AT a time when we are all conscious that this year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our country’s national Independence it is true to say that Zanu PF and its attendant affiliates no longer have the political or ideological mandate to fulfil the aspirations, hopes and beliefs of the liberation struggle.
Simultaneously one can also argue that the MDCs and their affiliates are increasingly showing signs that they may not be cognisant of the historical task at hand.
An historical task is to fulfil, not with finality, but with national legitimacy, the aspirations, beliefs and complete agenda of the liberation struggle.
These are not intended to be populist statements as though one were addressing a commonplace political rally. Indeed some amongst us may find the aforementioned statements to be partisan. This would be due to the fact that many of us, even 30 years after our country shook off the yokes of both imperialism and minority dominance, are yet again unable to comprehend the necessity of being honest about the intentions of those that first lit the embers of our country’s journey toward meaningful freedom and liberty.
In its painful and necessary experience the liberation struggle, like many others across the globe, was indeed revolutionary in its intentions. It was never to be ascribed a “has been” or “we fought therefore we are always right” role. Neither did it intend that those born just before its completion or in its immediate aftermath (“born frees”) were to be prisoners of history simply because either they were too young to have fought in it or because they have forgotten that they are its beneficiaries. The liberation struggle and the ceremony to celebrate our Independence, whatever its flaws, are definitive national events. They are both beyond dispute in their national importance both in recognition of the past, the present and for the purposes of posterity.
And in saying this, the intention is to make it apparent that the liberation struggle did have its own particular leaders. These leaders, be they in Zanu PF, PF Zapu and even Frolizi, were given a historical task to free the country not for the purposes of ceremony and identity, but also for the purposes of building a new society based on the principles of democratic majority rule and social economic justice. These principles of democratic majority rule and social economic justice had the intention of addressing what were and still are historical wrongs in the complex polity that became Zimbabwe. In taking up the leadership mantle upon Independence, the first majority government, led by Zanu PF, had the mandate to immediately begin to deliver on the principles that had motivated the liberation struggle. It would be subjective to even seek to argue that they tried to do so. If they did, we may never know the full extent of their success because some of us at that time were unable to even utter a single slogan due to our age.
What we can safely argue, given the now heinous events in 1980s Matabeleland, the strangling of freedom of expression and association since then, is that Zanu PF, with each passing year in power, lost its mandate to fulfil the aspirations and beliefs of the liberation struggle. It failed to create a better, democratic society. It decided to retain confidence in the old, and shunned new ideas, ostensibly for the sake of stability, and because history’s judgment is always harsh, we reserve the right to criticise with the benefit of hindsight. Today it stands as a party that wants to bask in the glory of 1980 as though the country has stood still in that particular moment. And that would be to be dishonest to our country.
But this is not to excuse the MDC either. If Zanu PF has lost the mandate of the people to continue to fulfil the aspirations of the liberation struggle, then the MDC formations in their current political dispositions either as political parties or as members of the inclusive government, are showing signs of not even intending to pursue the revolutionary path long abandoned by Zanu PF, but still espoused by the values of the liberation struggle. The easy manner in which many amongst us, myself included, have taken like ducks to water with the now globalised democratisation and development agenda has shown a dearth in our abilities to comprehend the fullness of the Zimbabwean political and economic experience.
The MDC factions, particularly in the last two years, have presented their political agenda as though it were a direct contradiction to the values of the liberation struggle. This may have been because Zanu PF had all along hogged the limelight on the same. What is clear is that, as it was in the beginning before various other political forces began to determine the MDC’s democratic societal transformation agenda, the latter’s mandate had been to fulfil the aspirations of the liberation struggle because Zanu PF had patently failed to do so.
In their current ideological framework the MDC, regardless of their working class background, are increasing more populist than they are grounded in the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe as according to the liberation struggle and organic struggles thereafter.
These aspirations may indeed be now varied and much more technologically advanced as well as affected by the passage of time, but they remain valid. It is not as though people in Zimbabwe do not accept the importance of remembering our national Independence. The problem resides in the fact that the political alternative has been reluctant to remember and pursue that revolutionary path with organised purpose and persuasive belief. It has instead chosen the easier path, where history is easily dismissible because of part fear of out-rightly telling Zanu PF it no longer has the mandate to fulfil the long held aspirations of the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe. And that that particular mandate now resides with the MDC.
But perhaps the fears are many. The liberation struggle has been increasingly viewed as though it were a Zanu PF project, a mistaken view if I may add, but one that many have mistakenly come to believe to be true. And sadly the MDC itself can no longer easily claim that it still has the mandate to fulfil the aspirations of the liberation struggle after Zanu PF’s failures. It has become a part prisoner of its multiple allies and their interests while at the same time making the political miscalculation of over-relying on the popularity of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the support of civil society organisations in order to further the struggle agenda. This is not to say the MDC has no ideologies as has been argued by many pundits. On the contrary, it has many ideologies and ideas for change. It remains the most popular alternative, regardless of its ambiguities. But this may now be inadequate. As has been argued elsewhere, and as was the instance with Zanu PF in 1980, “popular legitimacy does not always equate to popular or real reform”.
On the week beginning April 18 2010, it must cross our minds, as Zimbabweans, that whereas we fought to liberate the country as variegated as our interests were, the binding thread was that we got it. In acquiring it, mistakes were made. They will continue to be made. But the principles were clear: the pursuit of a democratic, socially and economically just society to become a beacon to all. And where Zanu PF failed, we expected the MDC to succeed. Were they to fail, we expect that others, whoever they are, will again, as in the spirit of our forefathers, take up the mantle. But in this instance, it will be with the people in mind and heart.
=Takura Zhangazha is a political analyst based in Harare.
By Takura Zhangazha