'Polls won't bring change'

LONDON - For nearly 35 years, we have lived under self-delusion.

That delusion is that, we, the totality of Zimbabweans “own” this country.

We hear about sovereignty that must be guarded jealously.

Ordinarily, yes, that is what popular sovereignty presupposes — that all of us have ownership of a country.

But, in our case, this has been a delusion.

This delusion has been sustained in a number of ways, including, multi-partyism, the holding of periodic “democratic” elections and implementation of a supposedly fair redistributive project.

A lot of analyses have gone into our post-colonial experience.

The critiques have, rightly, unpacked the social, economic and political problems against promises of a venerated “liberation” struggle.

But these are secondary issues. When deconstructed, the root of Zimbabwe’s problems is the “ownership” question.

For lack of an immediate authoritative source, the Wikipedia definition of “delusion” as “a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary” will suffice.

I say we have lived under self-delusion because superior evidence has shown that Zimbabwe has never been and is not owned by all of us.

The rhetoric may sound all-embracing but the reality is that Zanu PF owns this country, or has effectively claimed so.

We all know the source of this “ownership” claim; they fought and “liberated” the country, et cetera.

At the core of Zimbabwe’s problems is this ownership question. Since independence, we have allowed a political party — not all Zimbabweans — to claim exclusive ownership of the country.

To be sure, the “ownership” problem is almost intractable. The liberation struggle is a historical fact. And challenging those that claim participation in it to change their ways has been problematic.

But resolving Zimbabwe’s problems involves changing mind-sets on the “ownership” question.

Unless this “ownership” conundrum is resolved, Zimbabwe will remain stuck.

The “ownership” question is the biggest problem because nothing stands in its way — not protests, not democracy, not human rights, not elections. Zanu PF would rather face sanctions and let people suffer than relinquish “ownership of its country.”

With this mentality, elections are only deceptive rituals. The 2008 poll was a huge mistake on the part of Zanu PF after it acquiesced to external pressure resulting in a modicum of “free” elections.

As a consequence, it nearly ceded “ownership of its country” unwittingly. To quote Grace Mugabe then: “Nyika yakanga yatoenda” (The country was nearly gone) in reference to her husband’s defeat by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai by what has always been believed to be a higher margin than official results announced five weeks later.

The coalition government followed. As the subsequent elections showed, anything near a free and fair election is a gamble Zanu PF will never repeat.

Yet, as self-deluded as we are, we still speak with enthusiastic anticipation about the 2018 elections.

The evidence simply shows that, with Zanu PF’s current mind-set, elections will not bring any change in this country.

The fact that, with Zanu PF’s current thinking, we still hold belief in the electoral process as the modus for change of government is enough evidence of the strength of our delusions.

A sober prognosis would point to the occurrence of either of two things for elections to bring change. And, regrettably, neither is probable anytime soon.

The first is for Zanu PF to accept that it does not own this country as it should. It is only by broadening ownership of the country that other political players can genuinely be considered to have a stake.

However, this is unlikely considering the benefits that the “ownership” claim has brought to the claimants.

The second, as Leicester University lecturer James Hamill also stated last week, is that change may result only with the collapse of Zanu PF.

This explains the glee with which Zanu PF’s internecine tussles of recent months were perceived in some quarters.

With its collapse, so will the “ownership” claim. But the prospect of Zanu PF’s demise is distant too.

This country is in a fix.

    Comments (2)

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    CARTRIDGE GALLERY - 13 January 2015

    Good analysis Conrad. Zanu PF thinks its owns this country. But with the weak opposition, it will need to destroy itself.

    moses - 16 January 2015

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