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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: The ED regime’s twin chronic diseases

Some diseases are terminal while others have dire effects on patients especially if they come on top of another pre-existing ailment. In the past three or so years as the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the world, we learnt that the effects of the virus were more serious especially where one had what they called “underlying conditions”, which meant another pre-existing medical status.

In Zimbabwe today, we have an incompetent regime that has dismally failed to provide public goods and services as prudent governments elsewhere are providing to their citizens.

But for the Mnangagwa administration, the disease of incompetence is coming on top of an underlying condition of illegitimacy arising out of the disputed poll of 2018.

This week I deal with two chronic diseases that have affected the Mnangagwa regime and these are the crisis of efficacy and the crisis of legitimacy. I borrow the motif of these twin terms from Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe who used them to describe the then Mugabe regime in 2009.

When Zanu PF and the then two MDC formations negotiated the Global Political Agreement that was eventually signed on 15 September 2008, Masunungure said Zanu PF had eventually greed to form an inclusive government with its arch political rivals because it had finally realised it had failed to creep out of the twin crises of efficacy and legitimacy.

That I am having to use the same terms to describe the Mnangagwa regime points to the fact that nothing has changed; that this is not in any way a new dispensation and that in November 2017 Zimbabweans committed the cardinal error of mistaking brass for gold.

I am not in any way calling for an inclusive government. No. I am just pointing out the context in which the terms were first used to describe the twin paralysis then afflicting Zanu PF.

Today, yet again, the current regime is suffering from a crisis of efficacy and a crisis of legitimacy.

Masunungure defined efficacy as having something to do with performance, in this case the performance of government. Efficacy in this context means the capacity of the government to deliver those things that the citizens value such as education, healthcare, roads, food, etc.

On the other hand, legitimacy has something to do with the moral rightness to govern whereby those who are governed feel they have an obligation to obey those in power and that they came into power with the citizens’ consent.

As can be imagined, a government that enjoys high legitimacy is likely to be more effective in making and implementing its policies and in overcoming hardships in the process of governing.

Legitimacy and efficacy are mutually inclusive.A government that holds legitimacy will find it easier to govern with efficacy while a government that is efficacious can only be a legitimate one.

The mutual inclusiveness of efficacy and legitimacy is what scholar Daniel Buquet calls a virtuous circle. But Masunungure warns that the virtuous circle can actually turn into a vicious circle especially where an illegitimate government, as in our case, is likely not to be efficacious.

Legitimacy and efficacy are two essential attributes for any political system to be successful.

At independence, the Zanu PF government enjoyed both legitimacy (via a prudent electoral process) and efficacy (via the delivery of prudent social services such as health and education, among other key public goods valued by the citizens).

Over time, both legitimacy and efficacy deteriorated, leading to the formation of an inclusive government in 2009 after a disputed illegitimate election the year before amid dismal government failure to provide prudent services (efficacy).

Now the wheel has turned full circle. They say the more things change, the more they remain the same. In fact, Mugabe was better because at some point during his Presidency, particularly in the 1980s, he had both legitimacy and efficacy.

As for Mnangagwa, since the November 2017 coup, he has had neither legitimacy nor efficacy, his negative competence manifesting itself through the massive looting of the country’s vast mineral wealth by his family members, cronies and associates.

Illegitimacy and lack of efficacy —- the evidence

1 . The legitimacy deficit

Mr Mnangagwa’s stoic determination to unconstitutionally extend my namesake Luke Malaba’s term, which he has achieved, shows he is aware of his illegitimacy arising out of the disputed 2018 poll and is keen to have a pliable Chief Justice in office in case there is yet another Presidential election dispute in 2023 that might need resolution by the same courts. In one fell swoop, Mnangagwa has destroyed the Judiciary and sought to recreate it in his own image— all in a bid to cushion his disputed and illegitimate Presidency.

Today, his Presidency stands authenticated not by the citizens but by a contentious verdict of a captured Bench. He claims the courts resolved the issues and that he was legally and Constituionally elected into office in 2018.

I have always maintained that something is not legitimate simply because it is legal. Legality is not legitimacy and the two are not always mutually inclusive. Legitimacy is a far much higher and nobler principle than legality. For example, the apartheid regime in South Africa and the attendant racially segretaory policies were legal but they were not legitimate. Apartheid was perfectly legal in accordance with the laws and statutes of South Africa but it was morally reprehensible, hence its condemnation across the globe. Notwithstanding its legality, all right-thinking people knew apartheid was illegitimate.

For all his claim that the court, a captured court for that matter, legalised his electoral victory in 2018, everybody else knows ED is illegitimate and is moving around wearing a disputed crown.

Mnangagwa has a yawning legitimacy deficit. Even leaked audios of senior officials from his own party are now in the public domain and we all heard them speaking strongly against their own President. This shows he has no traction even in Zanu PF.

It is telling that it is one Sybeth Musengezi from Zanu PF, and not any member of the opposition, who has a pending court case challenging Mr Emmerson Mnangwagwa’s legitimacy as a leader, even within Zanu PF. So even his own party is challenging his legitimacy in court.

You know you are illegitimate as President when your own citizens don’t believe in you and even force you to reverse arbitrary policies you made without consulting them, as happened only a few days ago when the threat of a national shutdown forced ED to eat humble pie and nullify the ZUPCO monopoly in the public transport system.

If you are legitimate you are obeyed, not when your own civil servants are almost always on strike for this or that grievance.

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Mnangagwa is not in charge of this government. Grievances are in charge because the man is illegitimate.

2 . The efficacy deficit

Efficacy has to do with performance. A government that is efficacious is the one that supplies all known public goods and services to its citizens, especially basic social services such as health and education.

But our government is failing to provide all these services. There is chaos and collapse all around us. The road infrastructure across the country has collapsed even when the government is claiming it is implementing what it calls an Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP).

Except one or two highways being upgraded, everybody else has not seen the roads government claims to have rehabilitated.

The entire economy is operating outside the remit of the “bond” currency foisted on this nation by the regime. When an economy begins to largely operate outside the State-sanctioned framework, then the State itself becomes superflous and loses the efficacy element of governance.

Notwithstanding all government pronouncements that the “bond” note is a functioning currency, Zimbabwe has in fact unofficially dollarised.

Almost all transactions, including the very mundane, are being done using hard currency so as to preserve value. From lobola transactions to road-runner chicken sales in the village; from road-side sales of toothpicks to consultancy services by traditional healers or prophets in the mountain; from those offering ox-drawn cart transport services in the village to those peddlars of the female body in the red-light districts, almost all transactions are now in United States dollars.

Indeed, the State has lost the legitimacy and efficacy case. Ours has become a superfluous State that operates on the shadows of reality.

Because of the rugged road infrastructure, a huge mass of vehicular traffic on huge sections of the country’s collapsed road network is having to detour into farmers’ fields on the roadside which have become safer and more passable than the official version of what now constitutes our roads.

Vehicular traffic is in fact travelling for longer distances on the verges than on the State roads, itself the clearest evidence the State is no longer offering the public goods and services that it must offer and has thus lost the efficacy case.

Indeed, the State becomes superfluous and proves the huge efficacy deficit when our vehicular traffic opts to use informal but safer pathways outside the ambit of the country’s road network.

In education, schooling service is now being provided outside the government realm and outside formal government institutions and buildings.

Yes, education is no longer acquired at school but at the teacher’s house or outside the school complex where parents are paying hard currency for extra lessons.

This means education is now being acquired on the black market and pity to those parents who cannot afford to send their children either to private schools or to the black market for extra-lessons where education is now being provided at a premium, even in rural areas.

On health, government health institutions are no longer providing health services. All they do is to stamp your medical card and write a prescription for you to procure medicines at private pharmacies.

All these public hospitals have become white elephants. And those who cannot afford private healthcare are now resorting to the various mountains across the country to seek spiritual remedy of their ailments at the vapostori shrines.

In my own home area of Domboshava where I live, you are likely to find more people being “cured” at Gabriel’s mountain ( gomo raGabhureni ) at Pasipamire village in Shumba ward than you would find seeking medical services at Makumbe district hospital.

In Shumba ward, you are likely to find more people seeking remedy to their various medical problems at Madzibaba Innocent’s shrine than those you would find at the local Nyaure clinic.

You know you lack efficacy as a government when public goods and services, especially health and education, are now being accessed outside your own institutions.

When you are a husband, and your wife is now going outside of you to access basic matrimonial services, including those of a conjugal nature, then you know you are no longer the one.

You know your legitimacy as a spouse is now in serious doubt because, as posited by professor Masunungure, legitimacy and efficacy are mutually inclusive. You cant claim legitimacy when you are not efficacious.

And it is difficult to achieve efficacy when you are not legitimate because legitimacy implies consent.

That is the predicament of the regime in Harare at the moment. It is suffering from the twin terminal ailment of a serious legitimacy and efficacy crisis.


The ED regime is suffering from a deficit of both legitimacy and efficacy, two key elements that are important for any government to be called as such. Services that are supposed to be provided by the State, notably health and education, are now being accessed elsewhere. The State has become superfluous.

The major surprise is that government’s efficacy deficit, dramatised by collapsing social services and a demoralised civil service, is coming at a time the deranged regime through one “Professor” Mthuli Ncube is claiming there is in fact a budget surplus in Zimbabwe.

The nation is wondering: Are these guys still OK upstairs or they all require medical attention?

Loss of regime efficacy and legitimacy must be a cause for serious reflection for this regime. As we stand on the cusp of a crucial election, the citizens will definitely make a wise choice.

In the vernacular Shona language, the month of July is called Chikunguru (that which slides). And true to the name, someone’s political fortunes will definitely take a monumental slide in or around July 2023.

Luke Tamborinyoka is a citizen from Domboshava and an interim deputy champion for Presidential Affairs in the Citizens Coalition for Change ( CCC ). You can interact with _him on his Facebook page or via the twitter handle @ luke_tambo.