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Zimbabwe's succession quagmire and Chamisa Options

25 Feb 2019 at 17:40hrs | Views
Being a fair student of history, I am going to apply a historical perspective to the current stage and events in our development towards a fully matured democratic and prosperous nation. I will use two nations that had similar struggles against oppression before attaining their independence as our, the United States of America (USA) and our own neighbour South Africa (SA).  
Some of the insights I am going to share, most people will find offence especially those in the opposition. However these are truths worth knowing, for it is said that those who do not learn from history are condemned to suffer and repeat its ugly consequences. Entering last year's 30th of July election awareness of these truths guided me in my own decision and perceptions.  

The first fact is that both the United States of America and South Africa for the period following their independence had successive presidents that were directly linked to the struggle against oppression they had concluded. The USA had George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and lastly Andrew Jackson being their founding leaders in succession. All these American founding fathers with the exception of the two Adams were solders in the American Revolution against British rule. However John Adam was instrumental in drafting the declaration of independence, constitution and thus also acted as a diplomat during the revolution.
In South Africa the same fact holds as following their freedom from apartheid rule they had Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe, Jacob Zuma and now Cyril Ramaphosa as their leaders in succession. All these leaders were also directly involved in their struggle against apartheid rule. They also faced imprisonment, with some helping in the drafting of the constitution and others acting as diplomats during their struggle.

The best thing about these two nations was the influence to their democratic setup the founding Presidents Mandela and Washington had on setting a valuable precedent on the smooth transfer of power to younger generations. Regardless of the fact that both leaders had almost unanimous support following their heroic plights George Washington only served for two consecutive 4 year terms with Nelson Mandela serving a single 5 year term handing over power to younger generations of fellow founding fathers.  

In Zimbabwe our democratic maturing problems started when our founding president in Robert Mugabe failed in setting a similar precedent over the smooth transfer of power as it required a coup to depose him from office. Mugabe ruled for over 37 years failing to trust his fellow comrades and thus failed to hand over power to younger founding fathers that he had alongside him during their heroic plights in the Zimbabwean revolution. Henceforth as we entered the recent harmonised election season that preceded Mugabe's deposition frankly speaking they was literary no possibility for the country's presidency to have been transferred to those who were non-founding fathers.

 The election was a hard fought battle that inspired the young generation but in the end the reality of what could have reigned was very much so distant for without having Zimbabwe being led by another founding father other than Mugabe was impossible. When President Mnangagwa managed to depose his predecessor many in the opposition had thought an elections victory was imminent but this calculation was not complete for a certain historical reality had yet been fulfilled.

In the United States of America time eventually came for post liberation leaders to be at the helm of leadership but this required a certain level of patience, commitment to learn the nation's values from the founders and resolve to help enhance the democratic space on the part of the young. The founding fathers also recognised that they were expendable over time and hence it became essential for them to nurture a generation of younger post liberation leaders.

In the Zimbabwean context I would first like to commend Nelson Chamisa the leader of the MDC Alliance opposition for his performance in the July 2018 election. Considering the limited time he had to campaign for the poll he ran a stupendous race. The qualities and attributes which he now has to display are on his strategic decision making and bargaining skills from that election result. I will explore some of his options looking at their positives and drawback for the nation's economy, his political career and the country's democratic maturing.    

I am of the opinion that it's now time for Nelson Chamisa to make critical decisions thus helping the country's democratic maturing goals. This is the only way for him to prove his worth for when confronted with adversity possessing a plan on how to mitigate predicaments are qualities that define true leadership. This mitigation plan in my view can either take a long term perspective for the Opposition Leader is still relatively young. He will be assured in the end to be at the helm of the country's leadership if only he manages to play his cards right.

At present the opposition's case against President Mnangagwa's legitimacy is an extremely difficult case to prove in comparison with the late Morgan Tsvangirai position in the aftermath of the 2008 election. In 2008 the MDC –T led by Tsvangirai and the MDC- N led by Mutambara had a combined opposition majority in parliament over Zanu Pf as opposed to the recent election were Zanu Pf controls a two-thirds majority over the MDC Alliance.

Going into the 2008 second round voting that was marred by violence and human rights abuses, the MDC-T opposition led by Tsvangirai had to withdraw. The regional bodies SADC and the African Union observer missions unqualified the election process damaging the legitimacy of then President Robert Mugabe. In the case of the 2018 elections not only did we have regional and continental groups in SADC and the African Union observer missions, the voting process was open to international bodies like the European Union and the Commonwealth. Although all these observer missions did not fully qualify the process as being truly fair, credible and transparent they gave a certain level of credibility on the poll accompanied by loads of recommendations on issues and legislations that could be improved in the next election. Their general view was that Zimbabwe was surely on the path of fully opening up its democratic space as a country that had been in isolation and distant from international norms, it had the capacity to improve.

This background brings me to the first options I note as the current strategy being used by Nelson Chamisa and his MDC Alliance party that is the wearing down from the sidelines, all governmental policy and prospects. When the government announces a certain policy action his party responds immediately by criticizing it as much as possible thereby creating an environment of low confidence in the countries leadership to the domestic and international community. The MDC Alliance is betting this lack of confidence is going to lead to economic decline, social unrest for no meaningful cooperation and investment with the right partnering countries would be achieved.

This lack of meaningful international cooperation and re-engagement is emanating from mixed signals about the situation in the country coming out of the country's political divide to the world. When economic and political unrest is fully matured the MDC Alliance hopes this will achieve civil disobedience. This disobedience they know very well will be met by an un-proportionate response, exceptionally lethal in nature due to the nature of our leaders. From these events the calculated impact and effect is meant on damaging the credibility of the current founding father government to the international community and hope the community will intervene in our internal political crises.
The effect of the current MDC Alliance strategy to Zimbabwe is that the culture of division and hate will continue reaching to unprecedented levels. This can be observed by the hate actions and speech that are now prevalent. For now the effect to Nelson Chamisa's political career is quite minimal as he is still capitalising on emotions of his political base post 30th of July 2018 poll. The danger for his career can only come when people set aside their emotions in search or real issues behind our economic woes. The other threat can emerge from within his party where an alternative leader who possesses a comprehensive action plan makes a leadership challenge promising on the immediate improvement of livelihoods of ordinary citizens at the party's scheduled congress in May.  
The other major question is will this strategy earn Nelson Chamisa the presidency? To some extend it might achieve his goal but in a very destructive manner to the democratic setup and maturing desire. Firstly this will again mean that the country would have failed on making a smooth transition of political power since attaining independence. The strategy is also heavy reliant on the regional, African and international community's intervention, the biggest sticking point is the basis to which these communities can intervene. These groups were given access to observe the recent elections and thus gave their recommendations that can only be resolved if the current parliament and arms of government are fully functional.

I would like to believe that to some extent the international community at this moment in time is actually confused on how to deal with Zimbabwe. This was evident from the recent reviews made by the European Union that failed at extending the country's sanction regime despite human rights abuses and killings in the past month. The real concrete recommendation coming out from both the European Union and the United States is for the political divide in Zimbabwe to find each other though national dialogue. The community is ready to cooperate and review Zimbabwe's sanctions only if the situation of mixed signals ends. What this simply means is that the international community is still extending a chance on reengagement with the government of President Mnangagwa to which the major opposition party is failing on.

The second option will be to accept the dialogue process but insist on significantly altering the governance structures to promote accountability, efficiency and effectiveness in the government's operations. This is a long term view and less destructive route bent on working on the recommendations posed by international observer missions and bodies seeking reengagement.

The effects of this strategy to our country are that the culture of political tolerance, inclusivity in decisions making, accountability and openness will be enhanced. This will be very much different from the current environment of a wait and see they will do nothing helpful attitude bent on pulling down a political opponent at every turn. This will also help the general organisational culture in Zimbabwe I observed working in different state owned companies of departmentalisation. The current model of idea acceptance in business or politics is based on status, position, profession or political party belonged rather than if the actual idea, action plan or policy changes hold after a process of interrogating facts and plans has been conducted.

The other positive to the country will be that international reengagement can be assured as the country will now send a single but united signal to this community.

The issues that the opposition leader can insist on are on changing the presidential role from executive to be both executive and parliamentary, increasing the frequency at which the president and cabinet visit the parliament to answer questions.
The impact on Nelson Chamisa's political career will not be clear for he has significantly delayed this option to which many lives have been lost only for him in the end to accept Pres Mnangagwa's legitimacy. This situation will definitely lead to a strong leadership challenge within his party from hardliners who are against cooperating with the present government. His political life will depend on his political manoeuvring ability and posturing skills. Any challenge will also depend on the type of political positions secured for fellow senior party members in any power sharing arrangement with the Mnangagwa government. In my opinion Chamisa has delayed significantly in taking this option and now risk's damaging his political career although this option will save the country's economic and political fortunes.  
The last option will be an all out military fight against the current government; this will mean that the opposition leader should now consider recruiting and arming a dissident force. This will mean destruction of the nation's property and lives. This will surely aid Chamisa's course for he will surely attain political office but again the country's democratic maturing would have failed on the smooth transfer of political power. The biggest effect from this course will be the perpetuation of current problems for one of the problems in our policy formulation and implementation is of war veterans that override these claiming entitlement as benefits of their past heroic plights. This situation of creating a new generation of heroes might also lead to the same problems in future.
Although political power transferred from President Mugabe to President Mnangagwa this transfer put the country in the first quagmire as this was not smooth henceforth this issue needs to be dealt with in the dialogue process.

It is also time for the opposition leader to choose either option whilst he still has control over events. The longer he delays the greater the risk of losing control of events for I know the Zimbabwean population's focus as being easily taken away by small things.

Stay Blessed

Terence Simbi   

Shipping vehicles from UK to Zimbabwe for less
Source - Terence Simbi
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