FROM May 29-30, 2013 I was humbled to represent my party, the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai, at a policy forum on wealth distribution and the role of ruling parties in Southern Africa that was held in the beautiful coastal city of Maputo in Mozambique. The forum was co-hosted by the governing party in Mozambique, the Frente de Libertacao de Mocambique (FRELIMO) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Maputo Office.
It was attended by representatives from the governing political parties in Mozambique, the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola ( MPLA),the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the People’s Party of Malawi (PP), SWAPO of Namibia, the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, the Patriotic Front (PF) of Zambia and Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) of Tanzania.
The historic policy forum was officially opened by the FRELIMO Secretary-General, Filipe Paunde, a very powerful diminutive politician who is most likely going to succeed President Armando Guebeza when he completes his second and final term. The forum was held at the FRELIMO party school in Matola, a few kilometres outside Maputo. For some of us, that historic gathering marked a defining moment in the political trajectory of governing parties in Southern Africa. Indeed, it is no longer business as usual. Times are changing and obviously, people and institutions have to adjust to the times or they will simply become obsolete and utterly irrelevant.
I am an ardent admirer of Samora Machel, the late fiery and charismatic and revolutionary military commander and socialist leader who led Mozambique to independence in 1975 until his tragic and untimely death in a very suspicious air crash on October 19, 1986. I believe that he loved his people and also that he loved Africa. He was a revolutionary, a nationalist and a Pan-Africanist; ideals that some of us hold most dearly. He was a man who despised and hated tribalism, nepotism, racism and corruption. Put simply, he was a hero. Thus, I make absolutely no apology for my great admiration of this African icon and Pan-Africanist statesman. The story of Mozambique bears very stark lessons for us in Zimbabwe.
I am a proud member and supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai. I am a lawyer by profession and a politician by choice. I joined the MDC at its inception more than thirteen years ago mainly because I had been thoroughly disillusioned and frustrated, if not downright angered by the incessant, vile and rampant intolerance and corruption in the then sole governing political party in Zimbabwe, Zanu PF. My family history inevitably dictated that I became an ardent and fervent supporter of ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo. Up to this very day, I fondly remember that sunny June day in the late 1960s when Joshua Nkomo and his delegation spent some time at the small rural business that was run by my parents at Mushayavanhu business centre in Gutu. To this day, Joshua Nkomo remains my hero; my role model and ultimate revolutionary.Advertisement
The revolution in Zimbabwe has gone completely off-track. Somewhere along the way, the revolution was hijacked by sharks, looters, thieves and later day nationalists and fake socialists. What started as a very noble and salutary struggle for self-determination and indigenous socio-economic empowerment has since been hijacked by daylight robbers and fake revolutionaries who are solely driven by the morbid and sordid desire for primitive wealth accumulation and self-aggrandisement.
These are men and women with absolutely no shame. For as long as they line their own pockets with ill-gotten wealth and money accumulated from bribes and kick-backs they don’t give a damn what happens to the majority of the people. These are the sort of political charlatans that will easily make revolutionary icons like Samora Machel and Joshua Nkomo turn in their graves. The revolution has gone astray and with it has gone the self-less spirit of ubuntu and patriotism. Quite honestly, if this greedy and corrupt gang of fake and later-day revolutionaries is not stopped, then Zimbabwe will surely and irretrievably go to the dogs.
The MDC’s formation is a direct result of the decay, incompetence, ineptitude and rampant corruption in Zanu PF, the erstwhile revolutionary party. The MDC is not a creation of the white imperialists. If anything, Zanu PF created the MDC and as fate will soon prove, Zanu PF’s inevitable collapse is directly linked to the resurgence of the MDC; a political party whose bedrock is democratic socialism as opposed to dogmatic and Stalinist socialism.
Unlike FRELIMO, Zanu PF has utterly failed to transform itself into a conventional and democratic political party with a bottom-up approach to running its affairs. They have remained as a Stalinist top-down rag tag organisation with a top heavy so-called political bureau which is basically hand-picked by the party strong man. This paradigm of doing business simply doesn’t cut. It no longer works and this is fundamentally the reason why the MDC is better organised and better focused compared to Zanu PF which is now a pale shadow of the political movement that participated in the liberation struggle that ushered Zimbabwe into independence in 1980. The failure to periodically and strategically renew its leadership has inevitably led to the virtual collapse of this erstwhile revolutionary party. Quite honestly, any organisation that fails to change its leadership in almost four decades is doomed to fail. It is as simple as that.
One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate the fact that revolutionary parties such as FRELIMO and Chama Cha Mapinduzi remain immensely popular and robust to this very day mainly because they have gone beyond bullets and rockets. They have long since seen reality and as such, they periodically renew and re-energise their leadership. They appreciate that politics is not a profession but a vocation. People have to come and go. Even the Communist Party of China (CPC) has since realised the need to periodically renew its leadership. In modern-day China, no leader lasts more than ten years in office no matter how popular they may be. This is what our colleagues in Zanu PF have dismally failed to appreciate. Put simply, no one is indispensable.
Political parties have to continuously reform or else they die. This is the main lesson that some of us got from that well-maintained FRELIMO party school in Matola. The school is a modern complex, complete with a conference centre that can easily and comfortably accommodate 3,500 delegates. There are sporting facilities that include basketball pitches, soccer and cricket pitches. There are even classrooms and computer laboratories were young FRELIMO cadres are taught the ideals of the revolution as well as selfless dedication to their country.
In other words, FRELIMO is no longer that rag tag guerrilla movement that fought a bitter armed struggle against Portuguese colonialism in the 1960s and 1970s.They have modernised and transformed themselves into a viable political party that is run like a viable business enterprise. Some of us couldn’t not help but admire the way in which the FRELIMO party school even has its own cafeteria with professional chefs. All meals were served at a very modern and up-market FRELIMO cafeteria within the precincts of the party school. What impressed me most was the regalia shop at the party school where all FRELIMO regalia is on display and is sold for the benefit of the party. They have everything from party T-shirts, golf shirts, baseball caps, key rings, shirts etc. As if that is not enough, FRELIMO also runs another party regalia shop in the central business district of Maputo.
Zimbabwean political parties have a lot to learn from how successful organisations like FRELIMO are run. Little wonder that the Mozambican economy is booming and there is tremendous foreign direct investment (FDI) into that country. While we are busy scaring away potential investors by shouting misguided slogans about so-called indigenisation and empowerment, FRELIMO is quietly and effectively turning around the Mozambican economy; which has in fact, become one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Zimbabwe’s economy is still in trouble and we can only but add more damage by adopting ruinous and populist policies such as the ill-designed and ill-fated so-called indigenisation and empowerment program; that “program’’ is just an excuse for looting and personal aggrandisement.
Some of us see more vision and focus in the JUICE (Jobs, Upliftment, Investment, Capital and Environment) and ART (Agenda for Real Transformation) policies as enunciated by the MDC. Indeed, we need a real and concise agenda for transformation if we are to take Zimbabwe to the next level. We have to create jobs as well as uplift our people’s standard of living. Surely, there is JUICE in ART and there is also ART in JUICE.
Obert Gutu is the Senator for Chisipite in Harare. He is also the MDC Harare provincial spokesperson as well as the Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.