By Andrew Kunambura, Editor
THE past four years of President Emmerson Mnangagwa have been incredibly difficult for the people of Zimbabwe.
The economic hardships, growing inequality, rampant corruption and entrenchment of authoritarianism were compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic to push the country further away from democracy.
Forget the crocodile moniker which he used to ride his way to power, Mnangagwa has virtually reverted to his real totem: the lion, at least as his Zanu PF supporters now call him.
Seldom do you hear anyone in the party now using the once-famous Ngwena nickname.
Critics have, more than anyone else the exiled Jonathan Moyo, have frequently accused Mnangagwa of weaponising the pandemic to sink his claws into the power ball and firmly tucking it into his closet.
Such that one gets the feeling there is not much room for the opposition to manoeuvre.
Not only has Mnangagwa worked to keep the opposition at bay; he has also sought to, through several legislative overtures, been fighting to choke the space for civil society organisations, known to traditionally empathise with the opposition.
For instance, his administration is currently pushing for the amendment of Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act in a bid to enhance its control of the civil society.
Despite serious protestations, the increasingly authoritarian Mnangagwa regime is forging ahead with a legislative election.
Indeed, challenging an authoritarian regime is no easy task.
A history of epoch-defining political movements across the world shows that proponents have used different mechanisms, ranging from mass protests, electoral mobilisation, negotiations and international pressure to put an end to autocracy.
Although Zimbabweans have also consistently engaged in demonstrations, participated in elections, negotiations and dialogue processes and have received unprecedented international support, Zanu PF has retained power, unabated.
And, at the weekend, Mnangagwa abundantly made it clear he has no intention whatsoever to remain where he is, warning it was easier for someone to walk all the wat to China on foot than for an opposition party to remove the ruling party.
Watchers were quick to deduce that the sentiments implied the man has no intention of relinquishing power and was willing to retain it at whatever cost, damn the consequences.
The opposition reacted with the usual scorns, dismissing and chiding him with all sorts of inimical terminology.
What is very clear from an analysis of the situation is that Mnangagwa’s government has effectively sealed the democratic space and, judging from preparations for the March 26 by-elections, the party has virtually highjacked the electoral process.
Previous experiences teach everyone that polls have been conducted in a manner so plagued with irregularities that voters have become increasingly reluctant to go to participate.
Often you hear: “What does it profit me to vote when they will still rig.”
His government has also imprisoned members of parliament and contributed to a profound division among critics of the regime, making it near impossible to participate in elections under those conditions.
This has effectively prevented the opposition from using electoral tactics to challenge the ruling party, having been deprived of an important political tool of mobilisation.
In the context of these developments, the CCC, which is quite clearly the only meaningful opposition party around, has have had to look for other strategies to resist Mnangagwa’s authoritarianism.
So far in its elementary state, one may argue, it has relied too much on popular appeal, the charisma of its leader Nelson Chamisa, fancy slogans, an attractive colour, and the hope that international pressure would help topple Mnangagwa’s regime.
Beyond that, it is difficult to decipher what political strategy the party has to offer, and this calls for them to build a mid to long-term plan of action.
Chamisa has himself refused to spell out the party’s stratagem, arguing doing so would be tantamount to giving the ball away to the enemy.
From a pure analysis of the political field right now, it would appear the euphoria built so far around the CCC political project could be a real pedestal for the party to be able to launch an all-out assault, if they can master the game and its demands.
It would require them to think beyond catchy phrases most of the party’s leaders are so fond of and deploy the political minds among them to devise proper political ideas that resonate with the ordinary citizens.
I dare say as of now, the party is bereft of such – or so it appears.
We may look at a very useful example in South Africa. Julius Malema has been able to project his EFF party as formidable political force out of a simple political idea: emancipatory politics.
Emancipatory politics refers to the politics that offers realistic proposals to solve contemporary socio-political and economic problems. In South Africa right now, there are two things which have really helped Malema’s cause: the land question and economic emancipation of the black majority.
It, of course has its own challenges and pitfalls, but at least it speaks to things that resonate with the people.
For sure, emancipatory politics trudges the well-known socialist route which is sure to set any proponent into a collision course with the dominant neoliberal world, but, as powerful scholar Frantz Fanon observed, it is the only politics oppressed people know, the only way they see out of their miseries.
The CCC, thus, can do itself a big favour if it were to reorganise into a pro-democracy social movement.
To lead a resistance movement, the opposition does not need a government bureaucracy which is no longer legitimate or able to govern.
Instead, it should focus on developing new narratives and ties to autonomous civil society groups, promoting a transparent and collective leadership and trying to ease the suffering of the general population.
The hard work on the ground has to be done so that the opposition can have enough political weight to leverage international support for free and fair elections.
With general elections still more than 12 months away, there is still time to learn, perfect the political art and advertise themselves as paving a more successful route to a democratic transition in Zimbabwe.
The euphoria we have seen can only serve as a foundation for serious thought process leading to solid political ideas that can truly help its cause.