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ZAPU needs Shona president

20 Jun 2020 at 20:39hrs | Views
Zapu is at crossroads as they seek to replace the late Dr Dumiso Dabengwa. Zapu has two big challenges on its hands. They need to rebrand big time if they are to survive until the next election and beyond. This is easier said than done considering that this once mighty former liberation movement has chosen to remain in its cave through its conservatism and obsession with its history and liberation war credentials.

An equally challenging task is to elect a leader of the stature of Zapu's last two leaders, namely the late Hon Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and the late former Zpra intelligence supremo, the late Hon Dr Dumiso Dabengwa. Zapu needs to deal a deadly blow to the label of being a tribal party for the Ndebele people only. Of course sensible people know that this is not true.

Unfortunately a large section of Zimbabweans are not sensible or close to being normal. For how can anyone who votes for, and tolerates,  Zanu pf be regarded as sensible or normal. Zapu has long been referred to as a Ndebele or 'dissident' party.

This, to a very large extent, is the reason why Zapu has stalled since its revival in 2008. Indeed  Zapu's failure to win the1980 election and subsequent elections can be traced to it being labelled a Ndebele party. Creating this tribal image of  Zapu was Robert Mugabe's political masterstroke. This image has stuck with Zapu for nearly half a century. Exactly where the current regime of Mnangagwa wants it to be.

Is the revived Zapu a Ndebele or Shona party? Since its revival in 2008, the revived Zapu has struggled to shake off the tribal tag of being a Ndebele party. Yet the reality on the ground is that Zapu has always been a Shona party before and after 2008. The Zapu NEC committees pre and post 1980 were dominated by ChiShona speaking people. From Day 1 Zapu was under Shona control. Yet it was led by a Ndebele in Joshua Nkomo. Not much changed after 2008 as another Ndebele, Dr Dumiso Dabengwa,   led the party to continue the culture of Zapu being led by Ndebele politicians.

It is only in Zapu that Shonas are destined to be vice presidents vachida vasingadi. Yet throughout Zapus illustrious history membership and party structures have always been dominated by the marching Shona brigade. The probem with Zapu is that it is Ndebele led when it comes to the presidential seat.  This is the opposite of what happens in the otherShona parties namely, Zanu-pf and MDC splinter parties (Thokozai Khupe led MDC being a weak exception).  Yet despite it being dominated by Shonas, Zapu continues to be referred to as a Ndebele party.  

Come election time zapu is shunned by Zimbabweans as it is regarded as a tribal party catering for the minority Ndebele tribe.
Zapu has an upcoming congress which will now certainly be taking place in the next 6 months or so. Social media is awash with jostling for the Zapu presidency. A lot of secret and unauthorised campaigning has already started as the party has a strict protocol of allowing campaigns only after it officially sanctions this.

This writer is reliably informed that all those vying for the post of party president are Ndebeles while some Shona names are thrown alongside Ndebele ones for the vice-president's position.  

This is Zapu's Achilles heal as it is falling into that trap where it risks confirming that it is a Ndebele or Matabele party. This could be solved by boldly choosing a Shona president thus silencing the Zanu pf and MDC detractors calling Zapu a mere tribal enclave of the Ndebele. The political gains would be massive if a vibrant Shona candidate is elected as he/she can challenge Zanu-pf without being labelled a tribalist. Most Zimbabweans would be comfortable voting for such a candidate to higher office if Zapu is ever to dream of one day ruling Zimbabwe.

The advantage Zapu has is that it already has home-grown Shonas in its camp who truly embrace nationalism, devolution of power, respect for human rights, economic stability, accountability and transparency and averse to corruption. This is not the same as parachuting some Shona celebrity figure with no deep party connections and political convictions that are compatible with the Zapu model. Not the Forum Party Dumbuchena or MDC Tsvangirai approach where strangers to democracy where invited to lead pro-democratic institutions with disastrous flouting of established party constitutions and clouding of the big vision to unite and lead Zimbabweans to peace and prosperity.

If Zapu adopts this strategy, they can begin to reap success at the ballot box. What happens to the Ndebele vote at council and general elections? Firstly the current Ndebeles are Shona party lovers to the core, recent elections clearly evidence this. Even if Zapu loses all its Ndebele supporters as a result any votes so lost are insignificant as no Ndebele-led party can dream or let alone achieve electoral success to the point of running a majority government in modern day Zimbabwe which is paralysed by tribal polarity.

Failure to elect a Shona leader leaves Zapu in a dilemma. Zapu is the only party that truly believes in nationalism as a founding liberation principle. If Zapu wants to continue with Ndebele leadership then they have to  accept that they will forever be referred to as a Ndebele party with no prospects of garnering significant votes at council or parliamentary elections. Surely the mother party deserves a fair crack at the top table.
 The alternative is to accept the label of being a Ndebele party and abandon nationalism in favour of regionalism. That would mean targeting only seats from Matabeleland and some parts of Midlands provinces. That would mean that Zapu would have to forget about imagining they can ever rule the country they almost single-handed liberated while Zanla guerillas were busy organising tribal pungwes and procreating future voters. The benefit is that if Zapu becomes a true party of the Ndebeles, they may become a regional power if the strategy is well executed. Zapu may thus become a force to reckon with in their chosen region and possibly force its way to the crowded negotiating table flooded by Shona party representatives. The downside is that Zapu may have to engage in a regional dog-fight with the lowly Mthwakazi parties. Oh how the mighty have fallen will be a rallying cry from over there. But could this be the chance for Zapu to showcase their much lauded credentials of fair play and progressiveness? Who knows? Perhaps the walking dead ex-Zapu leaders in Zanu-pf might finally be rid of their political limbo.
Juliet Gumede is a human rights activist based in the UK. She is writing in her personal capacity.

Source - Juliet Gumede
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