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By Mutumwa D. Mawere

THE word paradox is often used interchangeably and wrongly with contradiction but whereas a contradiction asserts its own opposite, many paradoxes do allow for resolution of some kind.

The recognition of ambiguities, equivocations and unstated assumptions underlying known Zimbabwean leadership paradoxes has led to significant and material confusion among the contenders for power to the extent that the real focus on the change agenda has become obfuscated.

Twenty-seven is a significant number in Southern Africa. One of Africa’s most illustrious sons, former President Mandela, spent 27 years in prison in as much as President Robert Mugabe and Kenneth Kaunda have spent the same amount of time in power.

When Mandela was released from prison, it was obvious to the custodians of apartheid as it was to its victims that change had to come and the new order could not accommodate the old order. There was no discussion of any third way but a new direction informed by new values and political morality.

When Zambians speaking eloquently through the ballot forced President Kaunda out of office, it was obvious that country needed a new beginning without him. However, President Kaunda like many African leaders, has not accepted that he was responsible for lowering the standards of political leadership in his country and for giving birth to Frederick Chiluba.

When Chiluba took over, the country was a basket case and at the time people used to refer euphemistically to KK (being the President’s initials) as Kwacha Killer. Indeed, the kwacha was battered by KK’s policies and after 27 years of misguided humanistic policies, Zambians were poorer than at independence.

Zambia’s brain trust was largely externalised and those that remained were too afraid to be the change they wanted and left the job to the trade union movement to promote the change agenda.

Today, it is not surprising that President Kaunda is one of the public admirers of President Mugabe. He feels strongly that Zambians made a mistake by electing President Chiluba and in a sense he also feels that Zimbabweans will make the same mistake if they were to elect anyone from the trade union movement.

Unfortunately, President Kaunda had no choice in deciding his successor and never woke up to the fact that through his policies and programs he had denied his fellow countrymen the right to decide their political destiny.

The risks associated with challenging the hegemony of ruling parties in Africa are well known and are no different from the ones that prevailed under a colonial state. As a result, the successors to tyrannical regimes need not fit into an intellectually defined straight jacket.

Mandela became a leader because he symbolised the suffering of the majority. If he had not spent 27 years in prison, he may never have acquired the iconic status he has today or become the founding father of South Africa. Equally if President Chiluba was not a victim of Kaunda’s policies, Zambians may never have voted him into office.

In the case of Zimbabwe, can it be the case that people who have not endured the suffering of the bad policies of Mugabe will be the beneficiaries?

Arguments have been advanced that the problem in Zimbabwe is that the opposition has no credible leadership and, therefore, the prospect of unseating President Mugabe is remote. What is undisputed however is the fact that Morgan Tsvangirai has given more headaches to Mugabe than anyone has in the last 27 years.

Zimbabwe has known of no other leader than President Mugabe. As Mugabe approaches 28 years in office and an election whose outcome may already be pre-determined not because of the will of the people but due to the power of incumbency, it is important that Zimbabweans ask themselves some basic questions whose answers will inform what kind of Zimbabwe they should have.

Having watched Arthur Mutambara’s BBC Hardtalk interview, and his paradoxical message, it occurred to me that it is important that the question of succession and leadership be interrogated critically now more than ever.

While it is undeniable that Mugabe is an eloquent and educated leader, it is also undeniable that his tenure in Zimbabwe has not produced the kind of results that should be associated with such an intellectual giant.

It is also common cause that with the exception of a few including the late Vice President Muzenda, Mugabe’s cabinet since independence has been dominated by intellectuals. What is clear is that such leadership has failed to give hope to Zimbabweans and has dismally failed to fight poverty and entrench the Rule of Law.

While Mugabe would like the world to believe that he is the champion of the poor, the last 27 years has demonstrated that he has no faith in poor minds and if anything he would rather have Jonathan Moyo, Joseph Made, Patrick Chinamasa and others than have a Tsvangirai or Wellington Chibhebhe in his cabinet, notwithstanding the fact that the latter may be more popular and in touch with the poor.

The difference between what Mutambara may want to see in Zimbabwe and what Mugabe believes in may be the same. What is evident is that Mugabe’s elite approach to development has failed in as much as Kaunda’s same approach failed as well and produced a Chiluba with the unavoidable consequences.

At the heart of the Mutambara and Tsvangirai feud is the failure by many people to recognise that the real agenda for change has to focus on Mugabe and not on the victims. Mugabe has been in charge for 27 years. He is after all the President of MDC, Zanu PF, and all other Zimbabweans. When he took the oath of office he did not do so as the President of a club called Zanu PF but as a President of Zimbabwe.

The sovereignty of Zimbabwe is not owned by Mugabe or Zanu PF but by the people. A leader should therefore emerge from the people irrespective of whether he is intelligent or not as long as the people are given a fair chance to express their will.

The question is whether President Mugabe’s reign has produced an environment in which the citizens of Zimbabwe are free to express their will.

In addition, President Mugabe, as is the case for any sitting president, has the natural advantage of incumbency. He has access to state resources without which it is plausible that Zanu PF would have disintegrated into worse factions than are evident in the opposition.

Has the President used his powers to promote oneness among Zimbabweans? Or has he used the Presidency to divide? How much of the state resources are being used to promote partisan interests? Is the state machinery neutral in the contestation for power or is it an instrument for entrenching the status quo ante? To what extent is the opposition able to access state resources to function?

Mugabe has won all the elections since independence. Is it the case that if he did not have state power that he would have won all these elections? One has to explain why it is the case that Zimbabwe is well endowed with great minds and yet on the radar screen of the opposition, such great intellectual minds are missing in action. If they are missing in action, why should people like Tsvangirai be excluded? Does a President have to be an intellectual for the country to have the change it deserves? Who should the change speak to?

Today, even Mugabe accepts that Tsvangirai has the confidence of the educated and working people while Zanu PF has the support of the rural masses. If this is the case, then Tsvangirai should be more qualified to lead the rural masses on the back of the allegation that he is not an intellectual and Mugabe should be the leader of the minority. Has Mugabe’s policies really helped the poor? How can Mugabe be compared with Tsvangirai when the latter has not been given a chance?

Ultimately the citizens should own the change agenda and yet in the case of Zimbabwe many intellectuals think that they should own the change agenda irrespective of their contribution to such change. While many would like change to take place in Zimbabwe, it is evident that they would rather invest as little as possible in such agendas.

However, if there is no investment in any process, the outcome may not be what you want. Mugabe has invested in making Zimbabwe a country in which liberation credentials and not service is the key to power. Under this construction, if you were never part of the struggle then you are less Zimbabwean and yet no one bothered to change the constitution to reflect such thinking.

If it is accepted that to be a President of Zimbabwe you must have participated in the struggle for independence, then surely how can people like Tsvangirai who have struggled for a better and new Zimbabwe be excluded from leading the post Mugabe era? Should the focus be on Tsvangirai or the people of Zimbabwe?

We now know that MDC was divided for whatever reasons in October 2005 and two formations emerged. Barely two years later, the formation that broke away from the Vatican and chose its own Pope would now want to be under the same Pope they vilify. If the new Pope who accepted to lead the formation strongly feels that he does not have what it takes to deliver the change, then surely he must resign or join the winners.

In as much as the Mutambara faction would not support Mugabe because of values, it should also be the case that they should not support Tsvangirai for the same reasons. However, if they have come to the inescapable conclusion that Tsvangirai, like Mandela, represents the majority then it is not too late to rally behind him and produce the baby that Zimbabweans want.

Yes it is easy to talk of the third way but without a leader such kind of language does not help the country move forward. Equally the talk of one candidate like the Kenyans discovered does not help advance the cause of democracy.

It should not be up to Tsvangirai to decide who should govern and he rightly refused to endorse a scheme in which leaders will be packaged in elite circles without the participation of the citizens.

If the Mutambara faction is confident that it has the people then what Tsvangirai is proposing makes sense. Why would Mutambara want Tsvangirai to enter into contracts on behalf of sovereign people?

Having accepted that the future of Zimbabwe may be led by someone less intellectual than Mugabe, it is important that citizens invest in ensuring that there are checks and balances that will allow for the development of society where pluralism can thrive.

Such investment should start now and it should not be the responsibility of the leader to invest in such an institutional framework of tolerance and justice but it should be incumbent upon all to start changing the conversations of hate into conversations of interest driven change. Ideological discussions need to start now with a view to locating the post-Mugabe era in an ideological matrix that is informed by global trends and developments.

Mutumwa Mawere's weekly column appears on New every Monday. You can contact him at:

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