THE Zimbabwean political opposition strangely assumes that the best way to defeat Zanu PF is to wait until it drops dead and then start flogging it. This assumption is evident in the opposition’s spoken words and the clearly absent will or capacity to come up with effective strategies to mine capital out of current internal disharmony in the ruling party.
I am not making things up. Just recently, Jacob Mafume of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said it would be risky to take the war to Zanu PF as the party warred with itself. He said: “If one rushes to cut wood from a falling tree, it might collapse on you. We are watching with interest and we will pick the pieces once the tree (Zanu PF) has fallen.” In Shona parlance, people who think like this are called “Vana Muchekadzafa”. They wait for the animal to die or be killed and then jump in to skin it for a meal. They are viewed with contempt because they are cowards and invidiously lazy.
Similarly, the main opposition party, MDC-T, judging by recent statements by Obert Gutu, the party spokesman, is busy celebrating what it thinks is a fait accompli—that Zanu PF is already dead. I have also heard Morgan Tsvangirai express the same sentiment ad nauseum. For instance, right hand in pocket, he said the same thing on the eve of the July 2013 general election at the party’s crossover rally in Harare. A couple of days later, Zanu PF was celebrating a stunning landslide victory that MDC-T and other opposition parties have failed to prove was a fraud as alleged.
There is hardly anything to say about the other smaller parties because they are in limbo, seemingly happy with just being known to be existing somewhere out there. The People First outfit that has just transformed into a party is not giving encouraging signals. It is apparently just satisfied with organising itself into a structured entity and is unlikely to do anything to start proving itself as a serious political alternative to troubled Zanu PF any time soon.
The inaction of the local opposition against the backdrop of the telling disorientation in Zanu PF contrasts sharply with what is happening just across the river in South Africa, for instance. The opposition in that country is not waiting for the ANC and Jacob Zuma to die. Not that they are dying that fast. With the Rand at its lowest ebb and Zuma deep in the mires of the Nkandla saga, they are straining tendons and keeping the president and his party on their toes, as they have always done. Just recently, the DA, EFF and COPE separately staged quaking protests against Zuma, calling on him to return the money that he seemingly abused to develop his rural Nkandla homestead. Also, as he delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA), they did not merely confine themselves to armchair criticism. They were out there in the streets and all other places that matter.Advertisement
With Zanu PF distracted with its own succession turf wars, the opposition must act. Granted, dynamics in Zanu PF are not all that opposition parties must wait for in order to prove themselves. The truth, though, is that what happens in the ruling party has national implications and presents opportunities for the opposition to intervene in meaningful ways. Since the December 2014 congress that the ruling party held, most of its attention has gone to the internal fights, at the expense of national delivery. The biggest casualties have been the economy and service delivery, which are deteriorating fast. This must give a chance to the opposition to prove that they, at least, have the capacity to turn things around and make Zimbabweans a happy population again.
The best way to do that is, like the South African opposition is doing, to articulate issue-based strategies at a practical level. We are tired of armchair and repeated press statements and vacuous media conferences where opposition leaders bore us with lectures on the social, economic and political crises that we are all too familiar with. That is now disused because newsroom-based politics does not necessarily deliver us from arrogant and useless leadership, nor is it sufficient to give us our daily bread. We want the opposition to clearly frame the crises that we are facing and to see them acting to stunt the malaise.
They need to go out there and meet the people and tell them how bad Zanu PF has become, and to convince them to take decisive action now. They need to protest, not the factional wars in Zanu PF, but the ruling party’s unconstitutionality that stems from its failure to give citizens their fundamental rights as provided by the constitution. If small parties like EFF can make such an impact, what stops the opposition in Zimbabwe from doing the same? People may have different views on Julius Malema and his party, but what cannot be denied is that that their practical militancy is putting good pressure on the ANC.
Waiting for Zanu PF to drop dead and then claim victory is the greatest betrayal that the local opposition will ever commit. It reeks of opportunism and cowardice. Our long suffering people must not wait for 2018 and hope in the meantime that the elections that will take place that year will deliver them from evil. In any case, there is no guarantee that polls will bring change to Zimbabwean politics. It is still possible that, as the opposition basks in the possible glory of a dead Zanu PF, the party might regroup and snatch victory again, as it has always done.
The ruling party can afford the current infighting and to neglect the people who ostensibly voted it into power in 2013 because it knows that the opposition is clueless, lazy and hopeless, so nothing will happen to it. When the time comes, it can easily fight from one battle line and surprise those that think that they can hew wood from a fallen Zanu PF tree. The opposition must be warned that branches falling from that tree can fall on and smother them.
Tawanda Majoni is a Zimbabwean journalist and writes in his personal capacity