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No fire in the belly of Zimbabweans

By Tapson Muchena

Our nation is in desperate need of salvation but no Saviour is going to miraculously appear among us; we Zimbabweans must redeem ourselves.

Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai take part in a Harare rally by the main opposition parties calling for free and fair elections next year
Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai take part in a Harare rally by the main opposition parties calling for free and fair elections next year

Not so long ago people were being arrested and prosecuted for suggesting that Mugabe must put a succession plan in place, now it is his own wife who is openly canvassing the issue. Mrs Mugabe’s recent diatribe, which was intended to derail Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambitions, has served only to highlight the implosion of ZANU PF and the immanent demise of her husband. Her intervention raises the question of whether Mugabe understands what is happening now and whether he has got the capacity to influence anything anymore.

However I am beginning to wonder if most Zimbabweans really care. It does not take long before any conversation turns to politics in Zimbabwe — people bemoan their lot:unemployment, bank queues, intermittent water and electricity supply, the deterioration of roads, hospitals and schools; they are contemptuous of corrupt politicians, civil servants and police, and they fantasize about a future when things will get better — but it is all talk.

The mortal sin of Zimbabweans is apathy!

Zimbabweans seem to have adapted to life under ZANU PF. They keep their heads down and let the politics go on around them instead of being actively involved in the political process. They seem to think that, if they wait long enough, things will get better; in the meantime they stoically put up with the blight that is ZANU PF.

There is no fire in the belly, no groundswell for change, no deafening demands for ZANU PF to go, and no relentless pressure on the opposition to commit to good governance and the rule of law.

Our people are the most educated people in Africa yet they naively proceed as if elections in 2018 are a given. What is inevitable is yet another five years of ZANU PF government if those elections are allowed proceed as they are. There must be no elections without electoral reform and the pressure for that reform must come from the people.

Perhaps the apparent apathy of Zimbabweans is simply long-sufferance and resignation to their fate. People are not going to get motivated to participate in another ZANU PF controlled election with the same protagonists as in every election since 2002 and the same inevitable result.

The people need to be stirred into action and it is going to take inspirational leadership to achieve that. The opposition needs new and more defiant leadership in order to inspire the people to overcome ZANU PF.

Morgan Tsvangirai must go. He forfeited his claim to leadership when he opted out of the 2008 run-off election because his supporters were being attacked and killed. Their sacrifice was in vain. Zimbabweans died for him but Tsvangirai was too afraid to shoulder the awful responsibility of any general who goes into battle knowing that some of his troops will be lost. When he was Prime Minister for the five years of the GNU, he failed to take advantage of the MDC’s parliamentary majority to implement electoral reform.Tsvangirai has passed his use-by date. He must stand back and allow new leaders to take up the battle.

It would seem that Zimbabweans are not hungry enough. Otherwise there would be masses of people on the streets every day demanding the end of Mugabe and his party’s rule.

In 2011 sustained mass action by the people of Egypt brought down the dictator Hosni Mubarak and his government. Their protest took various forms, from the occupation of central Cairo’s Tahrir Square to labour strikes, and acts of civil disobedience,bringing together various opposition groups representing a wide cross section of Egyptian society. Their unwavering determination was undaunted despite clashes with armed forces and police brutality.Are Zimbabweans less courageous than Egyptians?

Right now ZANU PF is probably at its weakest and there is a big possibility of ZANU PF supporters not voting for their own candidates as happened in 2008.This week’s statements by Grace Mugabe and Victor Matemadanda reveal widening fissures in ZANU PF and indicate that either Emmerson Mnangagwa or Jonathan Moyo is headed for a mighty fall. However, opposition forces are not going to win simply because ZANU PF is divided. They can only win if they are united and strategic.

Nkosana Moyo made an inauspicious entry onto the political scene by being too accommodating towards ZANU PF and Emmerson Mnagagwa. However, those who paid attention to his speech at Chatham House will realise that he is a decent technocrat who is feeling his way as a politician.There is a depth to him and an integrity that we have not seen in our political leaders in recent times.

If the MDC is serious about a united coalition, if they really are people of vision and truly have at heart freedom, justice, prosperity and equal opportunity for all Zimbabweans, would they have the courage to throw the weight of their considerable support behind Nkosana Moyo’s candidacy?

But there must be no election without electoral reform and the best mechanism to achieve that is an interim transitional authority to oversee biometric voter registration and then conduct free and fair elections under international supervision.

In a recent interview about voter registration, Obert Gutu said opposition parties would continue piling on pressure through demonstrations and court challenges to ensure transparency in preparations for next year’s general elections. It would be better for MDC to focus on lighting the fire in the bellies of Zimbabweans by mobilising their followers to spearhead organised and sustained public protests to bring down the ZANU PF government so an interim transitional authority can be put in place.

That is the way forward to electoral reform and truly free and fair elections.

Tapson Muchena is an academic and a keen observer of the Zimbabwe situation. He can no longer remain silent. tapson.muchena@gmail.com

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