Zanu PF intent on perpetual rule

HARARE - When newly re-appointed Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa presented the projected Budget for 2018 he did not mince his words.

Paramount in the intentions of government is the embrace of (neo) liberal economics of the free market with a dash of State capitalism also known as “command economy” (intervention).

It was a budget statement that was received with cautious optimism by those in “big business” and scepticism by those in small ones. For the rest of the public, the sentiment is either one of give them a chance to do what they want and see if things improve or just downright nonchalance until something actually changes.

Either way, the ruling Zanu PF party is well aware of the key challenge of meeting the standard requirement of  “performance legitimacy” both for its supporters and in part in order to win a scheduled harmonised election in 2018.

When the military intervention occurred on November 15, 2017, there was a clear message from its progenitors. It was an act of the guerrilla wing of a former liberation movement — a wing that strongly believes it has a stake in a post independence political arrangement as long as it is alive.

And for as long as it could pass on what it has since referred to as “Operation Restore Legacy” to a subsequent generation of young Zimbabweans who would value the same, it is in this for the long haul not only via pushing an appreciation of our national liberation war history and understanding of this military-political complex but also by way of political patronage, a strategy that had been tried by former president Robert Mugabe’s acolytes who had called themselves Generation 40.

The complexity that has, however, emerged is that of retention of power in the long term. On this the ruling party is going for broke in the wake of its momentous, even popular but evidently undemocratic change of leadership.

But the ruling party has a plan. And it’s a pretty intricate if not disarming one. It has announced a (neo-liberal economic development plan. Its promise is to implement the latter better and with a full throttle of macro-economic reforms that are palatable to investor interests.

The strategy is probably three pronged. First is to get the economy rejuvenated via a (neo) liberal approach. That would mean promising to get the government’s game up to scratch with global trends vis-a-vis the free market through pursuing privatisation of the State and in order to maintain performance legitimacy through outsourcing the role of the State in keeping with IMF intentions.

The second is ensuring a return to political legitimacy and validation of domestic political processes via the long (worn) tradition of the party extraordinary congresses. All in order that the party and its leadership must demonstrate a popular claim to power. At least internally to the party faithful and significantly to a Sadc dominated by former liberation movement governments.

However, to effect such an electoral victory in what are tricky and probably ephemeral popular circumstances following the “military intervention” there shall be a (literally) national blitz of “command agriculture” as a means of retaining populist support via patronage and attempts at popular legitimacy.

The third and perhaps most dangerous to democracy element is what will occur after securing an electoral victory in the 2018 harmonised elections.

A new five-year term will no doubt give President Emmerson Mnangagwa the time and opportunity to consolidate what would be a political hold on power.

In this there shall be concerted attempts to drown/crowd out opposition voices through dominating the national narrative with economic plans set in neo-liberal frameworks.

Adherence to democratic values such as human rights, public accountability and social service delivery shall be done through the prism of retention of power via performance legitimacy.

All with the intention of limiting opportunities for the mainstream or new opposition to regain a national popularity similar to that of the 1990s and the first decade of the millennium.

And for this I am certain Zanu PF apparatchiks have closely studied and drawn lessons from their Russian, Chinese and probably Angolan, Egyptian and Ethiopian political-military counterparts.

As for the opposition, they are well advised to crosscheck the thoughts of Antonio Gramsci (Selections from the Prison Notebooks) and Amilcar Cabral (Collected Speeches and Writings) even before they dust off Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth.