Bane of mediocrity

Temba Mliswa

Temba Mliswa

Reason Wafawarova On Thursday
It is rather sad that the African politician is driven by this disposition that winning an election is a simple matter of party affiliation. The problem with party affiliation as the basis of decision-making by the voter is that merit and genius are often viewed as dangerous, while euphoria, emotion and

rhetoric become the key pillars of power.

Mediocrity is the greatest calamity of a vote won on the backdrop of political affiliation, and we would be fooling ourselves if we did not accept the fact that lack of merit in our political leadership is an endemic problem. In Zimbabwe, our Parliament and our Cabinet have accommodated some mundane characters ever to grace the ladder of political leadership.

Our politicians have mobilised our voters so they can vote against what they do not want to see, and that is the whole essence of negative politicking and the protest vote. It is easy to spite, smear and vilify political opponents so that the voter hates them. The problem is, voting against something does not in itself resolve what the voter wishes to happen.

Secondly, a vote whose direction is determined by political affiliation is often driven by feeble-mindedness, and many times it allows impertinent characters in power corridors to build up patronage networks where the preferences of superior leaders prevail through the contrived ratification of manipulated subordinates.

Political parties in Zimbabwe are notorious for allowing those in top leadership to impose their cronies on all others, and unless everyone in political leadership sits in the precarious position that any decent vote must of necessity define, we undermine the power of the vote, and the very essence of democracy.

It is hard to tame the monster of factionalism when politics are run on acts of corruption, vote buying, and ineptness.

At some point we had Temba Mliswa publicly criticised by First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe at Chinhoyi Stadium. He had asked for the First family’s assistance to make sure that social welfare benefits and aid “do not find their way into the hands of MDC supporters.”

The First Lady would have none of that, and she rebuked Mliswa publicly, telling the capacity crowd that aid and welfare for the poor is and must be for all Zimbabweans, not only for ZANU-PF supporters.

Now Mliswa is the celebrated guest speaker at all MDC events, with everyone suddenly in wilful bliss of his political past, including his erstwhile unethical hate for political opponents.

Zimbabwe lacks, in great deal, politicians with honesty. Our politicians seem to know well that honesty makes someone vulnerable, and that is why they choose the path of lies and cheating. Sadly, it is easy to cheat your way in our politics, if Mliswa’s cosy relations with the opposition are to go by.

Without honest leadership the country inevitably suffers characterless leadership, credibility crisis, and the people find it next to impossible to trust their own leadership.

The reason Tsvangirai stands no chance of winning a national election ever again after his near miss in 2008 is simply trust. The man has lost the trust of the electorate, and no amount of sinning from his ZANU-PF opponents will be bad enough to gain the opposition leader enough support to form a government.

Many of our politicians breathtakingly lack the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others, and this precisely explains the unmitigated prevalence of corruption.

Once upon a time, this country boasted of a leadership of outstanding integrity, but today adherence to moral and ethical principles is alien to our body politic across the divide. The housing scams in Harare are an indictment on the integrity of our leadership in local authorities, and we cannot be as gullible as to limit our focus on the arrested culprits. There are more questions to be addressed than just the issue of individual criminality.

While our political spectrum is awash with all manner of economic blueprints, it is hard to find the element of confidence in our leadership. The country badly needs a way forward driven by confidence, not speculation and promises.

We are a people that are coming from an acute era of polarity, and what we need now as a nation is a leadership with the flexibility to be able to find common ground between our peoples across the political divide. Mudslinging, intolerance, militancy, hate speech, and lawlessness will not bring good leadership to Zimbabwe.

Any darn fool can make things complicated, but it takes men and women of honour to build a nation.

The factional fighting in our leadership across the political divide does not help the country identify merit in our leadership, aspiring or serving.

In identifying real leadership, Zimbabweans must not pay attention to the claims put forward by people professing to be our capable leaders. We must not focus on the preached credentials people present to us as our messiahs. Rather we must identify people with the merit, passion and desire for the advancement of national needs.

What we must check for in a leader is influence. The greatest asset in President Robert Mugabe’s lengthy political career is influence, not necessarily shrewdness, as some analysts would choose to believe. But influence is earned. It cannot be contrived.

Proof of leadership is obviously found in followers, and that is precisely why we believe elections to be the arbiter of public judgment. When a leader with influence speaks people listen, when he makes a suggestion people respect his or her opinion, and when he takes the lead people follow.

The first split of the MDC in 2005 was a clear indication that the party leader’s influence was waning. There was a stalemate over participation in senatorial elections, and the leader tried to give direction. More than half the followers did not take heed, and when he tried to assert himself as the leader, the party split.

The cycle was to repeat itself after the 2013 elections, and even now there is hardly any cohesion in the opposition leadership.

The only true measure of leadership is influence among the led, not exactly influencing the media, or cronies in leadership.

When one is a true leader, they do not need to profess to be one. As Margret Thatcher once said: “Being in power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

It is important to establish why people emerge as leaders while others cannot influence people no matter how hard they try. Influence has something to do with the inner person — the attribute we often call character. People can sense the depth of one’s character or lack of it, and if there is one thing that deception will not get away with, it is character.

A true leader does not wish to dupe or cheat his or her way into power. A true leader has deep relationships with followers. True leadership survives on synergies with the various grassroots structures. A leader who studies an election more than he studies the people and their needs is simply a politician, not a political leader.

A true leader needs a grasp of facts, an understanding of dynamic factors and policy frameworks, and a vision for the future. However, knowledge on its own cannot make someone a good leader, but without knowledge it is virtually impossible to become one.

If there is anything that Morgan Tsvangirai needs to do with his political career it is to prove his capacity as a potential leader with the requisite knowledge to run a country. Rightly or wrongly, it is widely held that the man just does not have the knowledge depth.

Whoever will one day succeed President Mugabe, it is hard to believe that the person will match the veteran leader’s intuition. The man has exceptional abilities to deal with numerous and complex intangibles, hopefully including the current raging succession politics. Intuition is one vital attribute for good leadership, and not many people are blessed with this idiosyncrasy.

Experience in and of itself is no guarantee for either credibility or success. When Nkosana Moyo bolted out of politics for familiar territory, the appointer President Mugabe said the leadership he wanted in his Cabinet was “for real man,” and not cowards who run for cover at the slightest of challenges.

Like experience, past successes in themselves are no guarantee for good leadership, and that is why wartime achievements so proudly flouted by some ZANU-PF politicians cannot in and of themselves guarantee Zimbabweans of good leadership.

People want ability. They want to know if a leader can take them to ultimate victory. The moment people start doubting one’s ability to deliver, they will simply stop listening and following.

Politics, like religion, is voluntary, and leadership comes without leverage. In politics one needs influence.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!!

  • REASON WAFAWAROVA is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.
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