2018 Elections:  A look at the other contestants

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By Seewell Mashizha

NO doubt certain of our numerous inconsequential political parties will show umbrage at what I am saying in today’s installment. It is no matter: it is their democratic right to feel slighted. The opposite is also true: it is my democratic right too to exercise choice and preference in certain circumstances.

It really does not add value to the discourse preoccupying myself with parties and individuals who are of no more than nuisance value. Some of them are mere fellow travellers, as Maoist rhetoric would say. Why they do that is a secret lodged deep in their beings which only they can elaborate on. That, of course, does not stop us digging, perusing, speculating and analysing. But that is a story for another day.

One hopes that with time all the fringe parties will dissipate and disappear, never again to complicate our lives. I will readily confess here that I am being deliberately satirical, but a bit of scepticism and cynicism never did anyone any real harm. I mean, seriously people, where are we going with all this? Is Zimbabwe a theocracy where clerics reign supreme? I hear that that pastor whose only claim to fame is his failed prophecy on Robert Mugabe is now poised to become the Vice President of some political monstrosity in the country. I suppose he will tell his colleagues the date on which they will ascend to the pinnacle of Zimbabwe’s politics. What a lark that would be!

My father-in-law was a very wise man who could, without too much effort, always come up with a proverb to suit every arising. One of his more frequently-used proverbs was the one that asserts: Kugara nhaka huona dzevamwe (An heir becomes an heir after seeing how others do it). In other words, unless one chooses the life of a hermit on some desert island one is inevitably influenced by the environment. Put more simply, we live and learn from others by observing and by duplicating what significant others do. Zimbabwe can take a leaf or two from other nations.

Botswana has a manageable number of political parties. The top four parties in the country are the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana People’s Party (BPP). The first three are represented in parliament. There is a dividend from this; come campaign time, there is no clatter and it is much easier to follow what each party is saying about everything, but more especially about national issues. It is also easier to have rival parties subscribe to a clear and lucid national vision.

Zambia has 20 active parties. Of these twenty, five are represented in parliament as follows:

In such situations we end up with parties that become more or less establishment parties and can and do succeed each other in government depending on the dynamics in each situation. If we take Zambia for example, three different parties have, since independence in 1964, held the reins of power. Happily for Zambia there seems to have been a buy-in in terms of the country’s national vision. We have heard no allegations that any Zambian political parties are proxy parties for Zambia’s erstwhile colonizers who also happen to be the erstwhile colonizers of English-speaking Africa.

Botswana is driven by ethnic considerations. Given that the Bamangwato have always had the paramount chieftaincy in that country and given also that they are in the majority, their Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been in power since independence in June 1966. The BDP is reflective of the influence of the Khama dynasty going back to Khama 111 under whom, in 1885, Bechuanaland became a British protectorate. While those of Kalanga stock in Botswana are an undeniable power bloc, they do not as yet wield sufficient numbers to upset the BDP. Nevertheless, Botswana is stable and will remain so unless, of course, the San people become militant in defence of their traditional way of life.

Indications in Zimbabwe thus far, are that for the foreseeable future serious contestation will be between ZANU-PF and whatever expression of MDC emerges strongest going forward and always provided that the opposition party does not obliterate itself through unending schisms and splintering. Regarding the 2018 elections what is apparent is that there are at most three parties to take seriously. That may, however, be a conservative estimate given the fact that the contestation between what, at law, have become factions of the MDC-T, it may very well be that one of the factions will no longer be that visible after the elections.

Joice Mujuru’s NPP is nothing more than what the Chinese would call a paper tiger. She does not seem to have the appeal or the organizational capability to gather the masses to her cause (whatever that cause may be if she has one). Her attempt to conjure up a coalition and to call it a Rainbow Alliance is a futile attempt to attract a following. Mujuru has not done her “cause” any justice. She has trampled upon the country’s inheritance laws where her late husband Solomon Mujuru’s reputed many other children are concerned.

And when one of Mujuru’s daughters was the guilty party in a road accident that became fatal for the baby of an Iranian couple, she is rumoured to have abused power in her capacity as Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe to make the case disappear. Much more damaging for her “cause” perhaps was the incident in which she appeared to be defending corruption. She had a spate with journalists in which she accused the country’s scribes of paying too much attention to corruption.

As if to spite herself even further, Joice Mujuru as President of Zimbabwe People First party appeared to denigrate the armed struggle in interviews with Aljazeera and the BBC. That in itself was a slap in the face for the gallant many who fought and fell in that struggle for self-determination.

Thokozani Khupe is another prospective female presidential candidate whose political weight is still to be determined. The challenge before her is to be the one wearing the legitimacy mantle. Her fight with Chamisa and his faction may turn out to be mortal for either of the two factions. Her political acumen is difficult to ascertain given that she has openly said that she is in it for the money. Surprisingly, she has not to date levelled any accusations of sexism on Chamisa who rode slipshod on everyone in the MDC-T to impose himself as leader.

Belligerent female candidates could exploit the sexism mantra to their advantage since it does appear to be an MDC affliction. Current deputy chairperson of Chamisa’s faction, Morgen Komichi once made extremely disparaging comments about women and almost literally called them baby factories. Following Komichi’s outbursts and the convulsions in the MDC-T at the time, Trudy Stevenson was hospitalized after being assaulted by MDC-T party thugs.

The MDC-T has tended to treat women in a somewhat cavalier fashion. Learnmore Jongwe, an MDC-T stalwart in his day callously murdered his wife by stabbing her several times with a kitchen knife. Tsvangirai took his turn at trivializing women by playing the part of a playboy politician and sowing wild oats all over the place.

Now Nero has placed a bet against Ngwena and says if the latter accumulates even just 5% of the votes cast he will marry off his eighteen-year old sister to him. Chamisa’s gaffe is reminiscent of the scene in Thomas Hardy’s “Mayor of Casterbridge” where Michael Henchard, the future mayor of Casterbridge, auctions his wife, Susan. If Chamisa meant to crack a joke, he failed dismally.

I am trying to think very hard about who to discuss next and finding that to be an onerous task. There can’t be anyone else to talk about at this point in time. Nkosana Moyo looks too much like a distracted university don to be of any significance and has so far made no real attempt to endear himself to the voter. This reduces him to an armchair critic.

Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube and David Coltart are trying to sneak back in. Dutifully, they are following Chamisa to the UK, but once again it is not clear what they have in mind. Previous trips by these three gentlemen brought ZDERA into being. Their latest trip is intended to upstage current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International relations, Sibusiso Moyo.

The New Patriotic Front (NPF) is a knee-jerk response by disgruntled G40 cabal members and can largely be viewed as the sentimental offshoot of thwarted ambition. Success for the NPF is a pipe dream.

Let those seeking a roasting be roasted. Is there anyone else out there?