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2018 elections and the opposition

15/03/2017 00:00:00
by Seewell Mashizha
 
 
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GROWING up in the countryside of Zimbabwe or on her dusty streets, fights often broke out between the boys.

These fights were often caused by the flimsiest of reasons. We did not know it then but we were learning fast how to pick a quarrel and how to psyche ourselves for impending conflicts. In all, this some boys always gained folk hero status (amongst ourselves anyway) for the ferocity of their fists.

When a boy became a renowned fighter it did not take long for others to reach the conclusion that only combined effort could achieve an upset. When it became necessary to have ‘joint ventures’ against someone and surprising them when they least expected it, Shona-speaking people called that ‘kukutsirana munhu’ while Ndebele-speakers called it ‘ukuthelela umuntu’.

The art of coalitions and arrangements, therefore, is not unique to politicians. The lesson to be learned is that there is nothing spectacular about coalition except of course the fact that it is a tacit concession of inadequacy on the part the parties concerned. Put simply, where Zimbabwe is concerned, the opposition parties seem to always psyche themselves into subservience. I am conscious that this analysis may go against the grain with many, but in the end even that which is unpleasant must be looked at and acknowledged. It has nothing to do with preference.

Some of us may not know this but Ian Douglas Smith, as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in Southern Rhodesia, introduced sales tax, a regime that has lasted through the years. The Rhodesia Front had foreseen that they were not going to be granted independence by Britain and that they would have to declare it, hence 11 November 1965.

The white government had also foreseen that there was going to be a war with African nationalists and that they would be needing huge sums for the war effort. It is a tribute of some kind to them that through their own efforts they were able to sustain their war effort for some time. I believe it was Smith who first introduced the terms ‘contingency’ and ‘contingency measures into local discourse.

Conversely, the nationalists were also preparing an equal and opposite response, the result of which became independence. The Patriotic Front partners resolved to fight the 1980 elections separately in order to determine the leadership pattern.



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What we keep seeing these days is a circus of parties that do not seem to understand that endearing themselves to the West always tends to create suspicion. None of these countries supported the armed struggle. Therefore, they were against the people’s struggle and cannot suddenly become the champions of African rights.

In Zimbabwe you can count on one hand whites who rose against their people: Jeremy Brickhill was a ZIPRA combatant; Alec Smith (Ian Smith’s adopted son) completely disowned Rhodesian Front politics; Guy Cluttonbrock is at rest at the national heroes’ acre. At one point in the early days of the struggle Terrence Ranger and John Reed, former lecturers at the University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, became persona non-grata and were exiled. These are examples of people united by causes rather than expediency. A comparative look at the protagonists in 2018 is quite revealing.

Like it or not, the liberation movement is a monolith. Take ZANU-PF and take the MDC. In the seventeen years of its existence, the MDC has split into several splinter formations occasioned by personality clashes and oversized dreams: Job Sikhala’s MDC 99, MDC- N, (for a while led by robotics professor, Arthur Mutambara on the basis that in his time he was a firebrand student leader at the University of Zimbabwe) and subsequent other MDC political expressions.

A correspondent writing in 2015 made the following observations:
The original MDC was formed in September 1999. Since then there have been two major breakaway formations, starting with the split of 2005 and another in 2014. They in turn have experienced their own cracks, leading to splinter formations. The first split led to a formation led by Professor Welshman Ncube but it later split into two, with another referred to as MDC-M, led by Professor Arthur Mutambara. Before that split, there had been an earlier fracture, leading to a new formation called MDC-99, led by Job Sikhala.
In 2014, senior MDC officials, Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma broke away from the MDC, forming the MDC Renewal Team. And this week, hardly a year after it broke away, the MDC Renewal Team also split, with Mangoma announcing the formation of the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe, the newest kid on the block. (ZimSitRep_W | June 11, 2015).

Professor Masipula Sithole once wrote about the affinity for schisms that Zimbabweans seem unable to transcend. He said that if a few Zimbabweans were marooned on a desert island and later checked on there was every likelihood that it would be found that they had formed a few more political parties in the interim. This drama is enacted with every new election. Not so long ago we had ZIMPF and now we have the National People’s Party!

I find it difficult to avoid doing a bit of linguistic excavation and sifting. What is it about Zimbabweans and about political parties that keeps them along the ‘new party formation’ trajectory? Perhaps the fault is with the word ‘party’ itself and the connotations around it. A party is a loud social gathering with food and drink in abundance. Attendance is by invitation only and gate crashers are unceremoniously jettisoned. A party is like an eating and drinking orgy and for some it resembles the fabled messianic banquet (agape/love feast) to which faithful believers aspire. Party members have huge appetites and dream of endless feasting. So, forming one’s own party becomes attractive given that it promises fulfillment (never mind the lack of justification).

Presidential elections in the last decade always brought in Wedza peasant Egypt Dzinemunhenzva who faithfully threw his name into the hat of presidential contesters and always lost his deposit. His little act of self-indulgence was finally done and finished in 2013 when Dzinemunhenzva could not raise the deposit. Nevertheless, there was something principled and admirable about Dzinemunhenzva daring to dream. He stands miles apart from the likes of Biti and Welshman Ncube who are often mentioned when ZDERA is discussed.

ZDERA is an act on the statute books of the United States, an act enacted against Zimbabwe as if Zimbabwe was a part of the US. Dzinemunhenzva kept his distance from the machinations of Western envoys and capitals. Granted that Washington and London did not think him a bright prospect.

Their preferred candidates were Tendai Biti and Nelson Chamisa, two men classified as intelligent by the West. There is a lesson to be learned here but which so far has not been grasped by Zimbabwe’s opposition gurus. Any black man that is openly praised or surreptitiously preferred by white people is doomed politically, especially in Zimbabwe.

Such black men tend to be kitchen kaffirs or house niggers and are usually pushing agendas that are inimical to the objectives of liberation war politics. This is an undeniable fact that is borne out by the official behaviour of the USA during the annual black history month.

Invariably, moderate civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King are lionized while radicals like Malcom X and Stokley Carmichael are ignored and even vilified. Significantly, Malcolm X rejected the name ‘Little’ saying it was a name given to his paternal forbears by some blue-eyed devil. Similarly, Carmichael relocated to Guinea and took on the name Kwame Ture in recognition of two of the prominent fathers of Pan-Africanism, Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Toure. What a damning contrast when we see how Biti at one stage was so charmed by Hillary Clinton, then a sure bet for president for most. The man waxed lyrical about having shaken her hand at a Democratic Party Convention! The Zimbabwean voter is thought to be blind to all these goings-on.

Not surprisingly, therefore, our opposition parties spend their time trying to look sexy to the West. They travel to foreign capitals and wail about the need for this or that reform and behave as if the nationals of these countries are Zimbabwean voters. In the 2013 harmonized elections a picture was taken of Tendai Biti (then MDC-T Secretary General), Nelson Chamisa (then in charge of publicity) and Morgan Tsvangirai himself seemingly admiring the ZANU-PF manifesto, and this at an MDC-T rally in Gokwe! Biti later admitted that ZANU-PF had had a clearer message than theirs.

Talking about manifestos, none of the MDC formations has ever addressed the monstrous anomaly that is in their founding manifesto of 1999. The historicity of a central claim in that manifesto is in great doubt.

As part of the cosmetic patchwork that brought together labour and capital (something hitherto unheard of anywhere in the world) the lie was advanced that the first Chimurenga was waged by workers as if there was any organized labour in Zimbabwe by 1895-6, less than a decade after colonization. The wishy-washy language used to talk about the land question in that manifesto was designed to forestall land reform.

There are some black Zimbabweans who weep because a handful of white farmers lost what they said was their land. These converts of imperialism shed no tears for the loss of land and property by the people as settlers grabbed everything and anything. It should be no surprise when 2018 delivers another crushing blow to the medley of opposition parties, singly or in coalition. They have already begun to queue outside the doors of their mentors, on bended knees with hat in hand for a miserly USD5 million! The beauty of it all is that Zimbabwe is looking.

As I said, what must be said must be said. In my next article I will look into ZANU-PF politics in the 21st century

 

 


 
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