By Chido Makunike
BIZARRE things in the political world are picking up pace as we approach another general election.
Both in the Mo
vement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Zanu PF there is a lot of panic among prominent politicians at the prospect of losing their ticket to the limelight. It seems certain that in both parties there will be many upsets, with voters likely to kick out a lot of big names from their constituencies.
Certain unelected government ministers had tried to use the ambush strategy to get into parliament. The idea was to rally one’s supporters with gifts and favours, announce that one had been unanimously selected to be the sole candidate in a particular constituency, use whatever media one may have at one’s disposal to scare off prospective opponents and then simply ride into parliament triumphantly!
Unfortunately for such schemers, the infighting and grumbling within Zanu PF has forced the party to insist that there should be primary elections. So getting into parliament may not be such a walkover.
The spat between Philip Chiyangwa and Kindness Paradza in Mashonaland West is certainly titillating.
Paradza in his Tribune paper’s last issue, before Tafataona Mahoso’s media commission shut it down, had written a strong article against the anti-Paradza carping of the state propagandist who thinly hides behind Herald columnist Nathaniel Manheru. In that diatribe Paradza boasted of his deep roots in Zanu PF compared to the real person behind “Manheru”, citing his close contacts with “comrade Chiyangwa” and other Zanu PF officials.
I thought it was rather naive of Paradza to believe a person of the calibre of Chiyangwa would come to the defence of a Paradza who has found himself on the wrong side of the Zanu PF power structure with his very mild but politically incorrect criticisms of repressive laws like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Broadcasting Services Act.
After Chiyangwa’s humbling spell in jail earlier this year for allegedly obstructing the course of justice, he is not going to be siding with anyone he knows is out of favour with the party bosses. Chiyangwa has often expressed panic when there has been loose talk about investigating where certain Zanu PF-aligned young turks got their sudden fabulous wealth, so you can be sure he will want to be seen to be playing his cards right by his party superiors!
I really feel sorry for Paradza on many levels. Unlike a lot of other Zanu PF young turks, he speaks about the welfare of the constituency from which there are attempts to depose him as if he really means it.
What is shocking to me is his anguished belief that that ostensibly genuine commitment would give him some protection in a Zanu PF in which occupying top positions is mostly for what one can get out of them, not what one can put in. Poor Paradza seems dazed to find that Zanu PF is now more the party of the likes of Jonathan Moyo and Chiyangwa than of people like him.
Welcome to the reality of Zanu PF and Zimbabwe Paradza! I always wondered what a seemingly decent guy like Paradza was doing hanging out with some of the shady characters who have now turned on him in newspaper columns as well as in Zanu PF structures.
Chiyangwa was always an unlikely top Zanu PF official, even by the low recent standards of a ruling party that is happy to take on anyone who has acquired some money in one way or another. By bluff and bluster, the self-serving Chiyangwa amazingly leap-frogged over many senior party officials to become a provincial chairman.
What was amazing about this is that Chiyangwa does not have depth in any of the areas that one would think were prerequisites in a party that used to claim to be people-centred and revolutionary. A cursory examination of Chiyangwa’s record in the daylight suggests that his main ideology seems to be taking care of himself!
And it now appears that there are a growing number of people in the constituency he “represents” and the party province he “leads” who are beginning to feel this way about Chiyangwa.
No wonder Chiyangwa, like President Robert Mugabe’s propagandist Moyo, would prefer not to have to go through the rigours of primary elections! There will be interesting, hot times in Chinhoyi and Tsholotsho.
Apart from the standard tricks that will be used by the ruling party against the MDC, I don’t know with what message most of the opposition party’s MPs will appeal to the electorate for re-election. There may be very few Zanu PF MPs who have distinguished themselves as ministers or parliamentarians, but at least they can count on patronage, an unquestioning and uncritical public media and on an election machinery sympathetic to them to give them a leg up.
In addition to the many repressive measures against it, the MDC has also scored many astonishing own goals, including their not-very-clever reaction to the expressions of strong support from their rather unfortunate “campaign agent”, British Prime Minister Tony Blair!
The MDC has a lot of deadwood in its top ranks and it will not be able to count on as much of a sympathy and anti-Zanu PF factor as last time. People may be just as disillusioned with Zanu PF, but there are also more people than before who don’t have much passion anymore for the MDC for a whole host of reasons.
The MDC will whine that it is constrained by the Mugabe government’s repression, but it has not been particularly inspirational even taking into account that repressive climate. Whereas before many Zimbabweans were particularly disgusted with Mugabe and Zanu PF for the ruin and decline all around us, now many are just tired of politicians in general.
It’s going to be a funny, silly season as worried politicians do and say desperate things to try an d impress the electorate and hang on to their positions and the associated benefits in a non-performing economy.
* Chido Makunike is a regular Zimbabwe Independent columnist.