Analysis: Zimbabwe’s midnight moment of hope among illusions
By Patson Dzamara
One erudite person once said that at midnight every tomorrow becomes today. A midnight speaks of an eternally simultaneous relationship and occurrence of two distinct elements. It speaks of exit and entrance or an end and a start in one go.
By any standard, perceived or real, Zimbabwe is fast approaching its midnight hour. A watershed moment of transition is beckoning. Whether it will come to pass or it merely becomes a prolonged midnight hour, only time will tell.
What can’t be disputed however is the fact that the imminent midnight has triggered hope and illusions among Zimbabweans.
To thoroughly unpack the bewildering political happenings in Zimbabwe, I will start by sharing a story one of my mentors shared with me in 2011. He shared with me what he termed the crab mentality.
“If you put crabs in a jar, they will all die. If one of them tries to scale its way out, the other crabs will pull it down and this will go on until they are all exhausted, leading to their eventual death”, he said.
It’s a case of hope and illusions for the crabs.
How these two diametrically opposed realities of hope and illusions can coexist is beyond my apprehension at the moment but could this be an apt description of what is happening in Zimbabwe? I am tempted to conclude that ours is a classic case of hope and illusions.
A PANORAMIC VIEW OF CURRENT POLITICS IN ZIMBABWE
1. ZANU PF
From the time of its formation in 1963, ZANU PF has gone through various phases. For some strange reasons, it has managed to weather all the storms encountered along the way.
Despite that, ZANU PF finds itself in a precarious position, dealing with a different kind of stubborn storm. Chances are very high that it will not survive the ravaging effects of the current storm. Not only is the storm stubborn, it is multi-pronged.
The crisis of internal democracy in ZANU PF dates back to the pre-independence era and has always been characterised by ruthless toppling of one faction from power by another or attempts to do so. For example, the coup against Ndabaningi Sithole and also the Nhari rebellion.
The revolutionary party has since then been rocked by power struggles and the latest manifestation is hinged on the succession to the frail old leader.
On one hand there is a faction believed to be led by the long time associate and confidante of Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa or Ngwena as he is affectionately known by his fans. The faction nicknamed Team Lacoste is made up of war veterans and diehard extremists who want Mnangagwa to perpetuate the ZANU PF hardline nationalist stance but also embrace political and economic reforms to endear itself to the masses. This faction wants Mugabe to resign and give way to a younger Mnangagwa.
On the other hand there is a faction termed G40 believed to be led by the now unpopular ZANU PF political Commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere with the eccentric Professor Jonathan Moyo providing the brains. They are rallying around the idea of a much younger person succeeding Mugabe hence the Generation 40 tag.
Initially, the G40 faction had the clout of being backed by the first family. It appeared to be headed for victory but recent events may lead one to comfortably conclude that they are heading to the historical dustbins with Kasukuwere facing possible expulsion. His women’s league pawns are already singing the blues. G40 is characterised by greedy and ruthless young Turks who thrive on corruption and unorthodox manoeuvres.
Not only is ZANU PF on the verge of implosion as a result of factional wars but its strongman, Robert Mugabe is in the sunset of his earthly life. At 94, he is no longer as proficient and able. Old age is taking a blatant toll on him.
It is a fact that Mugabe sleeps at key forums both domestically and internationally thereby compromising the representation and advancement of our collective good. He is the CEO of the country and therefore responsible and accountable for the country’s welfare. Any lapse or incapacity makes him a liability.
The average age of Mugabe’s cabinet is 75. That he and the political party he leads have reached the twilight of their natural and political life is without question. Also without question is the need for younger and more vibrant political players to attend to the pressing political and socio-economic challenges we face today. Like Rip van Winkle they realise that they slept for a long time and have woken to an unfamiliar reality and they are clueless.
Despite the fact that it still has a massive grassroots base and that it relies on its abuse of state resources, ZANU PF is more fragile than ever before and that is an opportunity for change which is not being fully exploited.
2. THE OPPOSITION
The opposition movement in Zimbabwe can never be ignored. It is the alternative government.
After many years of disintegrating and engaging in petty fights, the opposition movement of Zimbabwe seemed to have finally grasped the fact that Zimbabwe’s common enemy is just but one, ZANU PF. In the past few months, most opposition parties have shown significant overtures towards regrouping and coalescing with the intention of fighting from the same corner. That is commendable.
Unfortunately, despite the overtures to unite, the demons of disunity, illusions and pathetically inflamed egos seem to be a constant companion of the process. As such and sadly, the envisaged unity is likely never going to happen.
The need to unite and mobilise everything and everyone not just in opposition against ZANU PF but towards a better Zimbabwe cannot be overemphasised. My own personal philosophy has always revolved around team work and unity of purpose – not losing the bigger picture. I believe that the coming together of the opposition political parties is a step in the right direction.
Despite the steps and intentions registered thus far to coalesce, the proliferation of political parties and independent candidates brings about a very interesting dynamic.
On the 28th of June, activist and lawyer Fadzayi Mahere announced that she will run for MP in Mount Pleasant as an independent candidate. Her announcement divided opinion. Some saw it as an illusion whereas some saw it as a breath of hope.
On the 29th of June, Nkosana Moyo announced his presidential bid under a new political party called Alliance for People’s Agenda (APA). Again, his announcement triggered mixed reactions. Others lauded him for the move whereas some lampooned him.
It’s imperative for us to put things in the correct perspective. After the monumental victory registered by Temba Mliswa as an independent candidate in the Norton by-election in October 2016, so many young people, including myself were inspired. I can bet my bottom bond note that Temba Mliswa’s victory is one of the major motivators behind many young people wanting to run as independent candidates and also the mushrooming of political parties at this eleventh hour. There is nothing wrong with that.
It is however critical to debunk and understand the dynamics and undercurrents which were involved in Mliswa’s victory. For starters, he is not a political novice, neither is anyone who has ever won an election in Zimbabwe as an independent candidate. Relying heavily on his political trajectory, acumen and wisdom, he won as an independent candidate yes but he was undergirded by elements in both the ruling and opposition parties.
The point I am trying to make is that his victory was not detached from institutions. Be under no illusions about that. Furthermore, it is imperative to note that Zimbabwean politics revolves around personalities. Wrong as it may be, in Zimbabwe, political institutions, systems and followership are built around persons. With that in mind, it will take a lot for anyone who will contest as an independent candidate and the new parties to win the forthcoming elections, unless if something drastic happens.
Ultimately, the glaring prospective of this scenario paving way for ZANU PF to win despite the fact that it is in intensive care is something we must all come to terms with. This is what has precipitated an unnecessary acrimonious relationship between the old timers and new comers.
Of course, this hocus-pocus is certainly cherished by ZANU PF and chances are very high that in the event of an opposition defeat in 2018, which is highly likely given the current dynamics, this reality will be remembered as a stark feature of the defeat.
Bearing in mind that we are dealing with a multi-faceted leadership crisis, and a deeply entrenched ZANU PF system, a lot more needs to be done.
That our approach bordering on everyone thinking they are everything, everyone wanting to be a president, everyone feeling their opinion matters more than those of others is self destructive is incontestable and despicable. At this rate, it will be rather naive for anyone to think that a confused opposition can defeat an equally confused ZANU PF.
Talk of hope and illusions coexisting in mutual harmony!
We are standing on the cusp of a grand opportunity for change. Sadly, we are mesmerised by the ongoing stupid and controlled factional fights in ZANU PF other than exploiting them. On the other hand, we are busy butchering each other all in the name of the overrated ideology of democracy.
In our shallow and pedantic posture, we continue on the path of frivolity, romancing trivia and petty ego-massaging fights. We continue holding meaningless talk shows where we take turns to out-compete each other in exposing our borrowed English accents.
Meanwhile, despite internal problems engulfing the party, ZANU PF is consolidating its ugly hold on the nation to win the forthcoming elections.
Unless, we discard our current approach and become serious about retrieving ourselves from the pit ZANU PF dug us into, we must forget it. Our midnight shall be a prolonged one.
Patson Dzamara is a leadership coach, author, human rights activist and political analyst based in Zimbabwe.