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Barriers to ZAPU's successful revival.

20 Sep 2019 at 13:56hrs | Views
Zimbabwe's political landscape is complicated and unforgiving, but more so for ZAPU. ZAPU is viewed in two prisms, one perspective is that ZAPU is a national party and the other is that ZAPU is a tribal or regional party. This is the conundrum that ZAPU needs to deal with and resolve before its 2020 National Congress. Without answering this question, it would be a waste of time for ZAPU to be in politics, I will help to raise the salient arguments in both perspectives. I do not intend to come up with an answer but to encourage a health debate.

Zapu as a national party
Since its formation at Comfort farm on the 17th December 1961 ZAPU has considered itself a national party and indeed in its ideology, structure and leadership composition it has shown that it was a truly national party. Before interrogating the subject further, allow me to explain what I mean by national or what ZAPU meant by it, in this context national is synonymous to the whole of Zimbabwe, meaning that ZAPU aimed to stand for and save the whole of Zimbabwe. ZANU has managed to change this meaning to anything formed or which hails from Mashonaland to mean national.

ZAPU was the only truly national party in Zimbabwe and the only authentic and genuine liberation movement in Zimbabwe, it is for this reason that Zimbabwe is still not liberated up to this day because the bogus liberation movement called ZANU which was formed by the help of the British and American intelligence organisations won the first and subsequent elections. What is interesting is that most Ndebele ZAPU supporters viewed ZAPU as a Ndebele party not just a Ndebele led party. Most Shona ZAPU supporters also regarded ZAPU as a Ndebele party not just a Ndebele led party. So who regarded ZAPU as a national party? It was the ZAPU Ndebele leaders who regarded ZAPU as a national party, at a conceptual level they were always correct but at a practical and operational level they were off the mark. What about the Shona leaders in both ZAPU and ZANU, how did they regard or view ZAPU? Most of the Shona leaders knew that ZAPU was a genuine national party but they worked to undermine this paradigm as it undermined their tribal stance in ZANU PF. Fast forward to 2019 a year before ZAPU's National Congress, what has changed, what are the people's views of ZAPU now?  

Robert Mugabe with the help of the British managed to brand ZAPU as a tribal party, this was seen at the election results of 1980 and 1985 where ZAPU only managed to win significant seats in Matabeleland. The genocide and consistent bashing of ZAPU by the government officials officialised it as a tribal party, most of its Shona supporters disappeared or joined ZANU. This view that ZAPU is a tribal outfit is so entrenched that it will take devil's tractors to uproot it.  

ZAPU still regards itself as a national party, it has its red lines, for example it has vowed never to change its name, it has vowed never to change its national stance. Well, fair and fine, let us say ZAPU continues with its position as a national party, what would be the barriers to its successful revival? My view is that ZAPU needs a root and branch review of itself and what it intends offering the people. With the polarised political landscape, where Shona people only vote for Shona led parties and Shona people, ZAPU would be doomed should it pursue this national pie in the sky. Shona people will always regard ZAPU as a Ndebele party, here I am not saying all the Shona people, of course there are some open minded Shona people who will only support a party based on its policies, but the majority are incapable of doing so. Even the most educated Shonas are not able to look beyond the ‘tribe'. Therefore if ZAPU opts for this option without critically analysing it, it would have nailed itself to the devil's cross and condemned itself to the rubbish tin of history. The further question is, is it possible for ZAPU to opt for this option and remain relevant and buoyant? The answer is yes, I will touch on this after looking at the second perspective.

ZAPU as a regional party
When Dr Dumiso Dabengwa and others revived ZAPU in 2008, most Ndebele people were hoping that ZAPU would genuinely embrace the regional tag, they joined the party in big numbers only to be greatly disappointed when they were told that ZAPU was a national party. ZAPU as a regional party will have a story to tell, what enables political organisations to thrive is to have a story to tell. ZAPU as a national party does not have a story to tell, most of the things which it should be focusing on will be regarded as divisive and tribal. As a national party it will only be able to talk about things that the MDC is already talking about, that is human rights, it would not even be able to differentiate and calibrate these human rights. As a regional party ZAPU would be able to talk about the marginalisation of the people of Matabeleland in all spheres of life, it will become relevant to the people of Matabeleland. What are the challenges of adopting the regional stance? The biggest one is that ZAPU will be regarded as a tribal party by those who have always regarded it as a tribal party, but would it be a tribal party? The answer is a big no, the people of Matabeleland are from diverse ethnic groups including the Shona ethnic group. ZAPU should come out in the open and embrace all the ethnic groups openly. The other tough challenge related to the tribal argument, is that psychologically the very people whom ZAPU would be prepared to save will not readily embrace it due to the fear of being called tribal, many had gone past this in 2008, but Dr Dabengwa and friends forced them back to the national mantra. Now to move them psychologically will need an inspired and confident ZAPU leadership. There are challenges for adopting the regional stance for ZAPU, however, if it does so it can and will survive, but it will need to join hands with other regional parties and the self-determination movements.

In conclusion, let me go back to the point I raised above about ZAPU being able to survive if it opted for the national option. The only way it can survive is if it elects a Shona as its president, however, this will alienate its core constituency.  Some have suggested that ZAPU secretly adopts the regional stance but still pretends to be a national party. My view is that ZAPU can not save two masters at the same time, it needs to be brave, chose the national stance or the regional stance and stick to its choice with it consequences and benefits.

Whither ZAPU? Serious thinkers come to the fore.

Source - Thulani Nkala
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