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The opposition in Zimbabwe has failed, says Tendai Biti

19 Mar 2014 at 11:39hrs | Views
This is the second part of of a series of MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti's address to a SAPES Trust Policy Dialogue on March 6, 2014, in which he dissects the problems facing his party and other opposition parties that he says have failed to grow from protest movements to viable options to Zanu-PF.

SO  because the response has been the response to individuals, Houphouët-Boigny in Cote d' Ivoire, Siad Barre in Somalia. These huge powerful individuals. Julius Nyerere in Tanzania. There is a danger there. The danger is this, the post-liberation movement because its centred and created out of essentially protest, it fails to actually articulate an alternative substantive,   coherent message beyond the protest message, beyond the protest message it is found wanting. That creates contradictions.

The second contradiction arises out of the fact that because of the post-liberation movement is being formed under the conditions where there is repression and exclusion.

The temptation to reproduce itself asymmetrical to that which it is seeking to replace is there. So the post-liberation movement ends up being a replica of the exhausted nationalist movement that it is trying to replace.

Thirdly, the post-liberation movement enters into massive  contradictions where the transition is delayed or arrested by a number of factors. It could be down to Fascism like the case of Zimbabwe, it could be corruption, co-option. We saw what Mobutu Sese Seiko used to do in the Democratic Republic of Congo ban all the opposition or form the opposition itself. So where the transition becomes delayed or arrested the contradiction in the  post liberation movements becomes acute.

Now of all these factors I have spoken of the biggest challenge facing post-liberation movements is the absence of an alternative message and value system that goes beyond removing the Big Man. Once that discourse, people get exhausted by that discourse, because  people don't eat slogans. In Zimbabwe  for instance, it's not news  that zanu is corrupt. So what? We know that. It's not news that they are stealing. The wedding didn't shock, that's what we expect them to do. That's what is in their DNA. So the challenge is what coherent alternative substantive message are we articulating? None. I argued this with one of my columnist that if nationalism can become exhausted in the Fanonian manner equally post-liberation movements are not unique  to that same level of exhaustion arising out of all these contradictions. If you look now, if you  carry a balance sheet of all post-liberation movements they are in a crisis. And the old nationalist parties are either re-emerging or redesigning themselves.

Let's start with Ghana. Nana Akufo Ado is my friend. He is the person who succeeded president John Kofu. John Kofu led a post-liberation movement but the ruling  party now is a nationalist party. The party of Jerry Rawlings. They have lost two elections now since John Kofu resigned, that's Ghana.

Take Kenya. Kenya redefined nationalist party is now in power led by the son of the founding president. The post liberation movement has got its own challenges.

Take Zambia. The post-liberation movement is no longer in power. MMD is not in power. A redefined nationalist party led by a slightly challenged man is there. But the post liberation movement has regrouped.

If they do not cheat elections in Malawi. The Malawi Congress Party, the party of Kamuzu Banda is going to win that election. So you can not show me a country where the post-liberation movement has not been arrested by its own contradictions. In Senegal, Abdullaye Wade formed the Liberal Party of  Senegal. Fought the nationalist and  the socialist. He got into power. Now nobody wants to see him. If you want to be shot just mention his name and  I actually love him he was quite a wonderful gentleman. And that  again is the proof  of the  contradictions  of the post-liberation movement. Why? Because  we failed to articulate an alternative  coherent message beyond  attack on the big man and it's easy to attack the  big  man.  The big man is loose, the big  man has many wives. The big man is the big man. But at a certain stage  that message  becomes exhausted and elastic. I think  that  two  things  need to happen.

The opposition  movement,  the democratic movement . I am not talking about  any  political party,  I am talking about all  of us: zanu Ndoga, Welshman Ncube's party, Job Sikhala's party, Cde Dabengwa's party, Cde Simba's party, all of us must go back to basics and say number one, can  we  go back  to the value  system , can we refocus our attention on a value system. We call ourselves social democrats. Let's do that. Lets return to values, Lets return to values. When we came up with a symbol of an open hand it was values, we are open. Each of these little fingers stood for something that was so fundamental. It's the finding of the article 3 of the MDC constitution. The values a defined in article 4 of the constitution and these constitutions are more or less the same. Let's go back to values because it's the values  that  made us run away from the Big Man's party in first instance. The culture of  corruption, the culture of violence, the culture of purging , the culture of predatoryness.

Number 2, lets refocus on the  central strategic objectives and  as far as I am concerned the central strategic objective is to achieve a new democratic society. I don't remember the struggle being about individuals. It has never  been about   individuals. It has always been about people and liberating people from current quagmire of failed liberation rule. Now we are making the  mistake of reproducing the personalised agenda of liberation movements. So naturally number 3 has to be the depersonalisation of our own struggle and focusing on the issues.

Number 4 I think we  must learn  from  2013 and the lesson from the 2013 is difficult. The political economy of Zimbabwe has changed dramatically whereas in 1999  60 percent to 70 percent of the working people in Zimbabwe were in informal employment. In 2013 and 2014, 84 percent  of the population is in the informal sector. So whereas, the MDC could be successfully formed on the basis  of the structures the labour movement  had. There  is hardly any formal workforce worth talking about. Now the challenge  with the informal sector is that it operates on predation it operates on patronage. If you want to get a table at Mupedzanhamo in Mbare the local Zanu-PF person has got to give you that table. If you want a hole in Chegutu (vano ati makomba) to dig for gold some Zanu-PF  official has got to give you that. If you are a cross border and you want to walk through the airport or the border post unchallenged there has to be some  patronage somewhere. So the economy has changed and destroyed the social base that official opposition  in Zimbabwe  relied on. It cannot be business as usual.

So the lesson from 2013 is how we respond to this changing politically economy of the country. In my respective view I think that as far as I am concerned it is no longer possible in post 2013 Zimbabwe for anyone with a little party to dream that he or she can challenge the ruling party on his own. I think that we need to move to a new form of politics in Zimbabwe that is inclusive, that is de-personalised and one of the things political parties in Zimbabwe must know is the capacity of forming broad or united coalitions or alliances.

Broad united alliances. We have to understand that. In 2008 Morgan Tsvangirai would not be the president of the country because of nine percent votes that went to Dr Simba Makoni. Recently the MDC lost a seat, by-election seat in Mbare Sunningdale by eight votes. If the MDC had worked with Dr Madhuku's party, Dr Madhuku's party got 15 seats (read votes). So if the two of them had worked together. If the two MDCs, one led by Prof Ncube and the one led  by Dr Tsvangirai, had worked together in the 2013 general elections they would have formed, they would have won sufficient seats, not to win the election but to have a constitutional blocking number in Parliament. zanu has got two thirds majority, if they had worked together they would have achieved sufficient numbers to block, to deny Zanu-PF the power to change the Constitution. So in my respective view we have to have these coalitions. I do not believe that we must form one united party. I think that is wrong and I think that it is the same nationalist party mentality.

But let's form these alliances, let's have memorandums of agreement firstly based on values and principles not opportunistic arrangements of wanting to win an election at that time.

And part of the problem with the liberation movement which I have experienced in some way is that at the time we  formed these organisations we were a salad we did not actually say as all organizations do, what really are our values, what really are our rules which bind us. So if you are a Christian Democratic party, you know that Christianity is important. So if anyone is going to misbehave or breach the 10 commandments, there is a line you can't cross but we did not do that because we were a broad church. We had Eddie Cross alongside Munyaradzi which is a contradiction in its own terms.

It's better to simply say, this is what we believe in then discipline becomes also not a problem because we all know what have signed to. Even a burial society has got rules. I don't know of any organisation, may be Dynamos, which doesn't have rules. You need rules. I belong to the Anglican Church, there are things which other churches do which we don't do. I was at a funeral, some of you were there, of the great Judith Madzorera, two days ago. She went to a Pentecostal church. There are things there, which my Church, infact my pastor actually came, Father Bicente, we just looked at each other because there are things they do there which we don't do at the Anglican Church. So each church must has its own rules more so a political party. Because if you are a Christian Democrat so be it, if you are a Liberal Democrat so be it, if you a Social Democrat so be it. Be social democrat in action and in reality because social democracy and those who founded it demands certain obligations.

The fourth thing which I think is critical is that let's build a coalition of champions, a coalition of winners, a coalition of performers. I think one of the greatest crimes of African politics is this arrest by politics of personalities, big name people, deification of leaders. You go to rallies, every song is about the leader, and I don't think that is on.

Let's have a team, let's build teams and as far as I know Zimbabweans they are fantastic people with different skills. So let's have a chemistry alchemy of these individuals because no man is an island, no man knows everything. In Zimbabwe right now we are blessed in that we have people like myself who have been in the trenches for a long time and we have people who are outside who are so fresh and free.

Then we have people who have been inside Zimbabwe but not in the direct firing line. Take yourself Professor. So there are certain things that we know, that I know. I know how to organize because I have been there, I know how  to do slogan, but you who are at a distance there are things which you can unpack from a three dimensional point of view which I can't do because I have been too much in the kitchen. You see when you are too much in the kitchen you forget that salt and sugar are different. You are taking short cuts. You understand what I mean? For instance if in 2013 if we had many of you in the democratic movement as a whole. I am quite sure you guys would have said we can't participate in these elections. But you see when we are in the kitchen now and we go to Chitungwiza and there are so many women singing ‘chinja chinja' and you say yah tirikurova mudhara tiri bhoo. So this cross pollination is key. Its built for a coalition of winners of de personalised lines is very clean.

Infact if it were me I would actually push to go the American way, you have the chairman of the party in the structures but for the presidential candidate you have a separate college for him, it's a different process. That way the best people will win. That's my personal opinion.

Number 6, I think that is important as Zimbabweans for the democratic movement to have number 1 a message, message, and message. The message of no to the big man is exhausted. Let's have a message. Messages are keys. Zanu in the last elections had a very simple message, ‘bhora mugedhi'. Even a little woman in Chiendambuya, Dotito just knew one thing,' bhora mugedhi'. Perhaps we were too sophisticated, but what was our message. Because the message of 2000 is not the message now. When we were selling hope and dreams, zanu-pf was selling practical reality, we are going to give you a farm, it's there. We are going to give you $5000 through Kasukuwere's ministry. So how do we transit and balance the message of hope with the message of immediate delivery? I don't think we did well in 2013. But a message is just a slogan, its mascara, its make-up, what is the substance? what is the substance? And this is where we need to articulate an alternative value system. We failed. What was our position ON indigenisation, yes we had Juice , you know yes Juice was very good but trying to explain it to Mai Ezra in Chiendambuya, you understand what I am  saying? So the issue of articulating an alternative discourse which is walked and lived is very important. The next thing which is key in the democratic movement is internal democracy. We can't create movements to fight and champion democracy in the ruling party and not in our own organisation. It can't, it's a lie, and it's a contradiction in terms. So internal democracy is key. We have to be tested by the same yard stick that we are putting the ruling party and the tired liberation movement to the test. We actually must pass that test more and so forth.

Number 7. The greatest lesson of the day is that we have to build trust. But trust is not built by trust. Trust is built by mistrust. If we build trust through trust, we have got a problem. Am I clear or? You see part of our problem in these movements is that, because our politics is personal. I know Irene Petras very, very well. I can, if she were ever to leave the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights I can write an honest resume for her. She is an honest, upright hard working Zimbabwean woman. But if she has to join a political party, I must totally mistrust her. I must assume that if Irene Petras was to be my secretary general she is going to be worse than Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Therefore for me to have trust in her I must mistrust her. The problem of post- liberation movement is that we have tried to build trust on trust instead of building trust through mistrust. That is what we need to do. That is what we need to do. I do not know where I am.

Number 9. I don't know where I am, its institutions, institutions. We have to have faith in institutions, because munhu wenyama munhu wenyama. A human being is a human being. So let's put faith in institutions. National level, the judiciary, the press and so forth. In organisations, committees, systems, accountability and so forth. So building institutions is key. Putting our faith in institutions because individuals come and go but institutions are always there. So are those institutions strong?  Are those institutions democratic? Are those institutions accountable? Are those institutions functional? We have to do that. We have to put our faith in institutions as opposed to individuals. Because we are human beings, if we have to build lasting solutions we built lasting solutions on the basis of mistrust.

I like the American constitution. I am a greatest admirer of Thomas Jefferson. The American constitutions is one based on mistrust, that an individual can be another monarch, can be another King George.  And this tension between the federal state and the state is actually deliberate. It's a constitution founded on trust. The problem in Zimbabwe is that we try to build trust on trust. So a fool goes on a wedding and say I do and another one I do but that very minute he or she is texting a boyfriend or a girlfriend somewhere. But if those two people were to come before a lawyer, we draft a big agreement like this: ‘Whereas fool X has decided to marry fool Y. Whereas it is foreseeable that fool y has capacity for the opposite sex, therefore . . .'

So at least lawyers we build agreement on trust. The agreement itself is the essence of trust but is built on mistrust.

That's why the longest provisions and agreement are the breach clauses. If this happens this is what is going to happen. That should happen in political parties. That should happen in country constitutions. Build trust on the basis of mistrust.

Source - zimpapers
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