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A challenge to turn splits into strength

By Jethro Mpofu

DESCRIBING the worrying social, political and economic condition of Africa, Professor George Ayittey in his book Africa In Chaos,  mentions disorder, division, confusion and chaos as the “qualities” that punctuate the African condition.

The picture is gloomy as the continent seems to be “lost” in chaos, underdevelopment and poverty. 

Adding chilli sauce to a fresh wound is the fact that governments are increasingly behaving like a bloodthirsty “vampire” with an insatiable appetite.

As things stand, Zimbabwe fits neatly in the description. 

Our economy is in decay, while our political affairs appear to be in disorder as poverty threatens to envelope everyone.
The government continues to ignore good political and economic advice like the proverbial fly that ignored sound advice and followed the corpse into the grave.

As things look, if we collectively do not exercise the needed seriousness, concern and imagination, we will find ourselves sleepwalking our country into doom. 

Besides the evident chaos in the opposition, the splits, the factionalism and the disappointments, the unity of purpose amongst all the political forces in the country, the creation of a new democratic constitution, the removal of Zanu PF and the experience of a new democratic dispensation are still feasible in Zimbabwe.

Previously, politics has always been referred to as a “dirty game”.  It is the only department of our lives where there is no one truth.  There are as many truths as there are politicians and political groupings. 

Politics is that sphere of our daily existence where what is true cannot always be correct.  It is not a game for angels nor is it a game for saints and philanthropists. 

Machiavelli actually put it that “human beings are either good or bad — but for the purposes of politics, they must be treated as bad”. 

This means that in politics, mistrust, suspicion and general distrust of the politician is a strength. 

Politicians by nature are slippery characters, they are sly.  They are cunning.  They are dictators.  They can betray, they can confuse and they can mislead.  They can create wars, spark genocide and manufacture national crises. 

They are dangerous people.  But, fortunately and unfortunately, they always become our heroes and idols. 

It is actually said that “politicians are those people who privately create problems and then publicly pretend to solve them” and then expect our thanks and our votes for it. 

We have a problem with our politicians in Zimbabwe. 

They create factions in the opposition, they betray our trust and those in government continue to slide us into the mire of suffering and despair. 

We are even afraid that after removing President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, another Mugabe might rise again, and the question is what must we do?

What must we do about the political parties and politicians who are our heroes and villains, at the same time our assets and suspects?

I believe strongly that what will protect the citizens of Zimbabwe from the trials and tribulations and from the social and economic vagaries that can be created by the leaders who lead us in the removal of Zanu PF and its traditions and eventually form our new government is a democratic and a new people-driven constitution. 

We need, as Zimbabweans, to realise that our heroes, the leaders of our political parties and other groupings have potential to outdo Mugabe in Mugabeism and even our political parties have the potential to outdo Zanu PF in Zanuism but a new constitution drawn from the depths of our economic and political experiences, inspired by the heights of our collective national heroism, strengthened by our wealth of intellectual strength, maturity, commitment and love for our motherland will protect us today and tomorrow from the excesses and weaknesses of our political leaders.

In pursuit of the historic grand project of creating a new political culture in Zimbabwe, our politicians in the opposition and the creative ones in the ruling party must play a big role in restoring the confidence of the masses and the interests of the citizenry in the political processes in the country. 

The MDC split has disappointed and disillusioned millions of suffering Zimbabweans.  This has the danger of possibly leading the masses into believing that practice in opposition politics in Zimbabwe is an exercise in futility.

This bears the danger of cultivating one of the worst enemies of democracy in Africa — apathy. 

This also has the danger of donating the masses and all the publics to Zanu PF, which would be a tragedy. 

So our politicians have the grave responsibility to assure the publics that these divisions are constructive rather than destructive. 

I believe, strongly actually, that these divisions can creatively be turned into a strength.

If the opposition leaders in the country decide to employ the sacrificial spirit, suppress personal ambitions for the national good, it is possible. If they decide to suppress the temptation of working for fame and fortune at the expense of collective national happiness, it is possible. 

The (Morgan) Tsvangirai-led faction of the MDC can strengthen its strongholds while the Arthur Mutambara-led faction can also strengthen its strongholds.

As the United People’s Movement also extends its base and draws out scores of leaders and followers from the ruling party, the opposition in Zimbabwe will definitely emerge stronger. 

These political parties need to go to the ordinary people in the rural areas and enlist them into their support bases.

 There is need to create huge no-go areas for Zanu PF.  There is need for our political parties to recognise and respect their differences and then work over time to ensure that a new constitution is created in Zimbabwe that will protect the rights of the citizens, the politicians and the political parties. 

In his very good book Manufacturing African Studies and Crises,  Paul Tiyambe Zeleza complains that political parties in Africa have the problem of concentrating on personality contests instead of policy and programmatic contests. 

They have the problem of concentrating in intra-elite urban political and economic struggles, forgetting that the country is bigger than names and towns. 

He says that actually, politicians of the elitist approach “tend to expel” the ordinary people from history. So, our political parties, if we are to bury Zanu PF as we all wish, should have a rural mobilisation programme that will enlist the support of the peasantry into the struggle against tyranny. 

A strong MDC 1 and strong UPM and a strong MDC 2 can have a united purpose of creating a new constitutional era that ensures that Zanu PF and Zanuism are history in Zimbabwe.

 Jethro Mpofu is a Bulawayo-based civic activist. 

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