they do what they do because of patriotism. It was Dr Samuel Johnson, author and lexicographer who said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, and scoundrels they are.
High end fence sitters
High end fence sitters include a few scribes in the political commentary. Now this lot are quite skilful in their fence sitting. They will criticise both Zanu and the MDC but will do so perspicaciously. When they criticise Zanu they skate around the issues and will not blame the real culprits of the regime. They will make vague lamentations about the existence of corruption in Zimbabwe and from time to time will name and shame unscrupulous low level Zanu politicians or cronies – but they will fall short of fingering Mnangagwa and Chiwenga. But when the MDC and Chamisa make an innocuous misstep, the sophisticated fence sitters are quick to throw the kitchen sink at it and even quicker to liken them to Zanu pf which they follow up with exasperated generalisations that all Zimbabwean politicians are corrupt. The trouble with that is when one says that all Zimbabwean politicians are crooks or corrupt, they are consequently saying none of them really are crooks or corrupt because that’s part of the game. Bear with me here. Saying that all politicians are crooks is a stance sometimes used by elitist intellectuals in order to absolve the really bad people with power i.e the ones right at the top of society. In the Zimbabwean context, it’s a position that benefits Zanu.
Other times, the sophisticated fence sitter will hide behind the mask of patriotism and make impassioned calls for unity. Inevitably, to the reader who is non the wiser, these fence sitters are ‘rational’ or ‘balanced’ observers of Zimbabwean politics who command a lot of respect and have impressive CVs to boot which as we know goes a long way in enthusing the meritocratic pedestrian consumer of political news. But it’s all a ruse, it’s a facade, a con job, juti chaiwo in Shona. These people are not neutral. They have a dog in this race and it’s a filthy dog that wins by cheating. It’s a filthy dog they secretly back but will refuse to let it lick their faces in public because that will put their hygiene into question. They would like the dog to change its habits which is why they will make general statements about dog hygiene. If you go back to early 2018, you will see some of these scribes were giving Mnangagwa the benefit of the doubt and sometimes even endorsing him while besmirching Chamisa and the MDC. Maybe they were angling for a farm or some position in the regime which they eventually failed to secure. So now they are sitting on the fence waiting desperately to be called from the bench.
The sophisticated fence sitters are crafty sorts, I tell you. Another one of their tactics is their ‘patriotic’ call for the lifting of western ‘sanctions’. We know these sanctions are targeted at the regime but the sophisticated fence sitter will purposefully not elucidate on that crucial bit of detail. The regime wants these sanctions to be lifted because that would remove the tag of rogue state which rightfully shames it. As the designated cheerleaders of the regime, the fence sitters sophisticated or not, want the regime to be appropriated by the west and will continue to call for the lifting of ‘sanctions’.
Fence sitters are dangerous
The trouble with fence sitters is that they are agents of Zanu. I don’t mean agents in the sense of CIO spooks or violent sorts of that nature, but agents as in manufacturers of confusion and futility in the drive for radical political changes needed to bring democracy, justice and functionality in Zimbabwe. Fence sitters confuse and obfuscate matters, when they identify faults they ignore the elephant in the room. They narrow down the political debate to issues which do not bring the change that is needed. They are like oncologists who knowingly prescribe paracetamol to patients who need chemotherapy. They are dangerous people. Of course, they have the right to do what they do within the confines of the law and like Voltaire said I will defend that right even though I don’t agree with them. But they are dangerous people. I wish people on the progressive side of politics did not indulge these agents of futility. I think it was Desmond Tutu who said that if you are neutral in situations of injustice then you have chosen the side of the oppressor. Fence sitters see the suffering in the country but still knowingly go on to do things which perpetuate the Zanu hegemony which is the source of the suffering. They have impaired empathy. Psychiatry describes such persons as psychopaths. Fence sitters are dangerous.