problem with mass action
THE announcement by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions(ZCTU), the
Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) and the Morgan Tsvangirai-led
MDC that they are now ready for mass action is a sad development in
Zimbabwe given the state of opposition politics in the country.
I will refer opposition
in this article to include civic society.
There are fundamental issues that need to be ironed out before an effective
mass action can be launched in Zimbabwe by progressive forces.
In my view, there
are factors that have always hindered progress in Zimbabwe in several
bids to oust the ageing dictator, Robert Mugabe.
While these factors
are many, they can be narrowed down to hypocrisy of the leaders, a leadership
behaving as if they are the people, or the "masses", a fight
for recognition and a shameless quest-for-awards-syndrome.
Let's look at these feactors individually.
Since the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), there
have been attempts to create a unified front to confront Robert Mugabe
and his regime, but sadly, this has been a mammoth task, largely due
to the pretentious public show of unity, masking bitter internal wrangling.
We have had several
meetings being called for leaders to iron out their differences and
announce to the nation their commitment to work together. We have witnessed
many theatrical press conferences where their utterances have been stage-managed,
and yet their actions have reflected otherwise.
This hypocritical show of unity by our leaders intertwines well with
the third factor where the fight for recognition has taken center stage,
creating false hope only to betray the masses on the frontline.
It is clear that
whenever the MDC engages in a demonstration, you rarely find members
or leaders of other pro-democracy groups, part from their unionist friends.
To emphasise this
point, one simply needs to look at a recent march to parliament by Tsvangirai
and his lieutenants. No-one ever bothered to ask where other leading
opposition figures were, including the likes of Wellington Chibebe,
Lovemore Madhuku, Raymond Majongwe and others.
It is important to analyse this episode because it unearthes some of
the shortcomings that have slowed down the pace of democratic change
in Zimbabwe. In my opinion, it is all about recognition. If Tsvangirai
and his intelligence saw the opportunity, it would have been more significant
if this had been communicated to the other groups. The march by such
a people oriented leadership would have brought Zimbabweans to the full
understanding that we are now united and ready to confront the regime.
There can never be unity as long as leaders are egocentric and perform
headline-grabbing stunts in search of short-lived fame.
Recently, and not for the first time, we have been told of an initiative
for a broad alliance. This is doomed to fail as long as the leaders
involved are not broad in their thinking and planning.
As long as their
actions are self concentrated, then we will have to wait for another
twenty years to see the New Zimbabwe we seek. We are simply postponing
a revolution, and the chaos in the opposition could yet see Muzenda's
prediction that "Zanu PF will rule kusvika madhongi amera nyanga"
I am not trying
to frustrate the struggle but I believe telling each other the truth
is more progressive than patting each other on the back for doing something
On October 12, last year, when the MDC split, no one bothered to ask
who had actually split. It would have been important to seek clarification
from the leaders. Because what this reflects is that by the leadership
split in a board room, then people had also split into factions.
At the time when
they split, they did not seek the people's views, because they used
the assumption that once they had spoken, then the people had spoken.
This is factual deodorisation and exploitation of the people's voices
by the so-called leaders.
This emanates from the fact that leaders think that by being elected
to leadership positions, then they are superior and the masses should
listen to them and not vice-versa.
The split in the MDC took a top-bottom appproach. The decision was made
at the top and trickled down to the people. In other words, it was forced
down the throats of the masses. Today we all cry foul and complain about
the split but we are not holding the leaders responsible.
In my view a leader is an ordinary member of an organisation/institution
who has been given extra responsibilities by other ordinary members.
This does not make one superior but it should make one accountable to
the other ordinary members. But this is not what is prevailing in Zimbabwe's
opposition politics. Once one attains a position, then that person becomes
authoritative and he becomes the people, or the "masses" as
they call them.
This factor atttaches well with the supporter syndrome. The media talks
about Mutambara supporters or Tsvangirai supporters. This is an idolisation
of individuals and not the institution. In other words, Tsvangirai or
Mutambara become the institution and hence the power of the people is
reduced to supporting and not participating. The people are reduced
to spectators and this has a bearing on the mindset of leaders as they
tend to believe they are there to be supported and should do everything
on behalf of the people.
Finally the quest for awards has affected our struggle immensely. Leaders
do what they do because they want to enhance their CVs for recognition
and at the end of the day, get an award.
So far, in our fight
for democracy in Zimbabwe, no-one has felt the need to profile grassroots
people for their ground work in the fight for a new Zimbabwe. I have
never found someone uneducated, unemployed and selfless being given
an award for his/her commitment to the fight for democracy and human
It is sad because
the actual people who die everyday, who are tortured, maimed, arrested,
abused and raped are not profiled. They are seen as the foot soldiers,
and should see the results of their sweat through the awards given to
their leaders. After a leader has been given an award with a fat US$
cheque, these poor people continue to toil and moil for life. They continue
to walk for tens of miles into the city to demonstrate against the regime
but yet their contribution is not recognised. They should continuously
beg from their leaders. It is very painful, and this has affected our
struggle for a new Zimbabwe.
As long as leaders in Zimbabwe remain selfish, as long as they think
they are the people and as long as they want personal recognition, then
all their initiatives are doomed to fail. I bet you, if progressive
forces are organising the forthcoming mass action in such a fragmented
and egocentric manner, then they are doomed to fail. Their mass action
epitomises a prolonged abortion where life is no more before it becomes
There is need to be people-centred and try to give the ordinary man
and woman a chance to be heard.
Nixon Mao Nyikadzino is a journalist and former student leader. He writes
from South Africa. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
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