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Grand Coalition: Cdes without a Code

04 Jun 2016 at 09:07hrs | Views
No sooner have they come together than they had forgotten the code that brought them together. That is the story of our opposition, and their famed grand coalition that was hyped to tediousness by the media. Then the People First was an idea, more attractive in promise than in reality. Those of us who have watched opposition politics for a little longer kept warning this is the beauty of far away rains, as the Shonas say. Get caught up in the drizzle, and distant smooth azure beauty gives way to something horrible. I was dismissed as wishing ill-luck to the newly begotten. Typical Zimbabwean political reasoning: refusal to acknowledge what the DNA points towards, a fool's hope that outstrips hard fact. Now they have it, and have it in abundance.

Too costly, too, too costly to marry
Joice is struggling to keep her thing together, a thing threatening to eat her up. It did not need a conjurer to know that, only a dispassionate analysis of characters involved. The trouble in this country is that an invitation to analysis is an excuse to exhibit one's hatred of ZANU-PF. A false sense that if you acknowledge opposition's constitutive weakness, you have accepted or endorsed ZANU-PF's formidableness. Or vice-versa. Now the very media that used to defend Mujuru are in the frontline of telling us the ruckus that is already gnawing the thing from within, but without admitting that each official amounted to a seam of weakness at birth.

We hear it is Mutasa versus Mujuru. No, it is the rest against Nguni, Matonga, etc, etc. Or Matonga versus Nguni, with the latter facing the charge that he still behaves as if he is "a minister of state in the Vice President's Office". Nothing new really, just maladjustment. My instalment made that point, namely that the biggest challenge to Mujuru's party was freeing itself from the party that sired her, the party she needs, but she must defeat. Now before she is even a brand, she has become a cost for all to see, too costly to entice any hopes for a grand coalition so-called. We shall see how she pulls through this one. She needs much more than a plaintive voice; she needs acumen which she has never had, judging by her days in ZANU-PF.

Typical dilemma for them all
And this whole ruse about a vote of no confidence was an attempt to paper over the cracks, an attempt to soar above chasms of divisions in the hope of forging a singleness of purpose where none exists. If truth be said, no self-respecting MP will ever want to jeopardise their 2018 prospects for this one. Ask mudhara Lule, aka Bhasikiti, and he will tell you that Mwenezi has proved a hard nut to crack, never mind the tones and tones of wildlife meat his party has deployed. The villagers simply take the meat and then withdraw to their ZANU-PF pieces of land, homes. Ungavadii? Or mudhara Mavhaire, who has been trying in Chiredzi. The going has been truly tough for this workhorse, one which everyone in People First hoped was going to pull a good surprise. Ndoozvazviri. MuZanu-PF hamubudiwi. As for mudhara Mutasa, well the graveyard has better whispers than his gasp. He does not know whither to go: forward into opposition with all the threats of litigation from people he is supposed to be sharing the anti-Zanu-PF fight with, or back to the ZANU-PF cell with all the ignominy but with all the security he so sorely needs. It is a dilemma which will visit all the members of People First, a dilemma much more formidable than losing elections in 2018.

Neither fast nor far
Now back to the Comrades without a Code to regulate their conduct. We are told that all the small parties have come together to form what they term Coalition of Democrats, CODE. And in Zimbabwean denial nomenclature "small" means "weak". The Simbas, the Welshmans, the Eltons and humwe hurubvurubvu hune mazita asina mushumo. Vese vabatanidza their weaknesses to create this thing they call CODE. And Tendai Biti was there, in attendance, but without signing up to the CODE. Listen to him: "if you want to go fast go alone [but] if you want to go far go with others". Which is to say? I mean his non-committal, standoffish stance? That he neither wishes to go fast or far? Well, both shall be granted him, duly served him as he surely knows. But the moment gave him a fleeting sense of bigness: the only "small" party among reviled weaklings. Promises of backing from the likes of Dabengwa, and People First about whose weaknesses the opening paragraphs were.

Fitting portion for he who does not have a dog
So how has the MDC-T, another "small" party, reacted to this piece of news? Cleverly I must say. It has dusted off NERA, National Election Reform Agenda, and posited it as a counterpoint. So we have CODE. So we have NERA. So we have both aspiring to be a grand coalition! Says Mwonzora: "We do not just join. Why should we join them? We are a mass party and the MDC-T is against anything that looks like an elite pact. We do not know their logic, what they stand for, their objectives and some of them were heard saying they did not want MDC-T to be part of them. We have the numbers, the talent, vision and determination to remove Mugabe."

There is a huge problem with such an incisive response from MDC-T. Firstly, a fellow opposition party does not know what other opposition parties that have come together stand for? Where does that leave the opposition agenda? In tatters, truly. Elites? Where does that leave ZANU-PF? With little else to do now that the demolition is being done from within. Who knows the opposition better than fellow opposition parties? So go ye and plan for the jugular, dear ZANU-PF. Rumours? Oh good Lord, that stage of antediluvian politics where supposedly big men succumb to little talk of the village. The missile is aimed at Biti, no doubt. Makoni has joined MDC-T before, fought for and lost a constituency under their banner in the last election. As for Welshman, his last instalment was to say let all parties — MDC-T included — be part of the grand coalition. Not quite goodwill, but a recognition and acceptance of the hard fact of own weakness. Another wise Shona saying: if you don't bring your own dog to the hunting party, even a portion of the skin is generous enough. We have the numbers? Ego politics at play and Mafume may preach and preach on the virtues of humility but in politics, dear boy, humility is a lot and obligation of the weak. The strong will dictate terms. And in the opposition camp, MDC-T is in a position of relative strength.

A look at history
I will deliberately avoid reference to ZANU-PF given that the MDC-T is not picking on ZANU-PF as its interlocutor. It has discharged a hefty put-down on fellow opposition. We shall keep it that way, knowing pretty well that the relationship between ZANU-PF and MDC-T is much more complex, a little more interwoven than Zimbabwe's binary discourse would seem to suggest. More of that some day. Let us go back in history and look at how attempts at coalition politics have fared in our clime. Of course 1974 is a good starting point, where the then well-meaning Muzorewa was helped to launch the ANC by all the parties: ZANU, ZAPU, Frolizi. He was a caretaker. More significantly, it was a moment of weakness for the fighting forces, what with the detente taking its toll, and before long with the rebellions and death of Chitepo. ZAPU had suffered its own rebellion in 1971, creating Frolizi under Chikerema and Nyandoro. It had also lost key cadres like Mujuru who had defected to ZANU. ZANU itself still did not have the numbers, the critical mass to raise a fighting machine equal to the task, what with the rethink of strategy post-Chinhoyi. And with the Nhari rebellion, it bled even more. Lesson number one: parties do not come together to invent strength; rather they come together from the necessity of weakness all to rebuild own strength for separate futures. Such fitful coalitions need a Peace Commission-like event as a prologue, and of course a beguiling outsider like the good late bishop. Neither exist presently.

No vision, no depth
Lesson number two: under the guise of unity, focused parties do forge ahead with own agenda. In the case of ZANU, it was under the slogan tambawakachenjera, play it clever, which meant use the false unity to intensify recruitment of cadres for the armed struggle. Unity does not bend objectives. It gets noble objectives to be pursued discreetly under different conditions. The overarching goal was liberating the country through armed struggle. The 1974 unity was a dissembling moment to gain strength. Work for the liberation project intensified and indeed after 1976, results began to show for Zanla, and 1977 for Zipra. And with both liberation movements showing massive gains on the ground, it was a lot easier to engage each other yet again, but without the quisling parties which had discredited themselves anyway. Again an external exigency was key: Geneva Conference. Not so much for what it portended by way of resolution of the Rhodesia question as for the imperative of unity which it dramatised for the fighting forces. They needed to meet the Rhodesians under one political umbrella, which is how the Patriotic Front was formed. The agenda was the same, the external exigency was felt mutually. To that add the Frontline States and you have all that it took for the Front to hold. The bottom line is there has to be a depth of cause, and compelling externalities for that unity to take hold. Now, if one listens to Welshman who childishly says let's oust ZANU-PF first and then decide on the aftermath, you are just struck by the sheer lack of vision and depth. Or Mwonzora who says we have the numbers to defeat Mugabe. Chete? Mozodii? And what they become after the imagined defeat of ZANU-PF is not hard to imagine: just look at their tenure between 2008-2013. You cannot hope to build harmony over a depth-less cause, over nothing beyond removal of a person, a party. The Patriotic Front had a clear vision of a free, independent Zimbabwe governed by the majority, and in charge of natural resources, principally land. Who would beat that?

From war to electoral politics
There is a political test, too, to the search for unity. The 1980 elections were not fought by the Patriotic Front under one banner. This is a touchy subject, but we should be bold enough to confront it at this stage in our political evolution. Quite a number of issues remained unresolved or postponed under the Patriotic Front. On the ground the spheres of fighting influence remained contested. In some cases even key battles and points remained claimed by both sides. While ZAPU wanted to fight elections under one banner, ZANU was unwilling. Regrettably but inevitably, the veneer of Patriotic Front soon gave way to ZANU and ZAPU as distinct electoral parties. What the war had done to the political consciousness of the masses had to be quantified by organisation. And that happened, suggesting ZANU had morphed from being a small, "elite" party it was derogatorily called at its founding, to being a majority movement. Still it needed to be a national movement, which is how it invited its wartime ally, ZAPU, to govern together. For ZAPU controlled the western part of Zimbabwe, where politics and ethnicity seemed to coincide, the same way ZAPU would say of ZANU and its dominance of Mashonaland. The future would not be smooth, easy, but each party knew its relative strength, which is what guaranteed the Unity Accord of 1987. And the key lesson is that while you win by the majority, you govern through national legitimacy, national cohesion, which is what the 1987, Accord gave to the parties. There was a key goal to be attained, that of national unity.

Otherwise NERA
When you read all this against the 2008 fiasco, you discover there is no basis for comparison. ZANU-PF had played treachery on itself in 2008, and was, as a result, facing encirclement externally. It needed an unlikely bedfellow in the name of MDC-T, the West's Trojan Horse, to survive. This was a tactical position, not a policy objective. Quite new to power, quite inexperienced, ZANU-PF did not need to do much to lull the Trojan Horse to sleep. In an act of political genius, Mugabe exhausted MDC-T's wish-list such that by the third year into the coalition, the MDC-T was beginning to sleep cosily in ZANU-PF's blanket. It had run out of grievances, even inventing new ones on a surly day. I recall one day when Mugabe asked his inner circle: we have exhausted their wish list, what more can they ask for? By that time the MDC-T was not only losing focus; the whole establishment had won accolades as democratic under a supposedly autocratic Mugabe. Far more than ZANU-PF itself, Tsvangirai was doing more PR for Mugabe than Mugabe had ever bargained for. But the clock ticked, and with it the reintroduction of differentiated politics under different political banners. With a baneful partner, unity is a matter of convenience, of time, of opportunity. Only Comrades can have a Code. Otherwise, NERA, never real agreement. The lessons are clear from history.

Chanetsa chiiko?


Source - the herald
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