The Zanu PF party, initially formed as Zanu on August 8 1963 when the likes of Ndabaningi Sithole, Henry Hamadziripi, Mukudzei Midzi, Herbert Chitepo, Edgar Tekere and Leopold Takawira decided to split from Zapu at Enos Nkala’s Highfield house in Harare, has morphed along the way; dropped cadres, purged some, reintegrated the old or picked up new ones in true fashion of a liberation movement.
By Conelia Mabasa
At independence the party pursued socialism, tried a one-party state before capitalism caught up with it by way of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme of the early 90s. The people went along with leadership pronouncements first because of euphoria, trust, ideology and in the process, the party established hegemony.
According to the late Italian Marxist theorist and politician Antonio Gramsci, hegemony is defined simply as “rule by consent”. Zanu PF hegemony was built around participation in the war. People were expected to be thankful to their liberators — the war veterans who had had the willpower to fight the bush war. They had the right to rule with the help of intellectuals whom they picked themselves. The heroes and heroines were the best thing to have happened to this country. Some got into government.
Illiteracy was forgiven since they missed school to liberate the country. Night school gave some a semblance of officious confidence as they took up new roles in government. War veterans could call for a meeting with the president and present demands that he met without question — even apologetically. The gratuities of 1997 are a case in point. Rape and other crimes of war were forgiven, lest we dented the image of a hero.
The ruling party’s hegemony worked well as it thwarted opposition, ducked criticism and hushed growing calls for democracy and respect for human rights from civic society.
War vets were larger than life characters and the late general Solomon Mujuru aka Rex Nhongo was an epitome of how they were hero-worshipped. Men and women’s self-worth tumbled in his presence. He was revered as if he had won the war single-handedly but as the party grew weary and it was time to renew itself, it became necessary to redefine heroism. After surviving the bush war and all its unpleasant surprises, Mujuru was ambushed in peace time and died in an arson attack on August 15 2011 at his Alamein Farm in Beatrice.
From then on, war veterans began to be demystified, their personal exploits questioned and sometimes history was rewritten. For example, the narrative that Joice Mujuru downed a helicopter was dismissed as a lie. Even the declaration that someone without war credentials was not fit to rule as pronounced by the late Vitalis Zvinavashe became doubtful as younger, ambitious blood took up influential positions in the party.
Zanu PF stalwarts are falling by the wayside. War vets are shouting to nobody in particular, from the sidelines. Feared Jabulani Sibanda, who got rural folks to take refuge in mountains and caves alongside dangerous reptiles in the name of Zanu PF in 2008, is licking his wounds away from the rich pickings of power. He worked to secure a Zanu PF victory in the rerun. His crime was to speak up against a “bedroom coup”.
He, like many others, failed to read the creation of a new Zanu PF by a younger, ambitious faction — G40. He was caught in a time warp where veterans of the liberation war called the shots. He failed to come to terms with a new truism, a new ideology that was being pushed through rallies, through slogans, through song, through the media that aona baba aona amai, aona amai aona baba [if you see the father, you have also seen the mother]. The lines became blurred and purposefully so. Redefinition of roles was inevitable. A hegemonic shift was underway. Sometimes calls to refocus were direct — munhu wese kuna amai (all people behind the first lady).
As women call for a woman in the presidium, a position they willingly gave up in 2014 because it was convenient to them, a new Zanu PF has emerged — one where former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa is a “traitor” who is going down with his disciples. We are supposed to consent to a new order.
We are riding into the future with a “no nonsense leadership”. We are not obliged to pay attention to war vets who do not respect one centre of power. Surely, Zanu PF, like an eagle, has shed off its old feathers, most of them war veterans and as it takes off on new wings, new ideologies, new leanings, it seems we are headed for a turbulent take off.
Hegemony, they say, is not an achieved state of affairs. The ruling elite has got to guard against counter hegemony which can manifest itself as opposition, revolt, dissent and even graffiti as people express opposing views. New ways to win over people have to be devised.
It is my view that the new leadership would do well to pay attention to the messages behind the booing and the murmurs. The hegemony is still fledgling and it seems Zanu PF itself is still to come to terms with its newer self. The steps were too quick, even for an outsider watching from the sidelines.
For a people under serious economic hardship, grappling with unemployment and cash shortages, it is my prayer that we at least continue to enjoy peace and quiet.
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