'Excellent analysts make bad politicians'

HARARE - In recent years, Zimbabwe has witnessed the emergence of young brilliant political commentators who have tried their hand at politics, but have not fared well.

The more active political commentators include Ibo Mandaza and Simba Makoni who both lost when they contested as independent candidates in parliamentary elections; journalist Geoff Nyarota who lost the contest for MP under the MDC; Lovemore Madhuku has since formed a political party that has not done well. And there are others who include Alex Magaisa, a former Tsvangirai adviser who has now turned chief critic of MDC policies.

But considering that the views they give on the political field day in, day out are brilliant (as political commentators) why is it that when they are in the thick of things they fall short?

Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga believes there are a good number of analysts, including him, who have not dabbled in politics, but have remained neutral and outside.

“But it is also clear that analysis is much easier than practice, especially in the field of politics, this is why excellent analysts often make bad politicians. Sometimes what is required is action, much more than theoretical postulations and endless assessment of possibilities and probabilities.

“People of action sometimes take risks which analysts might not take, and sometimes armchair analysis fails to take into account the practical realities that the practitioner faces every day. This is perhaps the reason why the MDC was more vocal about change before the inclusive government, but achieved much less of reform during its time as part of the inclusive government.”

Celebrated author Chenjerai Hove says people should restrict themselves to the roles for which they are known.  “A writer should just continue to be a writer, and a political analyst should just remain that. When the borders are crossed, and a writer becomes a politician, the results are usually a disaster.

“I think people make the mistake of thinking that if they are good political analysts, they can also be good politicians. It is not every political scientist who can make a good politician.” BBC correspondent Brian Hungwe believes if one is a spokesperson for a party or an organisation, “you are employed to defend the interests of your employer. You are wearing your intellect and your employer’s hat. His faults, gaffes and weaknesses, you defend. Your intellect is caged.

“If you are on your own, you are free to express yourself without any limitations. That is the freedom that makes many of them shine, because they are not intellectually caged.”

Political activist Grace Kwinjeh says it does not add up that guys with brilliant ideas like theirs seem not to come up with strategies to win in politics.

“I think the biggest dilemma whether we like it or not has been Zanu PF’s ability to mobilise support, even though they make up the rest with violence and vote-rigging, they do get to villages and are able to dance kongonya just so to seem to be with the people.

“The MDC had a good base as a workers’ movement, then things changed when the leaders suddenly became distant, elevated to demi-Gods. So these intellectuals try but they have to realise it is more than just desk top politics, they have to get into townships, villages be willing to eat what the people eat, sleep where the people sleep, identify with them.

“They also need to understand how to form party grassroots structures, it is not about university intellectual debates. They need a presence in every cell, ward and province. Some of them are arrogant they think their names are what sells but politics is not like that.”

Political administrator Mcdonald Lewanika says the scenario is like a football supporter or analyst.

“You have a much better view of the game from the terraces and see all the plays and potential plays — it’s different when you are on the actual field of play, the vantage points are different and pressure and expectations are different.

“But people who have attempted political careers and not succeeded make for good political analysts because of that experience and may know what should be avoided and were processes come unstuck.

“So their experience and their insider outsider perspective are important, provided they do not allow their own political prejudices to cloud their judgments and analysis.”

Political activist Tabani Moyo says the major challenge that Zimbabwe faces is that its polity is built on and around individuals who in turn become symbols of respective political parties’ very DNA.

“This is the situation with Zanu PF’s (Robert) Mugabe and MDC-T’s (Morgan) Tsvangirai. Given the gruesome nature of the polity, in the past two decades or so the political system built two political figures in the form of Tsvangirai and Mugabe who dominated the discourse in the process becoming monolithic structures so to speak.

“A funnel approach was unconsciously employed in defining our polity, those with potential to lead preferring to enjoy the popularity shield under the two respectively. When people tried to dismantle this political infrastructure, at different turns they realised they had invested too much into the two political brands even for the referred persons (analysts) to attempt to dismantle what they critiqued all along.

He says those who intend to join our polity face the daunting task of building a new political frontier given the fatigue, the toil and fading hope in our politics.

“The approach is to take a long-term approach that entails starting the movement building now and gaining the political dividend in the long run. The main challenge has been the ‘now’ conquest syndrome.

“The other factor is that analysis does not in the same breath imply administrative and political ability to lead a political party/movement.”

Journalist Columbus Mavhunga thinks the development shows that politics is more of a practical subject than theoretical.

“It is just the same as comments that some policemen make after an accident has happened. You can easily tell that they would be talking about what they read in books at school.

“When the hour comes — in politics in the case of commentators and on the road in the case of policemen — they will be found wanting. Very few like Professor Moyo have made it, but once in a while you find it that he does not belong there. His calling is not in politics.”

Former legislator Settlement Chikwinya says politics from an arm chair position is far different “from practising it when you are on the ground and faced with various opinions and needs from the membership and contenders, all which require swift and urgent decision-making”.

A journalist who refused to be named says he proffers a contrasting thesis as he wondered how anyone could measure success and failure in politics.

“Do not measure politics using a “short-termism” yardstick. If one makes an attempt to become a legislator or councillor and they do not succeed for the first or second time, in politics that is not failure. It is a setback but a useful one because that is how one builds political credentials.

“Do you know that, there are others among political analysts whose political careers are in their infancy? I argue that even if they failed once they still have very bright political futures in Zimbabwean politics, especially under a political dispensation in which political players are judged not by the party they belong to but by their idea input to the body politic.

“Others like (Alex) Magaisa who was a mere law lecturer later amassed valuable experience in the PM’s office, which experience he will obviously use to consolidate his political career.

“Consider this; former Senegal President (Abdoulaye Wade) spent 25 years in opposition before ruling the country for 12 years. I am sure many had labelled him a political failure. Politics is a long-haul venture.”

Comments (6)

the actual fact on my point of view is that, political analyst when they enter the political field as practical players, the fail because of their enthusiasm to apply their experiments where real actions are needed. it is not surprising that Simba Makoni can be overwhelmingly defeated by Chinotimba if the two contest in a similar constituency. the later can do everything he is able to acquire votes whilst Dr Makoni may prefer more smarter scientific political experiments. ''politics is a dirty game''

Otto - 1 June 2015

Makoni, Mandaza, Magaisa, Prof. Moyo, Ncube, the other Moyo who abandoned ship and all the so called educated PHDs should go and lecture at institutions and leave politics to politicians...Politics is not a sissy game, one has to fight and be cruel..there are no saints in politics. To make matters worse this is African politics of patronage..you do not need any fancy theories but reality!!!

Garikayi - 1 June 2015

politics is an in born thing you can not artificiate it. we were born to do it not going to school to do it. get it that way.

The Atomic - 1 June 2015

I think the main problem with most political analysts e.g Simba Makoni and Ibbo Mandaza is they represent only the elite. They take the elistic view when developing their structures, policies and practices. Look at Simba Makoni`s Mavambo Kusile Dawn the executive of the party is all made up of the elite group. So generally people do not or cannot relate to Simba and his crew.!!!!!!!!!! Food for thought Simba and Ibbo.

Yago - 2 June 2015

I think getting involved in front line Politics is difficult if not nearly impossible because the powers that be are always on the look out for a rising star and quickly extinguish it. The likes of Twangirayi were let to operate because Zanu misread the mood of the people at that time. When they did see that he was getting the upper hand the beatings and the cloak and dagger Shenanigans were employed. Makoni and Mandaza were part of that system although they never got involved in the violent side they know things so as long as they don't threaten they will get away with comments. If Simba addresses a rally of 100000 cheering people and then they would start to see the wrath of Zanu pf. The whole game needs to change so that Politicians can be free to engage the population and tell them what they have to offer. With the tight reigns that Zanu rules with this is not about to happen anytime soon.

Doctor Do little - 2 June 2015

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