Food minus votes: Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe's 'new' political project

HARARE - The irony of Zimbabwean politics, today, is the variable that must change for matters to move forward is the one which new President Emmerson Mnangagwa is not prepared to change.

What needs to change is the pursuit of power by all and any means, fair and foul, by the ruling party establishment.

The hunger for power and its subsequent misuse, even above national interest and institutions, is what has been at the centre of Zimbabwe’s decline.

Yet, there appears to be some belief that change can occur without addressing this fault.

Events since November through to the July election can testify to how the “new” ruling circle represents that rule-less politics.

This is why it will always be awkward and paradoxical for Mnangagwa to be the face of a changing political dynamic.

For real change comes by restoring political legitimacy through democratic elections and respect for the will of the people.

Zimbabwe has been sailing shy of that orbit of democratic conduct and contestation, preferring rather a continuation of unfair tactics and political entitlement by a few people.

Ruling political elites assume themselves to have an infinite and inexhaustible anointment to rule the country by virtue of (an otherwise heroic national contribution of) being former liberation war fighters.

It is therefore difficult, because of the internal contradictions, for undemocratic and self-imposed leadership to produce a platform that will be the basis and harbinger of genuine transformation.

Mnangagwa is desperate after the 2018 elections to incorporate, while avoiding substantive debate about democratic deficits, the opposition into yet non-existent official structures probably not supported by the Constitution ostensibly to stop bickering about the past elections and move the nation forward.

An appetite abounds in the officialdom to create new rules to dodge the national democratic project.

The particular suggestion, made by Mnangagwa in New York, of having the official position of the leader of the opposition in Parliament is a brilliant invention in the Commonwealth countries, where it is implemented for inclusive and consensus-inclined governance.

But it has never been meant — like it is now in Zimbabwe being meant — to be a substitute for democratic elections, but to complement them.

In other words, it is meant to incorporate and recognise a leader of the biggest opposition party, as determined by transparent, credible, free and fair electoral contests.

It has never been meant, and should never be meant, to silence, manipulate, arm-twist and placate aggrieved opposition leaders, or to buy legitimacy and conceal huge democratic deficits in the system of governance, which Zimbabweans must endure at present.

Ruling party politicians are not ready to democratise; they want to have their cake and eat it too, by bending systems.

Opposition politicians feel justifiably frustrated and insulted by such manoeuvres.

Disguised beneath the suggestions of MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa’s incorporation into Parliament, is the contempt by the ruling party for the competitive politics that should be the heartbeat of a democracy.

But the need to quickly transform the economy has been put forward as justifying some of these PR-inspired proposals.

While the economy needs to improve yesterday, that should not be used as a cudgel to undemocratically whip people into line.

The political project of African liberation, starting with decolonisation, is about freedom as much as it is about material well-being. It is about food and votes.

The people will never be thankful that they are fed abundantly from the same hand that seeks to disempower, disenfranchise, dehumanise and delimit their freedom.

If the political project of producing a happy and well-fed oppressed subject failed in Rhodesia, or elsewhere in colonial Africa, it should be even more awkward in Zimbabwe now. People want freedom and food.

Not freedom or food. This is why the so-called New Dispensation’s political project of food minus votes is unacceptable.

* Gwede writes here in his personal capacity.

 

Comments (1)

Thanks Gwede...yes food, votes and respect. The respect for the right to differ on opinion, thought-process, logic and analysis. The very same things that make countries great. Why are the Zimbabwe "liberators" so keen and single-minded in their unyielding endeavour to ensure they define and limit 'freedom' to only their bench-mark?....are they the only ones qualified to understand it?

Sagitarr - 2 October 2018

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