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Let the 2013 Real Change Winner be Democracy …and If its Zanu-PF so let it be!

13 Mar 2013 at 10:34hrs | Views
Considering the unfolding events in the Zimbabwean political scene today, it would appear history constantly repeats itself. But then again, as it pans out, Zimbabweans, a so called 'educated' lot are known for irresponsibly and contemptuously dismissing the past only to resurrect it when it only suits their selfish ends. In diplomatic terms,  Zimbabweans never care or learn from their past but are caught in a time warp. The inconvenient truth is, Zimbabweans don't want to learn or REASON but remain emotional in all their decision making, even in important matters such as voting. That said, it is scary that the year 2013 presents us with a now or never opportunity to REASON and therefore chart our destiny as a people.

To begin with, between 2011 and 2013, particularly in opposition circles the question of coalition between the two bigger MDCs has emerged as a key issue in the Zimbabwean public debate, discourse and rhetoric. While the importance of the coalition is seldom contested, the meaning and how to go about it has been subject to fragmented understandings and vague interpretations mostly shaped by pride and prejudice. This article implores the people of Zimbabwe to look into two critical periods  in the history of Zimbabwe when casting their all important vote in 2013.  The two periods, I believe, are also important for political parties including Zanu-PF when making decisions on coalitions. These two periods are: the founding of Southern Rhodesia in 1890 and the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980.

In 1890 Rhodesia, was created as a business enterprise owned and directed by the BIG MAN Cecil John Rhodes's British South Africa Company(BSAC). This was one of the most evil enterprises characterised by vast injustice, land grabs and racial oppression by the company. In spite of the evils, the company developed great infrastructure including the only railway networks we still see and use today. In 1923, that is 33 years later, Southern Rhodesia had a chance to reform. A responsible government was established but it forgot to address serious issues hiding behind the idea that they had to get rid of the cult of Rhodes. The most serious of these issues was the plight of the oppressed black man which was ignored and the result was a fully fledged liberation struggle were thousands of needless blood was spilt, when it could have been avoided by assuming the Zambian or Malawi then Nyasaland templates.

Fast forward 1980, exactly 90 years later after Rhodesia was founded, Zimbabwe was established, again as a private enterprise owned and directed by BIG MAN Robert Gabriel Mugabe's Zanu-PF party which pursued a one party state. Riding on the liberation struggle credentials the party, just like the BSAC, committed many injustices, plunder, corruption and genocides. The only difference is that, it did not leave but destroyed infrastructure and continues to subjugate and hold the whole country at ransom as payment for the price of liberating us (Takakusunungurayi). And again, 33 years later, 2013, an opportunity has arisen for Zimbabwe not to make the half-baked decisions of 1923 or to do the obvious and sensible thing and break away from it sordid past hence change the course of history. It must be said, the anger and commitment to remove the current Cecil John Rhodes's BSAC in the form of Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF should not blind us to the fact that we need greater than removing him (Mugabe must go mantra). And if Zanu-PF can reform to become a truly national democratic entity, then it might as well continue. And just as race determined the 1923 failure, ethnicity may determine the 2013 failure.

We are presented with three potential coalitions before or after the 2013 elections namely the MDC-T/MDC-Green, the Zanu-PF/MDC -T and the Zanu-PF/MDC-Green coalitions. First lets look at the different parties independently and how they have  fared in the recent past.  Of course there is a serious risk that criticism of a so called 'people's party' might be misconstrued to represent hostility towards them as a social group and political party. I am aware that legitimate criticism can all too easily give way to rather more disturbing and vilification of a people. It is not my intention to alienate others, but my fundamental motivation is to make sure that as an 'educated' people we don't fall into the pitfalls of the past (1923), those of making permanent decisions on temporary setbacks.

Guqula izenzo, chinja maitiro
First, the MDC-T has commanded widespread respect and full acceptance since its formation in 1999 when it was part of the original MDC. It achieved the eluding obstacle of transcending the Nkomo-Mugabe country by garnering votes in both Matabeleland and Mashonaland. A new political era that saw beyond ethnicity was born in Zimbabwean politics. The leader Mr Morgan Tswangirayi, who though cast to the forefront  ahead of Gibson Sibanda because of ethnicity as he says in his book "At the Deep End"displayed great bravery against a ruthless Zanu-PF machinery. This success came about simply because the MDC had adopted a culture of collective democratic system and shunned the BIG MAN approach of MUGABE's Zanu-PF..

In this election the clamour for coalition is greatest in MDC-T as it is bound to be the greatest loser considering the support it had in 1999. For its success in this election the MDC-T is to a large extent dependent on a coalition being formed as the party has waned to a point that it cannot go on its own. Outside corruption, incompetence, the split, sleeping around or Morgan Tswangirayi thinking he is an untouchable main actor in the form of Steven Seagal,  four main factors contribute to the MDC-T's demise.  First, the MDC-T despite presenting JUICE, a pie-in-the sky policy borrowed from their Western advisors and improved from their last election manifesto but still not well thought through, it has shown no other objective than to  remove Mugabe and yet Zimbabwe problems are greater than removing the octogenarian Mugabe. Second, the party has failed to reform, let alone evolve from the outdated BIG MAN tribal politics. Replacing Zanu-PF means moving away from the Zanu-PF way of doing things. But in less than five years the MDC-T has done just about everything that Zanu-PF has done except commit a genocide. Like Zanu-PF the party has grown to a cult, it is no longer about a collective but about an individual (BIG MAN) such that even if he commits blunder after blunder, he remains the indispensable Morgan.. If Zanu-PF is MUGABE then MDC-T is MORGAN (Morgan is more or SAVE as he is affectionately known).

Third, after transcending the Mugabe-Nkomo country the MDC-T post 2005 split has taken ethnicity for granted. Morgan has shown great disregard for the people of Matabeleland  (his original support base), a people who are known for attending every rally but to speak loudly and in principle at the ballot box. These are people who have proven time and again that they can move beyond ethnicity when casting their vote and this is what it seems Morgan has taken for granted.

Tswangirayi's oversight has contributed to MDC Green gaining massive ground and Mugabe and his Zanu-PF receiving sympathy in Matabeleland because he can address crowds in isiNdebele, whether it's a graduation at NUST or a funeral in Tsholotsho while the ignorant Tswangirayi will arrogantly address crowds in ChiShona in deep Matabeleland and see no problem with this. One wonders why his learned advisors have still not realised that constantly labelling Welshman Ncube as a regionalist or tribalist is a projection that rubs people from Southern part of the country the wrong way. You would think by now they know that tribalism is the mobilisation of ethnically conscious people to ferment political enmity and disunity in ethnic groups and the result is treating other people as outcasts and that can only breed contempt and dislike. The MDC-T does that well and is oblivious of it and very soon it will bite back. Fourth the MDC-T has been labelled as Western stooges/puppet (Tshombe or sell out) and in Africa when one is given that tag they might as well forget about winning any election. Kenya's Raila Odinga knows it well. As a result, the MDC-T needs a coalition to move away from this tag and consolidate its position as a viable political party otherwise 2013 could be the end of its illustrious existence.

Then there is Zanu-PF
The party like any other Western stooge, won endless awards including a  knighthood for its dear leader in the face of corruption, violence, genocide, vote rigging and gross maladministration. It must be noted, this happened in the first twenty years of Zanu-PF's reign. The West did not care about the human rights abuses as long as its kith and kins' farms and business interests were protected and blacks as usual were killing  each other like flies. Of course during this time Zanu-PF was and continues to be an alliance of political patrons united not in a vision of the future but rather the determination to hold onto political office or power at all cost because crimes of the past, particularly Gukurahundi which still hovers over their heads like a double edged sword. The post 2000 Zanu-PF has an upper hand over MDC-T because of its ability to reform its strategy (war vet compensation/land reform/indegenisation) rather than renew its body politic.

Under the ideological guise of Marxism-Leninism Zanu-PF has cast away the Western stooge mantle by embarking on a reformist course that cannot be ignored. Although poorly executed indigenisation and land redistribution has won a lot of people's hearts, both local and international. The resentment that many had against Zanu-PF has been mitigated by these two projects, of course save for Gukurahundi which remains sticking out like a sore thumb.  

The Green party
MDC-Green  after Mutambara has proven to be an integral part of Zimbabwean politics that cannot be ignored by either Zanu-PF or MDC-T because of four main things. First, it has been the only squeaky clean party in the GNU while the other two have been involved in all manner of violence and corruption ranging from fraud to outright stealing. Unlike the other two parties whose aspiring celebrity candidates have been forging each other's signatures or rewarding themselves with large pieces of urban land and building 3million dollar mansions.   The party has been so consistent in the GNU and in the constitution negotiation process, such that its leader has been sidelined in many meetings to an extent that SADC has had to intervene. Second the party has been working with various communities across the country, painting schools, donating soccer balls and embarking on animal rearing projects in villages amongst other things. Third,  the party has proven to be Pan-Africanist in word and deed to the point of attracting animosity from the West as reflected by the shoddy Hardtalk interview and the calls for Ncube's elimination by the American diplomat Christopher Dell. Fourth the party has moved away from the cult approach that is clear in Mugabe's Zanu-PF and Tswangirayi's MDC-T through a process of genuine leadership renewal in line with the original MDC constitution. Welshman Ncube is just the leader who can only serve a maximum of two terms and can be replaced or recalled as decisions are made in a collective as opposed to the individual big man (shefu) approach used by other political parties.

The MDC Green party is faced with two blemishes. First Ncube is not the conventional Zimbabwean as advanced by the backward, old fshioned narrow minded narrative of the 1979 Grand Plan. It seems one cannot be Ndebele, Manyika, Kalanga, Tonga, Nambya, Sotho, Ndau, Shangani or white and be imagined as a Zimbabwean leader. In the 'educated' Zimbabwe one wonders why elections still remain an ethnic census. The second blemish is the needless Mutambara fiasco. It is embarrassing that a whole Professor is seen live on TV handing over power only to renege later and in the process disrespecting the people of Zimbabwe.

It is therefore these political backgrounds of the three political parties that the majority centre should decide on or be considered when one is looking at possible coalitions. The coalitions should not only benefit the parties but Zimbabwe at large. The MDC-T and MDC Green coalition is possible but can be impossible if the easy route is chosen. There are three conditions for it to succeed. First, the unified MDC has to revert to the 1999 congress and its terms of reference which state that a leader can only serve two terms. That means Tswangirayi cannot be president of the unified/combined MDC again, even though he could be nominated for the presidential candidate for 2013 election.  Welshman Ncube cannot be secretary-general again and can most likely to be the new president of the united MDC if the unification congress endorses him. Second, MDC-T has to cut ties with the West and be Pan-Africanist through and through. Third, MDC-T has to cease being a Zanu-PF copycat and do away with the culture of violence and corruption and Morgan Tswangirayi should prove that he can be trusted to keep his word again. And the report on the 2005 split should made public so that everyone knows the truth behind the break-up with those found wanting making public apologies.

This will benefit the country in a number of ways, symbolically the Nkomo-Mugabe country designed by the British on ethnic grounds will be done away with for good and the narrative of mwana wevhu (son of the soil) restored, a narrative that fights for justice and protects the minority, downtrodden and oppressed. The MDC can emerge stronger and transparent and remove Zanu-PF not only in word but in deed too. Thirdly gross injustices of the past and the land redistribution can be re-traced and dealt with in a transparent, fair and just way.

The second possible coalition is that of Zanu-PF and MDC-T. This coalition is very possible but will be beneficial only to the two parties.. This will be a revisit of one-partyism based on ethnicity with deeply ingrained self-interest and there are no compromises expected here. Mugabe will become president and Tswangirayi prime minister with Mutambara keeping his deputy post. Probably in the short-run Tswangirayi will succeed Mugabe while Mnangagwa takes the prime minister post. The two parties will forgive each other of Gukurahundi, corruption and injustice can continue as it has been in the GNU and there is no way back for Zimbabwe but to go the Nigerian route.  That will mean the eternal marginalisation of Matabeleland and 2018 will be difficult to reach without a fully fledged civil war or secession just like the liberation struggle.

The third possible coalition is the MDC-Green and Zanu-PF. Although this is most unlikey due to Gukurahundi, this will effectively end the existence of the MDC-T. But is only possible with a post Mugabe reformed Zanu-PF minus Gukurahundists and can only work with a restorative justice agenda in order to secure the future of Zimbabwe. Zanu-PF and ZAPU cannot be ignored because they carry with them the liberation struggle credentials and MDC-Green has  in much common with them due to its Pan-Africanism ideals and the fact that they are both hated by the West because of principle.

Of course each of the three parties needs a majority but I firmly believe a reformed post Mugabe Zanu-PF and an MDC-Green coalition would pursue more progressive nationalist policies, stronger electoral reform,  and a more intelligent relationship with the rest of the world.

Whichever way we look at it the prospect for a coalition looms large.

That said, Zimbabweans have to cast aside their egos and tribal blinkers and do what is right for the country and the future generations. Voting for an unreformed Mugabe will be a reflection on Zimbabweans as a dull and backward people not capable of making informed decisions despite the literacy they have. In fact that will be sufficient evidence that the literacy they have is Mugabe literacy. The less said about an un-reformed Tswangirayi, Zimbabwe will be no different to these women that he abuses with impunity and only emerge a Chuck Norris out of it. To allow ethnicity to prevail at this day and age, which is the only reason that MDC-Green can be rejected at this critical juncture will certainly prove that Zimbabweans are a joke and have not learnt from the suffering that was visited on them by the tribal warlords who authored the 1979 Grand Plan or the 1923 'irresponsible government'.

Tshepo Mabalane Mabalane can be contacted at email:

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Source - Tshepo Mabalane Mabalane
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