Nathaniel Manheru The Other Side
There are things that ruling or governing parties just will not do. Yet there are a number of things Zanu-PF is doing presently which are so unseemly of a ruling and governing party. Worse when you consider the margin of its victory in the July 2013 harmonised elections.
Where elections were not perfect
First, Newzimbabwe carried a piece on Deputy Justice Minister, Fortune Chasi, titled “Vote flawed, but let’s move on.” I will not allow the headline to lead me. I am a conscious consumer of news products, and I know the role of headlines in the selling of news. Instead I will go by quotes attributed to the Deputy Minister. And they are few and short enough to allow for reproduction here. The Deputy Minister is quoted as saying: “The first evaluators of the elections are Zimbabweans and we agree that the elections were by and large free and fair which is entirely different from saying they were perfect.” He is further quoted as saying: “If I am to leave a message to you (referring to the civil society) it is to say that we must continue to move as a country to advance the frontiers of democracy passionately and honestly and this requires a number of things to happen.” He is presented in the story as identifying “earned” trust as one of the critical things we will require to move forward. Accompanying the whole story is a picture of the deputy minister, with the following caption: “The country must get over poll dispute . . . Fortune Chasi”.
We can’t harmonise laws . . .
Let me situate this whole matter. Sometime last week, the permanent secretary of the same ministry was in newspapers mournfully telling a committee of parliament that the process of harmonising the laws of the country was being stymied by ministries which are not being helpful. She was, in other words, suggesting her Ministry might not bring about the much anticipated changes to our various laws, all to harmonise them with the Constitution. Or that there might be some major delays as to make a timeline to the whole exercise exasperatingly indeterminate. Now, the issue of harmonising laws is fundamental to the question of Zimbabwe and her futures, within those futures concerns about governance, democracy, human rights and some such liberal goals which animate governance discourse nowadays. Viewed that way, the concerns of the permanent secretary become deeply foreboding, chilling even. Read against her Deputy Minister’s plea to the civil society to help “advance the frontiers of democracy passionately and honestly”, the ministry’s message suggests a search for traction from outside of government structures, outside of ruling structures. If that is a correct reading, then there is no doubt that the Ministry of Justice has earned trust, indeed passed the test of candor and honesty, albeit it frightful ways. I leave this one example.
Protect our whites, their properties
The launch of the tourism policy programme yielded many messages, most of them attributed to the Tourism Minister, Engineer Walter Mzembi. Forever outspoken, the minister made a gripping and candid presentation of his vision for tourism in this country. He would not allow himself to be shackled by considerations of good neighbourliness, or African solidarity, which is why he made remarks that would not leave South Africans, Ethiopians and Kenyans too pleased or feeling favoured. He said more. Zimbabwe had to protect the remaining whites in the country, who had become an endangered species. It had to respect property rights. And both remarks were made in relation to the issue of the contested Save Conservancies beneath which issue simmers the ever volatile land question. That means his remarks invited a connection with the age-old, yet still virulently emotive land question. They also triggered questions about the manifesto of the ruling party, apart from the fact that a few weeks back, the President had made contrary points regarding whites and land in the country. Again, I let that sleep a little while.
Discord over chairmanship
This last weekend and the greater part of this week, we had pregnant stories on the Zanu-PF post of chairmanship. Was its incumbency decided as part of the Unity Accord of 1987? If so, expressly or soto voce? Was it filled by criteria implied by previous incumbents? If so what are these criteria? Or could it be that incumbents were chosen on personal attributes, never mind that they happened to have shared a common political home before the unity agreement of 1987? Of course this was not a new question at all. It arose well before last week, and even getting a response from the Party Secretary for Administration. This time around, it was dealt with by the Party Secretary for Information, Cde Rugare Gumbo. And the two agreed that the post of national chairman was filled on grounds of open choice, open rules, open attributes, and not in terms of provisions of, or expectations around, the Unity Accord. And both speakers made it clear there was or would be a search for one soon. Of course that implies a vacancy, which in turn implies: either movement of the incumbent, whether upwards or downwards, resignation of the incumbent or — and God please forbid — worse. Otherwise the matter would not arise, need not arise, all things staying the same and alive. And that Zanu-PF’s two leading officials raised it suggested they were inviting, courting debate. Were they, would they be, in charge of the debate they stirred or would have stirred? As matters developed, Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, himself a Politburo member, disagreed with the coincident readings of his two peers, making the whole issue more than stout and fraught.
The rules of different wins
Let us lay down the ground rules. Ruling and governing parties are as confident in both functions of ruling and governing as is the margin of their electoral victory. When they win by a slender majority, they get softened in their rule and governance, get softened to the extent of their margin of lead. They barely rule, barely govern. On the other hand when they lead by a simple majority, they strut about, yell about their victory, but in ways that recognise they will require the cooperation of their defeated rivals on key issues of governance, not least in changing certain provisions of the Constitution. And in both types of wins, those affected are sharing power and/or always in the market, trading horses with those or some of those they have defeated marginally. I don’t need to belabour this point; we have had in our post-independence experience a bit of both.
When winners strut about
Landslide winners, winners of two-thirds majority, are strident, confident, dashing, even reckless about it. They do not need the goodwill of losers, much as they may want it, even condescending or fawning for it. Again, we have many instances of that from 1980, including that baseline year. Including no . . ., sorry, not including now. And that is the nub of my essay. Let me clinch the point. It is the margin of your electoral victory which determines whether you rule and govern, or govern while you do not rule, or govern but share the rule, or share both. Looking not too far back we have two landslides as clefts, between which sat uneasily a coalition. Just that outcomes set-up illustrates so well the above points. Keeping the preceding points in mind, now the hard points.
Our baffling stance
For goodness sake, why does a landslide winner want, let alone need, any debate on elections he has won? Much worse, agree to or legitimise a debate organised and convened by the very people he beat? Or by them through their surrogates? Why would a winner whose win is acknowledged by the voter worry about a beaten contestant whose defeat psychosis anyway bid that he disparages his rival’s win in order to invent denial comfort? It is not like electorally Zimbabwe is in a doubtful state comparable to 2008. It is not like Zimbabwe is facing the threat of instability arising from a contested result. Better still, it is not like the beaten parties are taken seriously at all by the populace when they claim ballot pilferage; not like they believe themselves even when they themselves make those charges. We have overwhelming numbers of opposition figures who have acknowledged defeat which we seem now keen to deny them ourselves. It is not like the margin of defeat was slender. It is not like the opposition is regrouping to fight back an old result.
More sinning than sinned against
Quite the contrary, the opposition is seeking self-redemption and relevance through fatuous allegations which the ruling and governing party, or so we believed, has astonishingly decided to acknowledge and validate. Where are perfect elections found in this imperfect world? Not even in the world yonder, which is why Lucifer’s parting shot as he got flung from holy eminence down to the bottomless pit was: “Better a dungeon than a heaven without democracy”! Why invite perfection discourse in a world which is imperfectly looking for even a serpent on which to hang, by which to self-redeem? Zanu-PF comes through as an unbelieving, apologetic winner. The net effect of that is to transform the splintering MDC formations from spat losers into believable objects of pity quite righteous in crying, we was robbed! Zanu-PF is working so hard in their re-rendering. It is saying we have sinned against! I am sure Tsvangirai would have made a good case at Chatham House last week if the aforequoted piece had ran the week before. Surely we know who Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is, who the Electoral Resource Centre is, why both would want to reopen an interminable debate on elections sealed a year ago today, and do so a matter of less than two weeks before the Sadc Summit? Crisis cannot start organising meetings for winners they abhor? And we oblige? How does this whole discourse help the winner, help him govern better, help him assume leadership in Sadc?
When we plead incapacity to harmonise laws because of us, are we not doubting our right to govern, ceding that right even by confessing that we cannot rule, indeed by admitting we are undeserving winners of the July polls? Much worse, are we not saying to people, please don’t trust us? Saying to Sadc why give us regional leadership when we cannot lead at home? Making a case for another round of external intervention to get ourselves “fixed” by outsiders? And there would be good grounds for it. A key outcome of the coalition government which was ended by the July poll was to ensure Zimbabwe had a new, democratic, people-driven Constitution to guarantee all manner of good practices which include rule of law, human rights and a good environment for free and fair elections. That makes the harmonisation of laws after the new Constitution a key measure of the deepening of the democratic ethos in the country. Any difficulties or reluctance to make this happen suggests threats of recidivism, does it not? Would that not, therefore, argue for another facilitator, another Zulu?
God’s fool and God’s first born
Thank God, Zanu-PF is always blest with fools for opposition. Even after exposing itself so disastrously, Zanu-PF gets by way of oppositional response a Morgan Tsvangirai who asks from a British Africa Minister for intervention in Zimbabwe.
What a fool! And of course foolery begets and deserves jests by way of a response. Noting the serious humour in the request, Mark Simmonds, Britain’s Africa Minister mollified the weeping petitioner by granting him an intervention team from . . . from the British Commonwealth, the only delay being the ongoing games! And Tsvangirai’s very daft spokesperson seizes this as a dramatic breakthrough in defeated party-led international relations! He blows it, backs it up by a picture of a profoundly dark Tsvangirai in the clasp of very white British hands, thrust in front of a cynically grinning white ministerial mouth! Of course Simmonds knows Zimbabwe has nothing to do, will have nothing to do with the Commonwealth, although there is a fool ready to believe that! Oh lucky Zanu-PF, God’s first son!
Playing shy with blackness
Zanu-PF won on a radical programme of empowering indigenes of this land, namely blacks. I notice people pull back from linking this programme to blacks, all in the hope of being lauded as moderate, non-racial and civilised. It is a complex, one spurring us to bend over backwards for gratuitous ingratiation with the white world. To say indigenisation is about black empowerment is to be a bad boy. Too bad for whoever gets discomfited: like the rest of Africa, Zimbabwe is a black African man and woman’s country, the same way that Britain is a white man and woman’s country. Full stop. And to say so, declare so, is not to outlaw from this country other peoples in their colours who might seek to carve a life here. It is to state an ownership fact which should always be incontestable, that should be borne in mind at all times by all comers, of recent or in history. And that the empowerment programme entails moving resources away from the hitherto exclusively white owners cannot present dilemmas to black beneficiaries now, anymore than it did yesterday when whites were exclusive owners at the expense of blacks. Or when the issue of colour did not restrain Rhodes and his successors for nearly a century here when they summarily dispossessed locals. The see-saw of race cannot be blamed on any blackman or woman. Or be asked to be repaid by him, or at his expense.
When few is more, all
And to try and appeal to national sentiment for the preservation of “the few remaining whites” in a country which remains trenchantly a white economy, frankly is to insult the many blacks precariously hanging on to “few” livelihoods in this inhospitable world they should call home. It is to foolishly suggest that power and mortality reside in numbers. In any case vapera here kwavakabva? Surely it does not take much to know that whites have always been few in this country, even during their heydays, but that their power has always been disproportionately huge, augmented by the many blacks who trip over each other to serve them? And such reckless statements make nonsense of the electoral outcome, indeed raises questions about whether political processes like elections do actually liberate us from being lackeys. Much worse, why do our ministerial statements contradict the messages behind the vote that installed us, that silenced the very “few whites” whose political proxies we defeated so resoundingly? And when a black man struggling to free themselves from a colonial economy says “let’s respect property rights”, what futures is he implying for himself and his race?
Communicating through implications
My last substantive point relates to agenda-setting, itself the mark of real rulers. I have made reference to the issue of incumbency of party post of national chairman. A senior party official cannot raise it without implying a vacancy there, or put differently without assuming the burden of having to tell us that SK Moyo is vacating that post for something else or for somewhere. And your answer cannot be to default to the President as the man with the final say on the matter when in fact what you are doing amounts to raising matters for him, seemingly in ways that calculatedly force his hand on the issue. Similarly, you cannot discount one filling criterion, in this case founded on a reading of the Unity Accord, without implying you are preparing us for some incumbent who does not fit the criterion you discount.
And don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting the incumbency of national chairman has anything to do with the Unity Accord. I happen to know it does not, and has never had any such connection in the past. It has always been founded on the intrinsic attributes of holders. That they happened to have been in PF-Zapu in the past has nothing to do with it. The point I am making is that the correct position of a ruling or governing party cannot be articulated through innuendos, through implications. Or left to pregnant, even divisive surmise as if we are a fragile, unsure item. Or worse, as if the matter is still pending. Is it not the prerogative of rulers and governors to make time, make the wind that blows all sails? Why broach a matter prematurely? Why does the Party sound like it is being forced into a conversation, unready, unsure? Ending up giving answers that raise more questions, more suspicions, when they should be settling matters? It is as if we don’t control reality, even the reality inside the Party. The microenvironment, in other words.
Stepping into power
One consequence of this shabby way of communicating is that the whole country seems fixated and paralyzed by politics of posts and positions, to the detriment of real issues of development and economic recovery. Zim-Asset has been shunted away and beyond national concern, to be displaced by an overwhelming sense of volatile, contested and uncontrollable changes threatening the national edifice, national cohesion. Again, Zanu-PF is blest to have shallow commentators. “Grace Mugabe puts one foot into power”, ran one headline! The First Lady of a sitting President can be reckoned as outside power? For how else can she “step into power” unless she was outside of it? Much worse, the clamour for her leadership in respect of the Women’s League is presented as a novelty, a nonesuch of our political experience. Really? We have not had a First Lady who has been at the helm of the League before? You sometimes despair.
Ruling in all senses
The key points to make from all these points include deploring winners who seem to doubt their win, who don’t seem to rule, who don’t seem to want to govern. Winners who aspire to be losers, rulers who seem to follow agenda rather than setting them, indeed governors who won’t govern. Much worse, it is to decry winners who cannot rule and govern at once. And to rule and govern at once is not to cede power, apologise about winning, wielding and using it for set objectives whose promise made you so appealing to the voter, as to make him repose his trust in you. Above all, it is to be able to control change and pace in your microenvironment, influencing and dominating the macroenvironment, thereby. To quote Marx, it is to wield the power of politics, the power of economics, the power to shape and organise reality, and, above all, the power of ideas that rule and govern the day.