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Bobxit: Poisoned chalice or true Santa?

True to tradition, the gift remains wrapped and sealed under the Christmas tree — another Zimbabwe ruin, absolutely stunning to behold, but potentially hopeless for function! Zimbabwe is yet to savour the true value of Bobxit, her November 21 early Xmas present.


The usual “half-empty” jury is out, and the damp squib pundits are pouring unrelenting scorn on The People’s moment-in-the-sun! Bobxit, the fall of Africa’s most eloquent despot and the world’s best-known dictator this side of Hitler and Idi Amin must be celebrated without apology.

The consuming sense, both of disbelief and political stillbirth that accompanies it is not unexpected.

Whether it was the benevolence of Constantino Chiwenga or it was an old Zanu PF, shedding off its frisky G40 skin or indeed it was that unforgettable spectacle of a million multi-coloured Zimbabweans chanting in defiant unison — that finally drowned down four decades of the dreadful Robert Mugabe monologue, truly matters little. At its hour, God’s voice spoke and every event and agent fell involuntarily in sync!

To the extent they perceive Mugabe as the single most visible personification of their multiple jeopardies of a lifetime, short of his very last breath, his unceremonious departure from government presents the people a rare common bond and a binding euphoric moment of glory.

Neither is the people’s spontaneous celebration premature, nor is their sincere sense of hope misplaced. It is their rare and perhaps only true building block and I too reserve no kind words for the wet-blankets out there. I agree with the view that the highest form of witchcraft today is to pour cold water on a Zimbabwean dancing at the political funeral of Mugabe!

Be that as it may, a couple of instructive lessons become clear from this neat coup. A dysfunctional political culture that flows from and mirrors our mainstream black society and manifests itself in poor and ineffective management of succession and old age afflicts Zimbabwe at the core.

If you care to check in recent African history and culture, it is evident that the welfare and dignity of the elderly folk was always secured on the psychology of ancestral power and the supposed proximity of society’s veterans to that source of fortune. It presented a near natural force that compelled all society to hold the elderly in high esteem and reverence. Fast forward to the digital age, the new generation has a direct line to God.

In the absence of these conventional guarantees of old age security, the elderly are vulnerable and suddenly exposed to the whim and personal benevolence of offspring. With little pensions and no personal savings, the elderly in our society are sorely exposed and die undignified deaths. Elsewhere in the civilised world, a carefully preserved life station is reserved for the elderly and particularly for veterans of war. The aggressive, perennial sense of entitlement and the invariable use of force and military power by our war veterans is a pointer to their old age desperation and the clumsy leadership and succession planning of our society. There cannot be any other understanding of up to 25 gout-striken 80-year-olds sitting in Cabinet and pretending ability to run such a youthful country!

As the soft coup keeps unfolding, it is inevitable that a few of the people’s hopes will materialise, for indeed, as Nkosana Moyo said, Mnangagwa will do things differently,.. but just as certainly, many dreams will be dashed!

The intrinsic design and culture of our political institutions, and Zanu PF in particular is utterly incapable of delivering the quality of change that Zimbabweans desire today. It is not possible, historically and structurally for Mnangagwa to deliver a lean and effective government as the people seem to demand. His presidency is a creature of the military, whom he is bound to reward with significant government positions. He is a creature of his war veterans clan, whom he must reward similarly. Mnangagwa is a creature of Zanu PF and his Midlands home town. Patronage cannot be wished away in a Zanu PF government. It is part of the governance foundation. Having elbowed out the G40, Mnangagwa’s war Cabinet can only compromise his agemates. With an average age 73, like the party, the Cabinet is a virtual old people’s home. It has accumulated three decades of wrong and bad experience. It is unfair for any of us to hope that a group of 80-year-olds can change the fortunes of our country suddenly, because one of them, Mugabe is gone!

The political institution called Zanu PF is solidly invested in national divisions of tribe, race, gender and geography. This is its innate culture and it explains the clumsy management of leadership and succession that is typical of that party and others. It makes it impossible to make real any grand pronouncement that “we shall consider all Zimbabweans as the same and equal!” Their institutional design makes it impossible for these parties to ever deliver a free, equal and truly democratic Zimbabwe.

The Zanu PF success and sustenance of political power over the years has been secured on the back of flawed and skewed legislation. The party was dragged screaming and kicking to the signing table of the new Constitution and years later, they refuse to align legislation to institute electoral reforms and level the playing field. Their key partner in this regard has always been the securocrats. Today, that partner no longer sits on fringes, but has become the government itself. How unfair on ourselves and on them would we be, to honestly expect such an institution to deliver democratic change? It has been developed and designed specifically to limit and bar democratic change!

By all means, please jump and celebrate the departure of Mugabe. But when you land, remember to go and register to vote. Mugabe is not Zanu PF. The party is a deeper challenge than Mugabe. Yet Zimbabwe itself has challenges deeper than Zanu PF. We need to uproot the entire political infrastructure, architecture, culture and existing institutions of politics!

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