Zanu PF's fools paradise

LONDON - For a country that has suffered record inflation, regular electoral malpractice and water and electricity supplies not too different from Gaza, among other things, the stability has been profoundly remarkable.

While political cynicism proliferates, it has barely translated into action. Elsewhere, even in Africa, these conditions would trigger rumpus that challenges the existence and legitimacy of any regime.

In 2011, for instance, Malawians protested against worsening fuel shortages, rising prices and high unemployment, calling for then President Bingu wa Mutharika to resign. Only in April, Zambians protested against a fuel price increase. 

Contrast that with the pusillanimous response to the increase in tollgate fees here recently. The only notable serious demonstrations here were the food riots of 1998. Ever since, the economic situation has turned even worse.

Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told the Sadc summit underway in Victoria Falls that Zimbabweans, nonetheless, refused to remove their government due to the economic challenges because of a collective spirit against sanctions.

“All our detractors cannot understand how people who go through such economic difficulties fail to create chaos and instability… the resilience of Zimbabwean people has become legendary.”

So is the prevailing stability the result of our collective, “legendary resilience” against exogenous agents? That conclusion seems too simplistic. Indeed, Mumbengegwi’s assertions find resonance among believers of the sanctions narrative. 

But others, not persuaded by the sanctions mantra, would reject “resilience” as the sole reason but the lack of conducive conditions for agitation against the government it holds responsible.

There are several conditions that impel individuals to engage in radical political. These include  psychological, structural and organisational factors.

Psychological factors, the subjective states widely shared, discourage or spur individuals to join protest. The Zanu PF regime, with its record of atrocity during Gukurahundi, has been adept at quashing dissent.

Those calling for demonstrations are intimidated, and participants, descended upon with brutal alacrity.

The image of a battered Morgan Tsvangirai, with a swollen face and a ripped shirt after attempting to attend a prayer meeting, remains etched on the minds of many. Not long ago, MDC member Job Sikhala was summoned by the police after suggesting President Mugabe should be removed before the next election. He was released without charge. But such events instil fear among the public.  So, instead of resilience, fear appears one causal psychological factor against effective protest.

Structurally, the Zanu PF regime has relied on a panoply of repressive legislation. 

The Public Order and Security Act (Posa) has allowed the police to sanction or bar gatherings, meetings and demonstrations.  When governments tolerate protests, more groups and individuals will engage in protests.

Perhaps this might eventuate after High Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe ruled early this month that the police had no power to ban demonstrations by trade unions.

The provisions of Posa were ultra-vires the Constitution. Civilian action also depends on the pre-existence of an organised movement that can articulate grievances against a regime and translate these into effective protests. Without such agents, political cynicism will find expression in apathy or non-political anger. 

Local civil society has been impotent; the transformation of the NCA, effective during a campaign against a government proposed draft constitution in 2 000, into a political party, has removed a movement that could organise and articulate civilian grievances.

On the other hand, the MDC — the largest opposition — has made failed attempts at organising national agitation. 

Nonetheless, for Zanu PF to think it enjoys legitimacy because of “legendary resilience” against sanctions is living in a fools’ paradise.

The legitimacy-stability thesis founded on Mumbengegwi’s popular stoicism is a dishonest explanation for lack of agitation.

An honest explanation would identify conditions affecting the translation of political cynicism into protest; including here, fear, repressive laws and the lack of an organised protest movement.

Thus, Zanu PF should not assume that legitimacy exists simply because it is not contested. Much of what passes for legitimacy is, at best, sad tolerance.

Comments (4)

True analysis of the pathetic Zimbabwean situation. Zimbabweans leave in fear of a callous regime that is not afraid of spilling blood of innocent citizens who dare to criticise it. The question is: Until when shall forces of repression continue to rule?

Nkosi Mambo - 19 August 2014

Nkosi, you asked till when: Here is yo answer: Zimbabweans are simply stupid, self centerd waiting for someone to do it for them, pretenders and hypocrates so the suffering wont stop. Malawians are far better. bwa dzevanhu

chido - 19 August 2014

The majority of ZANU PF supporters are bandwagoners who have no clue what good governance is all about.Stupid fear & corruption also take a fair share of the rot. Just imagine the criticism against the MDC T youths who bravely demonstrated for jobs promised by ZANU PF.Some idiots shouted that the demonstrations were western sponsored to embarrass Mugabe at a SADC meeting in Vic Falls.What nonsense considering that these youths earlier on held such a demonstration. Worse still,it's for all to see that there are no jobs for the suffering Zimbabweans. ''KUNE VANORARAMA NOKUBA NOHUWORI MUZANU, ZVEKARE VAMWE VAVO IMHONDI.'' This will end one day.

MAGEREKERE - 20 August 2014

Taura hako Conrad. Hatina kusiyana neGaza. Zanu PF ndiyo inoti 'bomber' into poverty and suffering. Maybe tingori mbwende

spoony - 20 August 2014

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