Zimbabwean Opposition: So much politics but no politicians?

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ZANU PF is beating itself up. It is shaking itself so violently such that it’s very roots are moving and some of its big branches are falling down with their leaves and fruits. No one has attacked Zanu PF or is there any enemy that has managed to surround and overcome the party. Not even God’s judgement is in effect here. A group of young and foxy politicians within the party have Robert Mugabe’s blessing to reform the party, not only for the coming elections, but for the next three decades or further.
Tragically, the political opposition in Zimbabwe has stopped all its activities to watch the apparent self-immolation of the ruling party. There are predictions of a fast pending civil war here, there are expectations of Mugabe’s much awaited death there, and big opposition politicians are standing pens in hand drafting a political and historical obituary of the infamous ruling party.
It is a historical and political tragedy of some proportions in Zimbabwe that the ruling party is shaking itself up like an agitated opposition political party that is preparing for a war to capture power, while the political opposition is relaxed like a tired ruling party that is headed for defeat. In a strong way, right in front of our eyes, Zanu PF has managed to oppose itself from within, defeat itself from within and is presently reshaping itself and energising itself without any pressure from the political opposition that once again has been reduced to a bemused and painfully self-deluded spectator. Most of us remember well the sad story of the thoughtless antelope that stopped to watch the spectacular colours of an unfolding python, silly curiosity that ended with it being swallowed whole by the unforgiving predator.
For the political opposition in Zimbabwe, presently fronted by Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube, Tendayi Biti, Dumiso Dabengwa, Simba Makoni, Lovemore Madhuku and lately Joice Mujuru, there is so much politics to be understood and politicking to be done but there seems to be no politicians here to do anything to outfox the foxes in Zanu PF. The political game is right in front of us, penalty kicks included, but there are no players to play. I write today to break bread with fellow travellers in the Zimbabwean political opposition and specifically to warn that behind the scenes, concealed by the apparent divisions and dying kicks, the foxes in Zanu PF are working in Zimbabwe and outside to build a reformed and a much more dangerous political outfit than any that has been seen in Africa since decolonisation. The political opposition in Zimbabwe has some do or die homework, I argue, and time is not on our side.Advertisement

Understanding Joice Mujuru
Part of the trouble with Zimbabwean opposition politics is that every other Zimbabwean in politics is either a prophet or a professor. When a big political opportunity arises the prophets among us prophesy doom and carry on with businessas usual. Or the professors in the camp will make academic arguments and also fold their hands to watch, and the status quo is undisturbed. Very few of us seem to get into political gear, to engage that 8th sense that is associated with politicians who can make history and can capture power.
That Joice Mujuru has been sent by Robert Mugabe to infiltrate the opposition and confuse the electorate so that Zanu PF can remain in power as most wise heads are arguing on Facebook and outside is not only conspiracy theory but self-consuming political prophesy. That Joice Mujuru has been in Zanu PF for too long, and that she was in Zanu PF when genocide and other crimes were committed by the party is a powerful academic argument but one that is not intellectual and is not helpful in politics. Joice Mujuru has her darkness, she has been implicated in corruption, she once cruelly insulted a sick and old Joshua Nkomo and she nearly prevented one of the world’s shining stars, Strive Masiyiwa, from emerging as a business icon. All those pimples and scars are academically harmful to Mujuru, but politically and intellectually, philosophically even, Joice Mujuru is presently one of the biggest political penalty kicks to be given to the political opposition in Zimbabwe. Politically thinking and speaking, one would have reason to worry if after all Joice Mujuru was an angel.
Understood intellectually and politically, philosophically even, Joice Mujuru is a very angry widow. Her husband was murdered by his former friends in the ruling party and his soldierly spirit is crying for revenge. As she comes to the political opposition she brings sections of the army, the intelligence and the police that were loyal to her husband, and those that are loyal to her as a liberation icon herself. She also brings in many political leaders like Rugare Gumpo, Didymus Mutasa and others that the ruling party has clobbered, and whose sins we know, they must now wash themselves by throwing the most stones. Her anger, her ruling party background and her liberation credentials are political capital for a creative political opposition. Further, the angry widow injects new energy to an opposition that has been clobbered by years of political blundering and defeats. This widow can be used to inspire new international optimism and support for the political opposition in Zimbabwe. As I write, with due respect, there are three categories of people that are circulating views to the effect that Joice Mujuru is a liability to the political opposition in Zimbabwe: The prophets of doom and conspiracy theorists that I described above, the political academics (not intellectuals) that I mentioned above and lastly fully paid spies that are sent by Robert Mugabe to try and neutralise the impact of Mujuru’s contribution to the political opposition in Zimbabwe.
It is simple political arithmetic, Joice Mujuru stands to erode, in a big way the support that Zanu PF has in Zimbabwe. Multitudes of angry and some just unhappy Zanu PF rank and file are marching in heart and mind with the People First initiative. Forget the prophets, professors of conspiracy politics and the spies, leaders of the opposition in Zimbabwe must snub Mujuru only if they are willing to live under the continuation of Zanu PF rule. That Joice Mujuru is a liability to the political opposition in Zimbabwe is a Zanu PF argument, to amplify this argument and to endorse it in the opposition is to do political homework for Zanu PF from the opposition ranks. The political, intellectual and even philosophical way of understanding Joice Mujuru, the bitter widow, is that she is an asset who brings anger, determination and liberation experience to the political opposition in Zimbabwe.
The Myth of a Dying Zanu PF
It came as a surprise to most of us in the political opposition that after all some western governments contributed money to Robert Mugabe’s big birthday bash. Some western diplomats were even seen at the gathering clapping hands here and having cake there. The truth is that, what is simplistically called G-40 within Zanu PF is something more than power hungry young foxes. These guys; and they are many some of them are hired consultants from elsewhere, are tasked to build a political monster that will be charged with returning Zimbabwe to the comity of nations.  As Robert Mugabe personally propels the myth that he is about to die, he has lost power and is semi-senile, behind the scenes the old man and some young minds are at work engaging Europe and America, and China, selling a new political outfit and new policies and visions that the outfit will bring into effect in the post-Mugabe era. Mercilessly and brutally, the Zanu PF tree is pruning down its own branches, shaking off its political liabilities and right from under the nose of Robert Mugabe and with his happy blessings, a shoot is emerging.
For the world, especially the underworld political powers in America, Europe and in China, to be convinced that a new Zanu PF is in the offing, the party is being brutal in ejecting its liabilities. War veterans, the youth militia that seized white farms and have come to symbolise violence are being violently diluted and compromised, the new political outfit does not want to be known for violence. Some gargantuan pretence machinery is at work. One can be forgiven for thinking that tribalism which has been Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s last political card is being visibly demolished and exorcized as a stubborn demon. Even those members who did not care much about school and learning are forced to go back to school and add a bit of furniture to their curriculum vitae. Zanu PF under the leadership of Robert Mugabe himself is busy overturning itself and building a new political party that is constructing a reputation and an appearance of itself as modern, trendy, intellectual, democratic and progressive. Those of us who remember the days in Zimbabwean sport when one Reinhard Fabisch built a soccer machine that was called the “dream team” can easily picture what I am saying. These guys are assembling Zimbabwean national talents, gifted individuals that will drive their proposed rebuilding of Zimbabwe, which will be sold to donors, Western and Eastern governments to solicit support for a new Zimbabwean dream.
People like Emmerson Munangagwa, the angry Crocodile that is being moved from the lake to a small pond, the consolation at the loss of power will be in the big money and assets that he has amassed. The urge to fight back, to risk losing life, money and the big wealth is totally not there. For kicking and screaming, bruised individuals with big egos, like Christopher Mutsvangwa, silence will soon enough be the option, so that one can keep his farms, companies and the big crimes that big brother has record of may remain in the cold. In a word, Robert Mugabe has a firm handle on all of his former comrades that he is currently clobbering. With one hand he can dissolve any one of them like a small tablet in a cup full of water. Liberation war credentials and warrior gravitas are now the most nauseating things to Robert Mugabe who has more important fish to fry, creating a new Zanu PF with international appeal.
Away from prophetic and academic arguments, the political argument that I make here is that Robert Mugabe has a succession plan and that plan is working so far. Not only that, but he is also busy with some well-known brainy monsters crafting a Zimbabwe reform and recovery plan, economic and political, that is to be sold to the world in order to restore Zimbabwe to the normal world of nations. Politically, if this plan works to fruition, Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF would have had their cake and eaten it, gotten away with murder. And the danger is that after Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe might, once again be ruled by one strong party, Zanu PF, under one strong woman or man, with the opposition screaming from the periphery as a sad minority that no serious person is worried about. In Europe, America and in China there is growing interest in what Mugabe is doing, this interest might soon grow into outright support.
Walking Wounds of the Opposition
The political opposition in Zimbabwe, collectively, is a clobbered set up. These men and women have taken blows, physical and psychological from Zanu PF and the world of politics and its vagaries. What is left of the leadership are walking wounds. Unforgivable political blunders, political own-goals have followed these otherwise brave people. Being beaten repeatedly, sometimes with fraud and force, and sometimes due to their own lack of the political 8th sense these entities are much reduced, tired and drained. Voters have been lost in droves, the remaining supporters only chant the party slogan when the leader is looking but hope and morale are at an all-time low. Some figures remain active in the party in the sad hope of replacing the leader one day. CIO engineered splits and defections are always in sight as otherwise what were supposed to be rational debates degenerate into quarrels and bitter enmity. The party leaders expend energies and efforts firefighting instead of leading the parties to power.
International donors, those treacherous weather sensitive friends, who are only there when all prospects look good are leaving one by one, most of their interest is in who is leading in the factional fights in the ruling party. A reformed Zanu PF is the new object of the imagination and political desire itself. The feeling of being jilted and betrayed is palpable as our international supporters no longer answer emails in time and have become wishy washy  in their attention like a lover that has identified somebody bigger and better than us in all ways and the lover is looking for a way of telling us off.
We have also suffered problems of the ego and ego-politics. Our elected party official instead of doing work to build and prepare the party for power they start doing power itself, illusions of grandeur and false sense of importance take over. Instead of attracting new supporters to the party from out there, the officials, some of them mere deputies in ceremonial posts move around boasting and nauseating potential supporters. It is always sad for potential members of the party meeting these walking wounds who as soon as joining the party closed their eyes and minds to the world, as if this is the first party they joined when they have seen to the splits and death of many other parties before. Instead of marketing and proselytizing for the party they go around pretending to be governors and ministers in waiting, throwing executive coughs, walking like Robert Mugabe alighting from his jet on the red carpet, speaking officiously and making cartoons of themselves and the party. Those whose roles include reading, study and consumption of information about the country and the world only read the newspaper and Facebook, relying on illusions from their colon for ideas in this competitive world.
I write as a fellow traveller in the opposition ranks and I am breaking bread. If one wants to see caricature of how people in power behave and carry themselves, sadly do not look in the ruling party, they have their thieves and pretenders in numbers, but among us there are real walking lies that worship protocol and pull rank at every opportunity. They have become specialists in wrestling each other for power that does not exist and that at this rate may never exist. Where are the soldiers, the men and women, young and old who get down and become dirty for the party and its principles? Even in the social media where we have become the netizens, ruling party activists outtweet us, outfacebook us and project more visibility for their evil party.
In the scramble for the turf in opposition politics in the country, more hatred and high voltage anger is reserved for the leader of another opposition political party than it is for the true enemy.  How many times does one here, “we would rather lose to Zanu PF than to that one…” People here do not sleep, dreaming of the demise of another opposition political party, and praying even to the devil himself for it. The elections that were lost, even without evidence, were of course stolen, but in our daily political business we do totally nothing to prevent the next elections from being stolen, especially imagining a coalition that will build unriggable numbers of voters to our side as the opposition. When a new political party emerges, even if it stands to dent the ruling party more than we can do, we are the first to throw mud and coin propaganda jibes against it, bringing Christmas early for Zanu PF. In a word, we are defeated strategically before the real games begin.
When other opposition political parties in wisdom call for unity, the insecure and truly the dead wood in the party is the first to say no. The other opposition political parties are coming not to build numbers and ensure electoral victory, not to bring talent and competence but to take our posts. They were not there; after all, when we were jailed and beaten by ZANU-PF, we will go it alone is the wisdom, even if we are losing in terms of numbers. Some of the poorest mathematicians in the world must be in the opposition in Zimbabwe, that one plus one equals two does not seem to sink, as one minus one goes. We behave like bewitched people when it comes to political strategy.
Towards a Political Pentecost
Some of the most talented people that I have met in the world are in the leadership and ranks of the political opposition in Zimbabwe, and maybe that is one of the problems, the reason why we cannot do anything normally and right politically. Some of these people are intelligent and have added to that with academic and intellectual training. Others have humbling people and human skills; some are courageous men and women who are ready to die for man and country. Others are humble and hardworking human beings who are faithful and dependable, the fearers of God. Yet others are the walking dead, fellows who have been to hell and are back, battle scared soldiers and sufferers who have seen it all. So why are we still here? Why can’t we turn all this that we have into political and electoral victory?
As I have stated above, under the leadership of Robert Mugabe himself, with interest from global powers, Zanu PF is building a political entity that if left unchecked would win the 2018 election freely and fairy under the observation of the world. Robert Mugabe, that despot, loves his own self and family so much that he does not want to leave it to the same violent Zanu PF that he built over years. The economic development and democracy that the opposition has been asking for, he now wants Zanu PF to be the one that delivers it before he leaves. He wants to have his cake and eat it.
Ordinarily, Joice Mujuru as the new arrivant should be the one with enough humility to call for a coalition of the opposition forces in the country. She should also be the one to talk about her dark spots before they are raised. Welshman Ncube has already declared selfless interest in a purposeful coalition. Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti, Dumiso Dabengwa, Simba Makoni and Lovemore Madhuku should not find difficulty in understanding the simple political mathematics that there is electoral victory in the numbers of a coalition. More importantly, these good Zimbabweans should assemble a team that will work on a Zimbabwean political and economic recovery plan beyond the 2018 elections that the opposition should win or ensure that power is shared so that never again should Zimbabwe come under one strong party and one strong leader. The civil society in Zimbabwe should also come in with political and civil education programmes that will prepare Zimbabweans to be empowered citizens who can check the excesses of politicians and speak truth to power as in any other modern and liberated country. This spirit of political Pentecost demands that political parties in the opposition should urgently defeat their own egos and weaknesses before they unite to prepare to defeat the creature that Zanu PF is building.
Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana is a Pretoria based Zimbabwean Political Scientist and Semiotician.