Politics of mediocrity: Selfish aspiration, shallowness in policy

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Politics of mediocrity: Selfish aspiration, shallowness in policy Adv Chamisa

Reason Wafawarova on Monday
MDC-T, together with the self-destructing NPP led by Joice Mujuru, and other MDC offshoots and pretend-political outfits in the so-called MDC-Alliance; as well as the bitterness-driven NPF, initiated by troubled Patrick Zhuwao and his superiors; have all become enigmatic. Nothing will come out of these parties in 2018, except making the numbers in the electoral race.

Morgan Tsvangirai is now out of it due to illness, and Joice Mujuru has proven to be more immanent than productive politically.

The meretricious political character by the name Patrick Zhuwao is impressively committed to stupidity, and he is fast perfecting the art of punching the air; screaming threats at nobody at the top of his harmless voice. His mentor Jonathan Moyo is an angry man smitten by the loser tag, and he tweets his anger in a way that makes excellent comedy reading.

The anger of an academic is hilarious. Nkosana Moyo is by every means a man of high intellectual integrity — but he is undoubtedly the country’s voter isolate when it comes to politics. There simply is no room for the intellectual excellence of Moyo in the world of political mediocrity that makes up Zimbabwean opposition politics. Dr Moyo would do well pursuing his policy goals under the banner of Zanu-PF, instead of deluding himself into believing he can one day win the presidency of this country as an independent.

In 2010 Arthur Mutambara decried the mediocrity that characterises African politics in general and he mournfully cited Zimbabwe in particular. He was giving an interview to a Tanzanian radio station. His opinion remains indisputable, and the current levels of mediocrity in Zimbabwe’s body politic are frankly legendary.

One of the challenges highlighted by Mutambara in that interview was the issue of the politics of personality. Right now Morgan Tsvangirai can be forgiven for once believing that he was his party’s immortal “main actor.” He is critically bedridden, and there is no agreement on what next to do in his absence.

The circus over who is acting in his absence is not only telling of the crude and uncontrollable ambitions between his deputies, but also of a culture of mediocrity where political parties create cult heroes around whom the interests of the party are relegated to trivia.

Just how does the family of a leader smitten by illness have the final say over a political party he leads, when no family member belongs to any of the said party’s structures? But this party is not called the MDC-T for nothing. It does belong to the Tsvangirai family, as it now turns out. There are some members of the MDC-T that have deified their leader as a democracy god without whom Zimbabwe has no chance of ever knowing what it means to be democratic. Some G40 members did the same with former President Robert Mugabe, even declaring that he would “rule from the grave,” if ruling “from the wheelchair” would one day come to an end.

There is a worrying trend of the politics of personalities in Africa, and the idea that political leaders are elevated to levels of indispensability has cultivated in its wings the politics of mediocrity. Deified political leaders thrive on the patronage of their fanatical subordinates, and incompetent politicians insulate themselves from the wrath of scrutiny and accountability by worshipping at the ego altar of the great leader, who in turn secures their unwarranted stay in the echelons of political power. Deified political leaders are vampires that continually suck the blood of their nations purely on the basis of maintaining power privileges.

Patronage itself is a product of plutocracy — essentially the rule of wealth. We have a society that has synonymised political leadership with wealth and as such the aspiration of our politicians is often all wrapped in materialism and self-aggrandisement.

The poignant sorrows of Zimbabwean urban dwellers have undoubtedly been worsened by the disgusting corruption of ill-intended local government officials. We hear of officials who would prioritise top class luxury cars ahead of essential services to city dwellers, and ministers who would invest in oiling the patronage machinery at the expense of people’s welfare.

In Masvingo the MDC-T city fathers at one time almost got the whole city auctioned to compensate unpaid workers. A report on corruption in Chitungwiza once revealed council officials had indiscriminately and corruptly parcelled land to cronies and to themselves — even daring to sub-divide sports fields and wetlands.

Zanu-PF for years perfected the art of breeding punctilious pseudo-revolutionaries that know everything to do with political survival except serving the people. While the mainstream media has in the past shied from exposing the ineptness of some of these politicians, we hope the new dispensation will allow free and fair media scrutiny.

Equally, we hope partisan reporting in favour of the opposition by our independent media will be a thing of the past. Our people deserve better than a media that sanitises mediocrity, corruption and ineptness to help out in the manoeuvring of failing politicians.

Sadly, the error of the Zimbabwean politician has in the past been sanitised and repackaged as glory by a politicised media that has lost every sense of ethical journalism.

Now that both the opposition and the new President are on the same page on the issue of free, fair and credible elections, we do hope those in the opposition can stomach the fact that a free, fair and credible election can be overwhelmingly won by Zanu-PF, just like Zanu-PF should also realise that its victory is neither guaranteed nor cast in stone.

For as long as we have the polarity that says on one hand Zanu-PF cannot win a free and fair election, and on the other the opposition can never defeat Zanu-PF under whatever circumstances; we will remain polarised. In a few months we will be constitutionally mandated to hold an election to choose a new Government, and I believe we are electorally reformed enough to hold a free, fair and credible election.

We cannot keep entertaining unready politicians that always hide under the excuse of electoral reforms to justify why they are failing to mobilise enough votes to win an election.

What the MDC in particular badly needs at the moment is unity of purpose and a rallying point for its dispersing supporters, not the party telling ZEC how to run elections. The blame culture will only undermine the country’s image as an emerging African democracy.

We must collectively accept that Zimbabwe can be a fledging democracy even under the leadership of Zanu-PF. The change leading to true democracy is not, and cannot be defined by the ousting of one party from power, or by attributing the legitimacy of democracy to the prospect of a specific party coming to power.

The truth is that the MDC-T once believed that the 2009 Inclusive Government was a purgatorial arrangement where Zanu-PF would proceed to the lake of fire in the aftermath of the political marriage. The reality is that Zanu-PF came out of the marriage the stronger side, and the MDC-T came out weaker than ever before.

This reality has nothing to do with ZEC or electoral reforms, but a lot to do with mediocrity in the opposition circles, as well as lack of collective political integrity. Just like it was in 2013, every pointer of common sense is pointing towards a Zanu-PF victory in 2018 — thanks to the mediocrity of its political opponents, which is far greater than the mediocrity reigning within its own ranks.

Much as political mediocrity has been at culture levels within Zanu-PF itself over the years, the truth of the matter is that Zanu-PF can articulate and communicate its policy goals and objectives far more clearly and effectively than the opposition. The shocking simple-mindedness that makes Nelson Chamisa say governing is as simple as getting $15 billion from Trump and spending it on Zimbabweans is what makes Zanu-PF enjoy its supremacy over its opponents.

Zanu-PF is working on its manifesto right now, and I can reveal and promise that the policies will resonate well with the needs and aspirations of the people. Predictably the opposition will play reactionary to Zanu-PF policies; as has always been the case.

We saw that with the land reform policy, the indigenisation policy, and with the Zim-Asset job creation policy. The Davos Investment Forum visit by President E.D. Mnangagwa brought the demons out of Tendai Biti; the very way Biti kept winching over the goings on in the ministries that were run by Zanu-PF ministers during the Inclusive Government.

I hope Biti remembers his ambitious 100-day plan for whose launch he dragged the entire civil service to Victoria Falls in 2009; ostensibly to announce some animal he called STERP, or something like that.

We all remember what happened after the huge and expensive retreat. Biti and his colleagues embarked on noisy rants about media reforms, about positions in Government commissions, about security sector reforms, and about who would chair Cabinet between the then President Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

It even came to a point where an agreement to create a parallel Cabinet meeting was reached; not for anything else, but to give Tsvangirai a nice feel of how it tastes to chair a gathering of Cabinet Ministers. Symbolism of power is central to the psyche of the African politician, and this is why we have a huge succession headache on the continent.

Zanu-PF is on the ground now preparing for Election 2018, and the MDC-T in particular is focused on the illness of its leader Tsvangirai, and fighting over imagined spoils; should the worst happen to him.

Now the quandary of how to keep supporting an inept MDC led by an ailing Tsvangirai is the dilemma of the party’s followers. The opposition is yet to prove itself as a policy alternative to Zanu-PF, not just a critic sworn to proving as rapine whatever Zanu-PF says or does. There is increasing political will in favour of Zanu-PF at the moment, domestically and internationally. Investor faith and goodwill continues to rise, and most certainly Zanu-PF will centre its manifesto on these positive developments.

By the time we get to elections the economy would have stabilised, and strides towards success will be visible.

Zimbabweans have in general embraced the post-Mugabe change currently prevailing, and it would be foolish for the opposition to baselessly discredit the efforts of the current government.

The MDC has been incapacitated in its traditional opposition rhetoric — thanks to its own failures from many a number of angles.Political mediocrity thrives so well in an environment of political polarity, politicised media, selfish aspiration, shallowness in policy, unmeritorious candidature, propaganda, and a culture of materialism.

Zimbabwe currently has this full concoction and this is why our politicians prefer political rallies to policy formulation.

We have politicians that shine better rubbishing every effort of the incumbent Government than they would at explaining themselves from a policy perspective.

I once thought the hope for policy orientation in the MDC-T was in Nelson Chamisa, but recently the young and ambitious politician has exposed himself as exceptionally shallow in policy — if his rhetoric at recent political rallies is anything to go by.

Hopefully, the MDC-T learnt a thing from the mediocrity of its officials in the five years the party took part in governance; the likes of Senator Morgan Femai, who suggested compulsory shabbiness for all women as a way of curbing the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Importantly, Senator Femai only showed how Zimbabwe has sunk to a point of elevating common fools to public office. It is this writer’s hope that the 2018 election will deal a good blow to political mediocrity. It is time we elect meritorious leaders, who can help take the country where it belongs among the nations. 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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