Let’s not suffer self-affliction

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Reason Wafawarova On Thursday
Any writer expects criticism as natural, and one expects more of it when it comes with political writing. Zimbabwe is a country affected by necessitousness, and it is simply not possible to please everyone, even within the monolithic structures of a solid political party like ZANU-PF. The polarity within ZANU-PF right now matches the one between the ruling party’s supporters and those of the opposition in the first decade of the century, and it is now even harder for a columnist to stay out of trouble with some readers who believe running a column in the public media amounts to membership to the governing party, or even to being a cadre and a political activist.

It has been a hectic period putting up with all the dunces making a confederacy against the column purely on the basis that they feel offended because no sugarcoats for their political beliefs and bidding can be found in the column. This is the comfort of it all – when a writer gets attacked for failing the test of political activism, for analysis that infuriates those with selfish political motives.

I have lately attracted both affection and hate from the readership of The Herald, with long-standing avowed detractors like Iden Whetherel publicly hailing the standing of this column. At the same time some readers who for a decade have idolised and iconised the writer of this column as a comrade and a revolutionary have suddenly become avowed enemies of the same column.

To some the column writer has met his “Damascene moment,” yet to others he has “sold out.” The overriding opinion within ZANU-PF political activism is that one cannot be a columnist for The Herald unless all they do is hail all ZANU-PF policy positions, just like the prevailing view in the opposition spectrum seems to be that one cannot be a columnist or correspondent for The Herald and be independent or objective enough to point out any weaknesses within ZANU-PF.

Lately this column has carried scathing attacks on factionalism within ZANU-PF, its proponents, its schemers, its movers and shakers; as well as sharp rebukes on corruption, impunity, hypocrisy, disrespect for war veterans, ineptness, laziness, ignorance, barbarity, and all forms of dogmatism — as seen within the confines of the internal politics of the ruling party.

The criticism has always come in defence of the greater national interest — the vanguard principles that found the national revolution.

Since late 2013, many have predicted an abrupt end to this column, some because they cannot believe they are reading The Herald, while others cannot believe “they publish this in The Herald.” Lately it has been some political activists from the ruling party that have been clamouring for the head of this writer. Some of these people have pointed out that the column “is stepping on the wrong toes.”

Wherever truth is told to power, wherever public policy is openly challenged, and whenever political correctness is not adhered to, the repercussion of a backlash is expected. Criticism does not breed admiration from its target.

No repercussion can be worse than what this writer has already suffered writing from the belly of the imperialist. This writer has already paid the costly price for writing in support of a Western-hated Robert Mugabe, has been violated and persecuted for writing in support of the land reform program and the indigenisation policy, and has been blacklisted and flagged for his Pan Africanist stance against the patronising Western domination in international affairs.

ZANU-PF is aware of the price the writer of this column has paid in defence of its revolutionary principles, largely viewed as “unsound policies” in the West. Now that this writer is preaching justice, tolerance, unity, and basic ethics to feuding ZANU-PF factionists, the threat facing the column is the intolerance of rogues in possession of political power — real and imagined.

It was naturally expected on my part to understand the brutality of MDC activists within Australia, and their machinations against my welfare and the safety of my family. Many of these people have of late come to privately confess their sins, thanks to the splintering and the infighting within the opposition.

At one time I had the prospect of The Hague hanging over my head, when I was not being locked up and searched like a terrorist suspect at airports, or being issued with notices of intention to deport.

Now, when ZANU-PF politicians fail to deliver on election promises and continually blame the ruin of Western-imposed sanctions for the failure, I refuse to accept the lame excuse, and the column suddenly loses its patriotism in the eyes of these mediocre elements. But I write for the people, not for the expediency of the politician. One member of ZANU-PF recently charged “We do not know him in our organisation.” The idea is to create the expulsion of an outside writer from the membership of a political party — to wield the same purging power directed at opponents within the party in the direction of a column writer, reducing the column to a party function.

To me there is not much difference between a ZANU-PF politician justifying failure to deliver on the basis of the ruin of sanctions, and an MDC politician calling for regime change through the intensification of the same sanctions.

Both politicians are essentially smitten by the welfare mentality — totally in agreement that without Western benevolence Zimbabwe has no chance of survival as an independent country.

I have heard the Youth and Indigenisation minister arguing that our future cannot and does not depend on the benevolence of Bretton Woods Institutions, and I totally agree with this position. It is a very lazy and simplistic way of planning for a country’s future, and should never be encouraged. At one time our opposition was convinced that persuading the West to withdraw aid and loans would brew a national rebellion — another lazy way of political strategising that ended up disappointing both the West and their lackeys.

We have a paralysing welfare mentality that threatens to destroy both ZANU-PF and the opposition. Politics is about building an economy, not about distributing created wealth, and the sooner we accept and understand the responsibility of the leader in politics the better for the nation.

Our perceived right to expect Western benevolence is a product of history — of the fact that we were colonised by Britain at the end of the 18th century. We refuse to let go of this particular historical relationship with the West, yet we want to declare ourselves an independent nation.

In the name of internationalism we have dangerously preserved and cherished the colonial legacy to our own detriment. We are determined to denounce any form of correction. We are adamant colonialism is dead and buried, and we tell ourselves only those bigots incapable of outgrowing the fantasies of history can obsess themselves with the long-gone and forgotten concept.

We have allowed ourselves to become polished accomplices in our own afflictions. With the disunity we see in the ruling party today, which enemy can wish for any better accomplice?

ZANU-PF knows how to rile the West. The party knows how to shake Western capitals. ZANU-PF leadership formulates best sounding and very popular people-oriented policies, and no one can take that away from the party.

It is sad that there are some politicians within ZANU-PF who seem to believe that threatening the imperial Western power corridors is in itself a grand political achievement. Frankly it is not. The state of our economy tells it all. We would be a super wealthy nation if dissing the West were the way to prosperity.

Well, the country needs the re-engagement efforts with the West as currently being pursued, and opposing those efforts is just plainly unhelpful.

The country owes money that will need to be repaid, and the moral obligation to do so is hard to ignore. In the same way the country needs bridging finances on the road to economic recovery, and it is hard to imagine a route that excludes the traditional lenders.

The balance we need as a country is getting to that point where we can borrow without enslavement, repay without perpetual dependency, and negotiate without subjugation. We have come a long way in our struggle for independent nationalism. The West realises the future of Zimbabwe is in ZANU-PF, and in this context the regime change agenda has been temporarily slackened.

This is the time for our politicians from the ruling party to negotiate from a position of strength. Instead of strategising on these premises we have seen gross lack of cohesion in Government policy. We have seen squabbling and factionalism of an unprecedented nature.

Do we need to hear that this or that faction has replaced the MDC as Western puppets? Political contestation should never supersede the value of unity, and should never be allowed to take precedence over governance matters.

The party has a revolution to complete, a national agenda to fulfil, a pride to redeem, and a national future to build. Zimbabwe does not need the perpetual fighting mood that some of our politicians are so fond of displaying.

Those who cannot visualise the absence of war will never turn their swords into ploughshares, and it appears like this is the underlying problem we have in the party at the moment.

We are fighting the system of externalised value addition, and the colonial mentality that says purchasing Western brands can make us fit among the most powerful people on earth. We are fighting a system that teaches us that a good politician is the one with the best begging skills.

We are fighting against a system that says our voters can be baited by mere benevolence. Our revolution is not a weapon directed at any one particular country, not even the West. It is a revolution to restore the dignity of Zimbabweans. We want for ourselves the same independence and sovereignty we wish all other nations to enjoy.

Our people must be the starting point for anyone that wishes to know who we are and what our expectations entail. We cannot tolerate any politician who considers it wisdom to sugarcoat the suffering of our people. We must come to a point where we make informed analysis of how we place ourselves in international affairs. We cannot dismiss every form of criticism in the name of fighting the regime change agenda. Surely there is no Western prescribed regime change agenda in the minds of feuding rivals within ZANU-PF!

The international civic groups within Zimbabwe have both a good and bad side. After all they are just a manifestation of the failure of state-to-state relations in our day. When our relations with other states block interaction people are obliged to find other channels for contact and dialogue, and we have to accept that, for better or for worse.

We would be irredeemable fools if we disbelieved the reality that there are nongovernmental organisations that serve as spy agencies for imperialism, or that are motivated by the political preferences of politicians from the countries they hail.

However, it is quite naïve to believe this is the case with every Western NGO. Many are organisations run by men and women who think that this is the ideal way for them to express themselves, and to make a contribution to global challenges affecting humanity. We expect the Government to come up with a workable strategy that allows genuine humanitarians in the NGO sector to fulfil the noble goal of helping the needy. We cannot expect to build a prosperous Zimbabwe while we in every way act as accomplices to what smites us as a nation. We know our people are desperate in this ailing economy. This is the time we need eminent people in leadership, not prominent rhetoricians.

It is a time for leaders who will choose to give to our people an example on hard work, integrity and morality.

In an economically ailing society merit will not serve you so much as money or materials will, and some of our politicians are aware of this. This is why they preach benevolence and dependency.

We must understand the huge difference between building a political career and building a nation.

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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